When it comes to Juventus’ previous seven title-winning seasons, none can compare to the amount of “meaningless” games as the ones they have in front of them over the next month and a half. With the Serie A title already done and clinched, there’s only so much Juventus has to play for now — especially knowing that there’s only Italian opposition left on the schedule.
There are no more point differentials to pay attention to, no more math to do to know what it will take for Juventus to actually end the title race offcially.
There are no more worrying about what Napoli may or may not be doing. (Even though we haven’t really done that for months now, have we?)
So, as Juventus heads into its first game as official eight-time defending champions, it is kinda amusing that it’s one that is against their most-hated rival. A game that has in the past had so much riding on it in the past doesn’t have much of any riding on it — at least for Juventus. Inter has the whole thing of firmly establishing themselves as one of the top three teams in the Serie A standings, sure, but Juve has nothing left to play for other than pride, really.
And maybe, just maybe, that will mean Max Allegri doesn’t play things super safe if his team has a 1-0 lead at some point in the first half.
Or maybe it means we will see some kind of lineup creativity or experimentation knowing that this game will have absolutely no impact on where Juventus finishes the season standings-wise.
Allegri: "Tomorrow is still #InterJuve. It will be a great match and we have to go there to get a result, because our goal from here until the end of the season is to continue picking up points."#ForzaJuve pic.twitter.com/0I737wTK97— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 26, 2019
Obviously that’s the kind of thing you’d expect Allegri to say. He’s not walking into the media room, sitting down in front of the present media and telling them that he team doesn’t give a damn about any of Juve’s five remaining fixtures — and especially the one that they have this weekend against Inter. It’s the Derby d’Italia after all. And while this one doesn’t have much hype — or any kind of Scudetto implications — surrounding it as compared to other years, there’s one thing Juventus can play a part in.
That’s potentially ruining Inter’s stranglehold on a Champions League spot.
If there’s anything that both of the Milan clubs have shown us this season is that they’re anything but consistent. Well, unless you want to throw “consistently inconsistent” into the mix, but that’s no necessarily what we’re going for here. Atalanta and Roma are sitting in fifth and sixth place, respectively, and are within striking distance as we hit the home stretch of the 2018-19 season. A loss here and a few other dropped points there, and the race for third and fourth place gets even more interesting than it already is.
Just think about what Roma beating Cagliari, Atalanta beating Udinese and Juventus claiming a win in the second of two derbies this season will do for the race for third and fourth place.
Now that the Scudetto race is over, one that was about as uneventful in the last couple of months as it’s been in years, we can probably use a little bit of popcorn-worthy happenings going on for the rest of the Serie A table. Juventus can most certainly play their part in all of this with Inter, Roma and Atalanta all on the schedule over the course of the next four weeks, and that begins on Saturday night at the San Siro.
So even though there’s nothing riding on this, beating Inter is always enjoyable. And what would make it more enjoyable? Beating Inter ... at the San Siro. Now that sounds like a good time to me.
The title race is over with over a month left in the season and Juventus’ lead over Napoli is currently standing at 20 points.
I don’t know about you guys, but that just has me sitting back and chuckling just a little bit.
All of Juventus’ injuries seem to be of the season-ending variety.
We know Sami Khedira and Mattia Perin are already out for the year. Pretty much all the signs point toward Mario Mandzukic being done for the season as well. Who the hell knows when Douglas Costa is going to be healthy again after his brief time healthy earlier this month.
1) Can Fede Bernardeschi snap out of his mini-funk?
It seems as though just when Bernardeschi was starting to play some really good football again, his form has suddenly taken a nosedive right into the not-so-great department.
Now, some of that can probably be chalked up to Bernardeschi logging as many minutes as anybody over the last month or two with so many injuries up and down Allegri’s squad list. It’s probably part of the reason as to why Allegri mentioned at his pre-match press conference that he wants to experiment with Bernardeschi — and Joao Cancelo — as a box-to-box midfielder during next month’s worth of games.
But as it stands right now, most of the Italian media outlets are predicting that Bernardeschi will be playing as either as striker alongside Cristiano Ronaldo or a winger opposite Juan Cuadrado.
Either way, with Mandzukic likely out for the season and Paulo Dybala probably a week or two away from his own return from injury, it’s not like the playing is going to suddenly disappear for Bernardeschi. And no matter what spot he’s deployed in, this is the chance to really end the season on a high note — which is basically the opposite of what was going on this time last year after missing much of the second half of the season due to injury.
Or, maybe, spending some good old family time with the dogs will be the highlight of the week when it comes to Bernardeschi.
2) Which side of Joao Cancelo will we see?
If he plays, of course.
Whether it’s been as a right back or a right wingback, it’s been an interesting month for Mr. Cancelo, who’s been far from the player we saw at the beginning of the season when he was lighting the opposition on fire. Cancelo was one of Juve’s best players in the first half of the season — and that wasn’t even something we were going to question. Now, though? That same player hasn’t shown his face — consistently — in months.
We’ve seen flashes of Good Cancelo, most notably the assist he had on Ronaldo’s goal in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals against Ajax. But, just as many times as Good Cancelo has shown his face, there’s been the appearance of Bad Cancelo, the player who has been struggling defensively while not contributing nearly as much as he did offensively as he was in August, September, October and November.
So which side of Cancelo will we see?
Maybe playing against his former club, the one that didn’t take up an option to buy on him last summer, will be the thing that lights a fire under his ass so that he can get back to being the player we know he can be.
Or maybe the struggle for consistent form will be the thing that continues for Cancelo, who pretty much summed up his last few months in last weekend’s comeback win over Fiorentina — some decent attack moments (three key passes) but more struggling at the back on defense.
That is the Cancelo we knew Juve were acquiring when he signed this past summer. And while we saw improvement in the first half of the season, that hasn’t been the case much at all lately.
Here’s to hoping the final five games are more like the first five games. That’d be nice, huh?
3) Just how interested will Juventus be in a game, regardless of who it’s against, that doesn’t matter in the standings (for them)?
In theory, you would expect a team that has already clinched its eighth title in a row to go into a rivalry game like this one extremely loose. They would then play that way, with some kind of free-flowing method to Allegri’s madness now that all that’s riding on said fixture is three points, not necessarily a league title.
That’s all what you might think would happen.
But, as we know, sometimes what goes through some of our heads or how we think Juventus should approach a game isn’t the way Allegri goes about his own business.
Allegri himself said he wants to tinker during these next five games. Maybe it’s both in terms of how his team will play on top of moving some players around into unnatural positions. Maybe we won’t see the team play it conservative. Maybe we’ll see them attack more than they defend or, at the very least, try to hit Inter on the counter and do so regularly.
I don’t know what Allegri has in store. Neither do any of you.
But when it comes to Juventus facing Inter, let’s just hope that Allegri has his players interested to play some football. We all know there’s not a whole lot of pressure on this team right now since all that’s left on the schedule is five games without any Champions League football mixed in between.
Hey, at the very least Giorgio Chiellini is back. So Juve’s got that going for themselves, which I would like to think is pretty damn nice. (At least on paper.)
When: Saturday, April 27, 2019
Where: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan, Italy
Official kickoff time: 8:30 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 7:30 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time; 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: RAI Italia America (United States); RAI Italia America, TLN (Canada)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); 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.