Facing arguably your closest competitor for the league title in the second week of the season is always going to bring about an interesting round of hype. Ir’s a big game, but it’s also August, so it’s not like it could be a season-defining game by any means. Then you throw into the occasion that the manager of one team is the former manager of the other team — even though he probably won’t actually be coaching his current team due to pneumonia recovery — and it’s an added layer or two of spice to an already-intriguing early-season matchup.
But then, as I started to type out that opening paragraph above, the news of Giorgio Chiellini’s ACL tear came across all of Juventus’ social media platforms. And, no matter what you think about Saturday night’s game between Juve and Napoli in Turin and the actual importance of it all, the eight-time defending champions enter this showdown like they just got punched in the gut.
At least that’s the way I feel about Chiellini’s injury.
A punch in the gut. Maybe a follow-up kick to the back of the head.
But, as the “Get well soon!” messages went up around social from teammates new and old, Juventus’ season isn’t going to suddenly stop because their captain is now looking at months and months of rehab after undergoing surgery in the next couple of days. As emotionally draining as Friday was after hearing of the Chiellini news, it’s not like there’s a whole lot of time to really sit on it no matter how tough of a blow it is to a team that wants to compete on all three fronts again this season.
And maybe getting onto the field is what they need most.
Napoli will be entering Allianz Stadium after a wild and controversy-filled season-opening win over Fiorentina. (Maybe VAR will actually be used this time and be effective, but that remains to be seen.) Carlo Ancelotti’s side will have visions of showing Juventus just how true this season’s Scudetto push will be even though it’s the second weekend fo the 2019-20 campaign. And seeing as this is the second season under Ancelotti, this is where Napoli will want to do damage domestically after so many years of being second behind Juventus in the standings.
Regardless of whether Maurizio Sarri is actually on the sidelines to face his former team or not, it has been an aspect that has added plenty of juice to the rivalry between Napoli and Juventus. Some of Sarri’s most well-known former players who are still at Napoli have been very vocal over the summer about Juventus hiring the former Napoli boss. And judging by the fact that none of it was all that positive, I’m guessing that Napoli’s core group of players would love nothing more than to roll into Turin and make an early-season statement against the team that has dominated Serie A for the better part of the last decade.
Martusciello: "Tomorrow is an important match for us, for them and for the world of football."#JuveNapoli #ForzaJuve— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) August 30, 2019
But hey, if Juve needed a little extra motivation to prove once again that they’re the clear-cut team to beat in Serie A, winning a rivalry game the day after your captain goes down with a serious injury seems like a pretty good reason why.
- Giorgio Chiellini tore his ACL in his right knee and will undergo surgery in the next couple of days.
- I’m sad.
- Aaron Ramsey is still working his way back to full fitness. From what was said at Friday’s pre-match press conference, the Juventus coaching staff is hoping Ramsey wil be available coming out of the international break.
- Maurizio Sarri might be able to coach Juventus against his former side Saturday night, according to top assistant Giovanni Martusciello. But, at this point, it doesn’t seem likely, with the original two-game absence to begin the season being carried out successfully.
- I’m still said about Chiellini’s injury.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
I went with Paulo Dybala last week for the season. I was going to go with Gonzalo Higuain this week because all indications are that he’s going to start over Dybala in the center of Juventus’ attack for the second straight week to open the season.
Then, the Chiellini injury news happened. So, as you might expect, I’ve changed it up.
It’s this guy ...
Ah, yes. It’s Matthijs de Ligt.
It’s your time now, grasshopper.
As we discussed earlier in the week, we didn’t really know what the timetable was going to be when it came to working de Ligt — and that was when Chiellini was healthy and not expected to miss the next five or six months at the very minimum. But now that Friday’s stunning news came down and Juventus will be without their captain for much of the 2019-20 season, it’s only natural that Juventus’ big summer signing is the man to take over in the heart of the defense.
This is his time.
This is his chance — even though none of us like or wanted to see the way it has come about over the last 24 hours.
It will be interesting to see how the rapport between de Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci develops over the coming weeks and months since they are the clear-cut starting duo as long as the both of them stay healthy. (Hey, we gotta have that caveat now, don’t we?) Bonucci is bound to feel a little extra pressure when it comes to on-field leadership now that Chiellini is not around as captain, and de Ligt is going to be under the microscope because of both the fact of who he is, the team that he now plays for and the simple fact that he is being immediately thrust into the spotlight when it looked he might be slowplayed into the starting lineup just a matter of days ago.
There is no denying that de Ligt has the talent to be the building block of the Juventus defense for years to come. And while it sucks about how de Ligt is going to be getting his opportunity to make his official Juve debut, I would be lying if I said I’m not extremely excited to watch de Ligt play on a regular basis now.
When: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, 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 America (United States); TLN, RAI Italia America (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Calcio 1, Sky Supercalcio HD, Sky Sport Serie A (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier 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.