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Manu’s Grab Bag: Up in the Sky

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We talk screamers from La Joya and CR7, football bringing people together and the return of the Gambling Corner.

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-SAMPDORIA-JUVENTUS Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images

You will excuse me if I’m always a tad nervous when Juventus plays at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. It seems like more often than not Juve have difficulty playing in Genova and the numbers bear that out.

As our guy Sam Lopresti pointed out in his excellent recap, Juventus have lost five times in Genova during their eight-year run as Serie A champs with a number of very tight contests and close calls mixed in between. While this game proved to be yet another tough challenge for the visiting team, Juventus pulled out the key three points against a feisty Sampdoria team and close league play in 2019 with a 2-1 win.

There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get right into it:

MVP: Paulo Dybala

You could easily talk me into our runner-up Cristiano Ronaldo as the MVP, but we’ll talk more about him in a second. While not as impressive of a feat of athleticism like Ronaldo’s, Dybala’s goal to open the scoring on Wednesday was wildly impressive as well, one-timing a volley that nestled into the lower corner of the net and giving former Juventus youth product Emil Audero no chance at it.

He coupled that with three key passes and a should-have-been-assist that Blaise Matuidi failed to finish right in front of goal. Juventus’ No. 10 is playing with the confidence, skill and poise that a Juventus No. 10 should play with.

It took a second, but this might be the version of superstar Paulo Dybala that we were all expecting.

Runner Up: Cristiano Ronaldo

Deep Dive: Cristiano Ronaldo is a freak

I mean ... how?!

There is this exhibit at a museum I went to a long time ago where they dangle a ball way up high and tell you to jump and try to reach it with your head because this is supposedly how high Ronaldo can score headers. My brother and I jumped and jumped ... and fell embarrassingly short of the ball time and time again. I remember leaping and just trying to grasp it with my hand, but I was still falling short. After a significant amount of tries, I just chalked it up to the Big Ronaldo industry exaggerating the heights he can achieve for the sake of entertaining tourists.

Well, turns out he might not have been, the dude might just be an alien.

Ronaldo gave Juventus the lead with what might be his best goal as player for the club, completely posterizing Nicola Murru with a pinpoint perfect header. Internet research suggests that Murru is 1.8 meters tall, so stats started flying around about how high Ronaldo actually got on the goal, turns out it was pretty damn high!

2.56 meters! That figure was kind of validated when the Juventus team account tweeted this out after the game:

I stood around 1.7 meters back when I tried — and failed — to hit the Ronaldo challenge, so it makes perfect sense to me now that I didn’t even came close.

While the leap itself was impressive can we talk about this for a second, though?

How do you land from the aforementioned 2.56 meter on one leg, completely unbalanced and then just, like, get up and be fine? I guarantee you I would have snapped my knee, bones and every ligament in my body if I had tried a landing like that. That might be even more impressive than the goal itself.

Anyway, if you take anything away from this segment is that I, an average Joe blogger, is not as athletic as Cristiano Ronaldo. You probably already assumed that, but we have definitive proof now.

A small story about a fan

Back in 2014, I did a semester abroad at Saint Michael’s College in small Colchester, Vermont. As I signed up for classes, my aim was to just load up on all filler courses so I wouldn’t have to try or make any effort of any kind, especially because as a newly-minted 21-year-old my sole goal for that semester was to drink, have fun and drink some more.

Part of that effort was to sign up for a foreign language class. I applied for Advanced Spanish, but just as I was about to finalize my course load the registrar very deftly pointed out that I was Mexican therefore I already spoke Spanish and that “it wasn’t funny.” I differed on whether or not it was funny but I quickly pivoted to the closest language to Spanish available and landed on Italian 101.

The professor was an old man named Adriano Languasco. He was an Italian immigrant, and on my very first day of classes the only one to notice my Juventus scarf. We quickly got into chatting about Italian football and he mentioned he rooted for Sampdoria, his childhood club.

On Mondays, I would wait a bit after class and talk some football after the weekend. He was as optimistic as they get regarding the chances for Sampdoria, insisting that “you never know!” I was young and dumb and exuded that undeserved confidence that only young and dumb kids who don’t know any better can exude and continuously pointed out the massive talent gap between Sampdoria and Juventus. One time, we made a small bet about the upcoming clash between the two teams, scheduled to happen during my last few days in Vermont. It was a 1-1 draw because, as the professor said, hey, you never know! To his credit he was the first person to tell me that Juve was “pretty good” and that they “might make a run.” Months later, Juventus was a Champions League finalist. The guy called it.

Professor Languasco was a funny and knowledgeable professor and just an all-around really nice and kind man. He brought a traditional Christmas panettone for the entire class around the holiday’s and gave me a C+ because of my pronunciation skills, despite the fact my input on the classroom probably deserved less than that.

Sometimes football seems like a dumb thing to care about, and with the industrialization of the game, the racism scandals and all the uncomfortableness of it all, it makes you wonder if it’s worth it. But to remember stories like this one and people like him, it does make you remember why we all follow and why we all care.

Manu’s Gambling Corner

The Gambling Corner shut down temporarily, mostly because I didn’t like any odds enough to feel confident in giving a pick. And you deserve only the best of the best of the gambling corner, because I’m not in the business of losing money and fellas…

*Extreme Leonardo DiCaprio in the “Wolf of Wall Street” energy*

I never ask my readers to judge me on my winners. I ask them to judge me on my losers because I have so few.

So, with that in mind, Juventus is plus-110 to win the upcoming Super Cup against Lazio. Lazio is plus-285 and a regular time tie is valued at plus-235. There is really no home and away side since Serie A continues its baffling decision making and decided to continue its partnership with the Saudi Arabia government and host the game in Riyadh at the King Saud University Stadium.

Lazio played their last game on Monday, so they will be more rested and probably more acclimated to the conditions by Sunday’s kickoff. The smart money would be to bet on the regular time tie — it pays off handsomely and with Lazio already beating Juventus this season in a tightly-contested game it’s pretty likely they will be a tough out yet again.

However, would you want to bet against a pissed off Juventus team with something to prove, with an outrageously in-form Dybala and a suddenly back in tip-top shape Cristiano Ronaldo? With a probably returning Rodrigo Bentancur and a fully-rested Mathijs de Ligt? I’m going to say no, take a 100 bet on Juventus winning and if you feel nervous about it throw a 50 bet hedge on the tie.

Gambling Corner Record: 4-1

Parting Shot of the Week

Juventus closed out the 2019 portion of the Serie A schedule in first place, and depending on the result of the Inter Milan game to determine whether or not they are the sole possessors of the first place or share with our black and blue rivals. Despite the rough patch of the last month or so, Juventus close out the year playing long stretches of what some might describe as Sarriball and with a Cristiano Ronaldo that looks that is fully out of his funk.

This is the last league Grab Bag of 2019, but do not despair, we will have another Grab Bag after the Lazio game. You shall not go without content in your friendly neighborhood blog!

See you Sunday.