In a perfect world, Juventus would have rolled into Florence, picked up a win by a couple of goals and recorded a shutout to boot and the wind would have been fully in the team’s sails as it heads into its Champions League group stage opener a couple of days later. The return of Maurizio Sarri would have been second to how Juventus played, with an easy dispatching of a team that hasn’t won a game in nearly eight months in the cards.
That’s not how reality is, though.
The world is not perfect. Nor is Juventus’ Serie A record anymore following Saturday afternoon’s struggles in Florence.
That means Juventus enters its Champions League group stage opener against Atlético Madrid searching to get back into a groove again after the flop that was the trip to the Franchi over the weekend. Of course, you could say the very same thing about Atléti, which itself struggled in a 2-0 loss to Real Sociedad on Saturday as Simeone’s side continues to find its identity with a host of new players being introduced following a busy summer.
Basically, to say it in a short way: These are two teams who, depending on how you look at it, are in transition phases from what they were last season to what they are trying to be this season.
Atlético, obviously, are trying to implement a host of new signings into their squad. The mainstays of years past when they faced Juventus in the Champions League like Diego Godin and Juanfran aren’t around anymore. The always-stingy Atleti defense has allowed four goals in its first four La Liga games — something that you don’t really expect from a side that is coached by Simeone nor has the reputation for being so sound at the back like they do.
Sure, we can say we saw a glimpse of that during the summer friendly, but that’s nearly two months ago now. And, as Simeone probably hopes, his team looks a little bit better in the current day than they did during a club friendly that had nothing riding on it other than match fitness.
But, for Juventus, things seem rather simple: Don’t play like you did on Saturday and things should get better.
Call it the first big bump in the road when it comes to adjusting to the new system, a failed attempt at completely dealing with the mid-September heat in Florence or something that had a couple of more elements to it, but Saturday’s scoreless draw with Fiorentina was Juve looking bad in a much different kind of way than the bad we saw against Napoli two weeks earlier. Italian football journalist James Horncastle declared the showing in Florence was “worst I’ve seen (Juventus) play in a long, long time — even the second half of last season when they needed to make a change at manager,” noting that even when Juve struggled under Max Allegri there still happened to be two or three scoring chances to take advantage of — which obviously didn’t really happen in Florence.
That means the obvious question for Juventus is simply which side of the team will we see Wednesday night at the Wanda Metropolitano. Will it be a continuation of what went down on Saturday afternoon? Or, will there be signs of life from Juve’s attack — and pretty much entire team in general — in what is expected to be an incredibly hostile atmosphere?
@bonucci_leo19: "Tomorrow will be a battle. We will look to play a great game from the first minute. We're coming here very fired up and full of energy. "#AtletiJuve #JuveUCL— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) September 17, 2019
Holding you to that, Leo. At the bare minimum, Wednesday night’s showing better be an improvement over what we saw the last time Juventus stepped onto a field of play. (Although, you can’t really get much worse, right?)
- Miralem Pjanic — healthy enough!
- Douglas Costa — injured!
- Gonzalo Higuain — kinda healthy?
- Juventus has traveled just two healthy fullbacks to Madrid (Alex Sandro and Danilo). And no, Juan Cuadrado is not a fullback, but he’s healthy, so there’s also that.
- Other injuries besides Douglas Costa (that would actually play in the Champions League if they were healthy): Mattia De Sciglio and Giorgio Chiellini.
- In a very unsurprising move, Maurizio Sarri’s starting lineup is expected to look a lot like the one that he fielded against Fiorentina over the weekend.
- The one change from Saturday’s starting lineup would obviously be replacing Douglas Costa, with Federico Bernardeschi expected to step in and fill the void.
- It’s not technically Juventus team news, but it’s obviously something that affects Juventus: The Ex Effect won’t be so profound Wednesday night because Alvaro Morata was not one of the 19 players called up by Simeone to face Juve.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
It’s the Champions League.
It’s a game against Atlético Madrid.
It’s this guy:
The last time these two teams were on the field together in a Champions League match — sorry, International Champions Cup, you’re friendlies — it was the Ronaldo show, with him showing pretty much everybody what he is capable of when he’s got everything in a European match and basically why Juventus signed him. (Well, there were other factors, too, but scoring goals in the Champions League had to be one of the biggest reasons.)
It was probably one of the best individual performances we’ve seen from a Juventus player on the European stage. And when you throw in what was riding on it and what happened as a result, well, then you just have to add to the magnitude of what the dude did.
Wednesday night’s game in Madrid doesn’t have the same kind of stakes attached to what we saw the last time these two teams met at Allianz Stadium. This is the first game of the group stage, not the kind of advance-or-go-home situation like the second leg of the round of 16 was earlier this calendar year.
Still, these are the big matchups that Ronaldo has thrived in.
And knowing that he struggled to do much of anything the last time Juventus faced Atlético Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano — and heard quite a bit of trash talk from the Atléti supporters — Ronaldo had far from what he would consider a classic European showing,
I mean, we’re talking about a guy who has scored 22 goals in 31 career games against Atlético Madrid, after all.
When: Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019
Where: Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Spain, Italy and across Europe; 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 3 p.m. Eastern Time; 12 Noon Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: Galavision (United States); BT Sport 1, BT Sport ESPN (United Kingdom); Sky Calcio 2, Sky Sport Uno (Italy)
Online/mobile: B/R Live, Univision NOW (United States); DAZN (Canada); BT Sport Live (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.