We sat here 12 months ago, right before Juventus’ opener to the 2018-19 season, talking about the star signing that was initially laughed at because it was Tuttosport providing the rumor. It was going to be the debut in Juventus colors of one of the best players ever, a signing that shifted the club’s focus from more than just domestic dominance and racking up Scudetti like no club has ever done so in Italy.
We have another big-time debut of sorts to start the 2019-20 season. But instead of it being a player on the field, it involves the guy who will decide who actually plays every game. Even though we’ve been talking about him for the better part of the last two months, this is the official start of the Maurizio Sarri era, one that Juventus’ under-the-microscope front office hopes results in an easier-on-the-eye style of play that then leads to more success in the biggest of stages.
Except for the fact that Sarri won’t actually be at the Tardini.
Sarri’s first official game as Juventus manager was supposed to come this Saturday when the defending Italian champions open the 201-12 season against, Parma, the beginning of what has been the current eight-year run of titles being won. That won’t be happening as Juventus’ first-year manager was officially ruled out Thursday — yes, the “injury” listing will now involve the head coach — because of his ongoing battle with pneumonia.
That means Sarri’s longtime right-hand man Giovanni Martusciello will be in charge for the next couple of Saturdays, something you probably didn’t expect to happen all of a few days ago before this week’s diagnosis was handed down. (Or, based on how Sarri sucks down cigarettes like there’s no tomorrow, maybe you did expect something like this, I dunno.)
No matter who’s in charge — and let’s hope for our sake that Sarri is back to full health coming out of the international break — obviously the goal is to keep that run of titles going, with many predicting that if this were the year where Juve potentially slips up, then it would be the one where the new manager doesn’t do as well as his predecessor and quite possibly his former club — yes, the same Napoli side that Juve faces in Turin seven after the season opener — ending this near-decade-long streak of one team winning the Serie A title.
Now, the opening weekend won’t decide who wins the Scudetto this season. Nor will it be the final verdict on just how Sarri’s system has been implemented at his new club.
But making a good first impression will help — at least a little bit.
Or, if the opposite happens it will add to the pressure and/or unease that could very well be surrounding Juventus during a very eventful summer. And that’s not even with the manager that plenty of folks still have plenty of questions about is not even there.
- The big news heading into the season opener is obviously Sarri being ruled out for the Parma and Napoli fixtures, basically taking away 10,000 narratives about his old side coming to Allianz Stadium next weekend.
- Aaron Ramsey is the most notable player not called up for Saturday night’s season opener as he continues to recover from injury. Ramsey didn’t return to full training until after the squad returned from their preseason tour of Asia, so this might not be the biggest surprise of the season. (It’s still early, though.)
- Even though the official season opener is here, Juventus still don’t have a No. 9.
- That means Gonzalo Higuain enters the season wearing the No. 21 jersey.
- Gianluigi Buffon has a new haircut. Let’s discuss.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
It’s has been one of the most unpredictable Juventus summers coming off the back of probably the most unpredictable summer in a long time, and a lot of that has to do with the status of the man above, Paulo Dybala.
Transfer rumors are always going to involve Dybala because that’s just how it’s been the last couple of years. But this summer has been a lot different than previous ones in the fact that the possibility of Dybala actually leaving has been totally real, totally close to happening and basically one of the biggest reasons why this summer went from great to the feeling of “EHHHHH I DUNNO!!!” within a couple of weeks.
There was the move to Manchester United that was close, but didn’t happen.
There was the move to Tottenham that was even closer, but didn’t happen.
There’s still rumors of Paris Saint-Germain making a move before the transfer window closes, but that seems to have cooled down over the last week or so. (Outside of chatter from the less-than reputable sources in Italy, that is.)
But, as the Serie A opener is just about here, Dybala is still a Juve player. And unlike earlier in the week when certain corner of the Italian media were predicting that Higuain was going to start over Dybala, it’s now the other way around, with Juve’s No. 10 being tipped to be a false 9 come kickoff against Parma.
Because of the summer he’s had — and, remember, a lot of it is not by his doing AT ALL — there’s going to be quite a microscope on Dybala come Saturday night. It’s probably a different kind of microscope than that of, say, Cristiano Ronaldo because that is unique to one of the greatest players to ever play the game.
And just like what happened when he scored a complete peach of a goal against Triestina in the preseason finale last weekend, I am all here for what Dybala does during his next goal celebration to show just how much he wants to be around this club going forward. Hopefully we don’t have to wait all that long for it, either.
When: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019
Where: Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma, Italy
Official kickoff time: 6 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom; High Noon Eastern Time; 9 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: RAI Italia America (United States); RAI Italia America, TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Calcio 1, Sky Supercalcio HD, Sky Sport Serie A (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premium Player HD (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia (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.