You don’t have to go far back into your memory banks to try and remember what happened the last time Juventus played Lazio. Hell, you don’t really have to go far in the archives here, only scrolling to the bottom of the front page to find everything you want to know about what happened a couple of weekends ago at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
The problem is, that game is arguably the biggest dud Juve has thrown out there in what has been a rather interesting first half to the 2019-20 season.
Remember the heads dipped in disappointment as Lazio scored the clincher in the 3-1 win over Juventus earlier this month, basically making the Scudetto race a three-team party as we charge toward the holiday break and midway point of the season.
And now, all of two weeks later, Juventus once again has Lazio on the docket, but this time it’s not for three points in the standings and a potential lead over Inter. Instead, as we’ve come to know for weeks now, it’s a trip to Saudi Arabia for the annual Supercoppa, one that has seen Juventus take part in for the better part of the last decade but only win four out of the seven times they’ve played in this glorified friendly.
We get to see if anything has changed from when the two teams played one another in Rome two weeks ago.
Maybe more importantly to Juventus’ chances of winning is if Lazio’s hot streak that has gone on for the better part of the last two months is still going strong.
And, just as important to Juventus’ chances of winning is if the kind of mini resurgence we’ve seen over the last three games — thanks in large part to Maurizio Sarri’s decision to go with the Big Three in attack — is something that can hang with a very in-form team like Lazio obviously is. The way that Juventus has played in recent games, with the likes of Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo playing as well as they have all season the last time they were on the field together, has been encouraging. And especially so when you consider what we saw in pretty much every game during the month of November, a stretch where grumbles about Sarri’s system started to grow louder even though the well-known history of Sarriball taking a while to get going is waving its hands up in the air like Forest Gump.
But what Lazio pose is something that Juve haven’t exactly had a lot of success against this season. Simone Inzaghi’s side, just like they did a couple weeks ago in Rome, is going to come right at Juve. It won’t be just Ciro Immobile, who is still sitting on 17 league goals this season like he was when Juventus rolled into the Stadio Olimpico 14 days ago. What has made Lazio be so dangerous this season is that they come at you in waves with both creativity, strength and speed.
The key will be, as Leonardo Bonucci said at Saturday’s press conference, is how Juventus management and players have learned from their lone of the season that took place two weeks ago. If they haven’t, then they’ll be watching Lazio lift the Supcoppa Sunday night. But if they have, then good things will continue to happen in the same way they have over the past couple of weeks.
And that’s a good sign for both the way Juventus goes into the break and just how well they’re starting to play under the complex Sarri system ever since said loss to Lazio.
- Juventus will wear a special jersey for the Supercoppa. The unfortunate part is that it’s still pretty much the regular home kit, but just with an Arabic twist.
- Giorgio Chiellini has made the trip to Saudi Arabia, but he’s obviously still weeks away from returning to action after undergoing major knee surgery in September.
- Also back in the squad: Wojciech Szczesny. He is expected to return to his usual starting spot in goal after missing the last two games due to a minor shoulder injury.
- Included in the squad even though he had to be subbed off midweek due to a potential injury: Alex Sandro. The line of thinking in the Italian press is that since Sandro has been included in the squad for the trip to Saudi Arabia then he’s good to go to face Lazio.
- Outside of Chiellini and Sami Khedira, this is about as healthy — and at full strength — as Juve’s squad has been all season. I mean, shoot, even Marko Pjaca has made the trip.
- Douglas Costa and Aaron Ramsey are still “working their way back to full fitness,” according to Sarri at his pre-match press conference on Saturday.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
What was one of the biggest issues the last time Juventus and Lazio played against one another? The simple fact that Juve’s midfield — outside of Rodrigo Bentancur before he was subbed out late in the first half due to injury — got absolutely run the hell over, right? So, we might as well go with somebody who didn’t play all that well at all against Lazio.
Yes, Miralem Pjanic is not playing the same kind of way he was the first four or six weeks of the season when he was seemingly involved in anything and everything that Juventus did offensively. He wasn’t too shabby defensively, either — which was quite an encouraging knowing that defense has never really been Pjanic’s strong suit.
But, this is true of Pjanic since Juventus’ Derby d’Italia win over Inter back on Oct. 6: He has recorded only one assist in the last 14 games in all competitions.
In the month of December, Pjanic has three yellow cards and no assists to his name.
On the season, Pjanic only has two assists.
Basically, the same Pjanic we saw in the early rounds of the season hasn’t been all that prevalent in the last couple of months — which, obviously, doesn’t exactly help.
The hope is that with Juventus’ new-look attack centered around Paulo Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain is that it will open up more opportunities for Pjanic to do what he does best. The thing is, though, Lazio’s midfield is so strong with the likes of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic Luis Alberto leading the way that Pjanic won’t exactly have things come as easy as they might have against Sassuolo or Sampdoria.
But, as we know, when he’s on, Pjanic is an absolute joy to watch and the kind of midfielder who can pick the opponent apart at will. And if the front three continues to click for long stretches of games like they have been since Sarri trotted them out all together at once, then you have to think that Pjanic will have more and more chances to regain the kind of form that he had back in September.
When: Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019
Where: King Saud University Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Official kickoff time: 7:45 p.m. local time in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; 5:45 p.m. in Italy and across Europe; 4:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 11:45 a.m. Eastern Time; 8:45 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes (United States); BT Sport 2 (United Kingdom); RAI Uno (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN3, WatchESPN, ESPNDeportes+ (United States); BT Sport Live (United Kingdom); RAI Play (Italy)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven’t already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.