The schedule is always good for a couple of quirks each season when your team is competing in multiple competitions at once. We saw it as recently as earlier this calendar year when Juventus played Atalanta about 23 times within a couple of weeks. (Give or take; a complete count will follow.)
On Saturday, Juventus will face Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, a game that will be billed as maybe the most in-form team in Serie A right now going against the eight-time defending league champions who just fell out of first place the weekend before. Two weeks later, Juventus and Lazio will again play one another, this time in the annual Supercoppa as both teams make the trip to Saudi Arabia for Italy’s latest cash grab. But this one, Saturday night in the Italian capital, is much more of a season-defining kind of game — and that even includes the fact that Juve have a Champions League fixture a couple of days later.
The immediate attention is on the league fixture against Lazio.
Oh, and for Juventus to stop playing like a bunch of silly gooses.
It seems like I could just write the same thing from the last handful of previews for this next one and everything will pretty much be on point outside of a few necessary tweaks. Juventus, after this past weekend’s draw against ice-cold Sassuolo, only reaffirmed that the Maurizio Sarri experience — even with all the winning — is going to need further patience. Whether we have that as fans remains to be seen because we’re nearly at the midway point of the season and the overall form of the team isn’t all that great, but we also knew what we were getting into when we signed up for Sarriball.
This was going to be a process.
This was going to take time.
But, against the hottest team in the league in Lazio, a sub-par performance might see more frustration than there was last weekend in Turin against Sassuolo. Lazio are currently steamrolling just about every team it plays, with the club’s last league loss coming on Sept. 25 and six straight wins to their name.
Lazio has the second-best attack in Serie A behind Atalanta.
Lazio has the third-best defense in Serie A behind Juventus and Inter.
You want to see a team that wholeheartedly deserves where it current is in the league standings, and Lazio is right up there with the likes of Cagliari and Atalanta. (Which is, by no surprise, a sign that Serie A is wide open this season.)
A matchup of two of the top three teams in the league standings is always going to be important and used as a gauge And with Inter’s scoreless draw against Roma at San Siro on Friday night, a second- against third-place matchup just became that more more important even if it is still the early days of December.
- As we discussed here and has since been updated on Juventus’ website, Sami Khedira will miss the next three months due to knee surgery. That resulting sound you hear is a giant opportunity calling Rodrigo Bentancur as he enjoys a morning cup of mate.
- Thursday brought us another piece of injury happenings: Aaron Ramsey suffered a muscle injury in training and was not called up for the trip to Rome this weekend.
- Two players back in the squad: Adrien Rabiot and Marko Pjaca (!!!).
- Seriously: MARKO PJACA BACK.
- Also included in the square are Juventus Under-23 players Simone Muratore and Manolo Portanova both midfielders.
A quick recap of Maurizio Sarri’s pre-match press conference on Friday:
- Saturday’s game against Lazio will be tough.
- Lazio is “a strong team with great quality.”
- Sarri expects “a strong approach from Lazio” since they will be very determined to continue their current run of form.
- Based on what he’s seen in training over the past four or five days, Sarri is confident going into Saturday’s showdown at the Olimpico.
- The much-maligned Federico Bernardeschi “mustn’t be influenced by anything or anyone because he’s an important player,” Sarri said. “I don’t need to let him rest; I need to encourage him.”
JUVENTUS PLAYER(S) TO WATCH
Come Saturday night, Juventus will be facing a striker who has outscored a quarter of the teams in Italy’s top flight all on his own. Ciro Immobile has scored one fewer goal than both Fiorentina and Lecce have recorded all season, and scored more goals than the likes of AC Milan, Genoa, Hellas Verona, Brescia, Udinese, Sampdoria and SPAL.
Lazio has played 14 Serie A games this season.
Immobile, having the best season of his career, has scored 17 times against Serie A opposition.
Because of that, these guys are going to be under the microscope and will attempt to be the latest team to try and slow one of Europe’s most in-form strikers this season.
The struggles and up-and-down season that is Matthijs de Ligt’s first three months as a Juventus player have been well documented. Same goes for Leonardo Bonucci’s strong showing this season ... up until the last couple of games where some mistakes have cost Juventus dearly.
Either way, it’s obvious what Juve’s defense need to do to even have a chance at all three points Saturday night — stop Immobile, the player with more league goals than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have combined this season. (Sure, that’s cherrypicking, but deal with it.)
Based on how Immobile is playing this season — and especially during Lazio’s current hot streak over the last six weeks — that will be one of the biggest tasks asked of the Bonucci-de Ligt partnership so far this season.
With Immobile playing this well and scoring at this kind of rate, you can’t just say it’s a Bonucci problem or a de Ligt problem. Bonucci will see plenty of him. And de Ligt will see plenty of him. Knowing how well Immobile is playing, it’s going to take Bonucci, de Ligt and the two fullbacks (Juan Caudrado and Alex Sandro), too. It’s going to take a whole defensive effort to prevent this version of Immobile, who has 13 goals in his last 10 games for club and country.
The way Juventus’ defense has played of late, it’s been rather hit or miss. For every kind of game where there’s the kind of defensive performance against Atlético Madrid, there’s something like what happened last weekend against Sassuolo.
Bonucci and de Ligt will have to likely put in some of their best performances of the season if they want to keep Immobile off the scoresheet — something that very few teams have been able to do the last 2 1⁄2 months. Same goes for just about every player in Juve’s defense if they want to keep red-hot Lazio from doing what they’ve done for weeks now.
When: Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019
Where: Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time; 11:45 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: RAI Italia North America (United States); TLN, RAI Italia North America (Canada); Premium Sports 1 (United Kingdom)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); DAZN (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.