We have reached the point in Juventus’ schedule where things get interesting.
“Why’s that?” you may be asking yourself.
Well, it’s rather simple actually: Juventus is now in the midst of the first busy portion of its schedule for the 2019-20 season. That means, as we know, a game comes every three or four days, with a Serie A or Champions League fixture midweek after the usual weekend league game. The one-game-a-week stretch is over with, and competing on multiple fronts is going to be a constant for at least the next three months at the bare minimum.
That means we get to see whether or not one of Maurizio Sarri’s biggest perceived weaknesses as a manager, the ability to rotate his squad when the schedule gets hectic, will be tested. And what makes it even the more interesting is that Juventus’ next three opponents — Hellas Verona, Brescia and SPAL — are all teams that will likely be in the bottom half of the Serie A table, if not trying to avoid relegation, come the latter months of the season.
The first of those games, Hellas Verona’s visit to Allianz Stadium on Saturday evening, is being looked at from the outside looking in as Sarri’s first legitimate chance to rotate his squad with such a quick turnaround following Wednesday’s 2-2 with Atlético Madrid. And we’re not just saying this because Hellas Verona has won just one of its first three games to start its return season back in Serie A. No, no, my friends. But it’s because, outside of injury-related changes to his starting lineup, Sarri has yet to really shake things up when it comes to the 11 players he’s rolled out there.
Nine players have started all three of the first three Serie A games this season. That’s not exactly a huge total, but if it stays like that going forward the next couple of weeks, then there will only continue to be worries about Sarri’s ability to rotate his squad. It was a major talking point during his one season at Chelsea. It was a major talking point during his tenure at Napoli as well. And, with three straight game against teams that are far from what you would consider top-of-the-table challengers, Sarri has the chance to avoid that being the case to start out his tenure at Juventus.
So, how much squad rotation are we talking about here? This is what La Gazzetta dello Sport is thinking the day before Hellas Verona’s trip to Turin:
#JuveVerona, domani ore 18. Formazioni GdS-CdS: "Sarà 4-3-3 con Bernardeschi, Dybala e Ronaldo in attacco. Cuadrado e Danilo sulle fasce, ballottaggio Demiral-De Ligt" #rvs https://t.co/V5wQ25goEq pic.twitter.com/WT6okkqx4y— VecchiaSignora.com (@forumJuventus) September 20, 2019
Compared to what we saw this past weekend in Florence, there’s a different goalkeeper, Juve’s new right back playing left back, a right winger at right back, a completely different three-man midfield, Juve’s No. 10 actually getting more than just a cameo and a total of four of the usual starters actually being tipped to start against Hellas Verona. La Gazzetta’s predicted lineup for Saturday’s game has changed majorly since then, however, with Sarri’s words about squad rotation at his pre-match press conference obviously being a heavy influence in a lot of the possible rotation decisions they thought MIGHT happen against Hellas Verona.
Whether we see a midfield with Rodrigo Bentancur and Adrien Rabiot rather than Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi still remains to be seen, but the common line of thinking is that squad rotation is going to go down at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
Now we just have to see if Sarri himself is thinking along those lines as well.
Well, that’s not exactly what you would call an encouraging sign that some squad rotation is on the way Saturday. But hey, I’m just a guy trying to read Maurizio Sarri’s mind from a couple thousand miles away.
- Mattia De Sciglio is still injured.
- Douglas Costa is still injured.
- Giorgio Chiellini is still injured.
- The other long-term injuries are, you guessed it, still injured.
- Sarri believes Ramsey and Rabiot still “need to adapt to a new reality and new league.”
- Federico Bernardeschi ... midfielder?
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Just as it was in the first game of the season (even though he didn’t end up playing in it), it’s going to be this handsome fella:
Because of the essential protesting and questioning of squad rotation done by Sarri during his pre-match press conference, the gut feeling I had about Dybala starting isn’t exactly as firm as it was before Juve’s first-year manager started talking. (And, that hunch, was basically a victim of what the Italian press was saying Friday morning before the press conference, so let’s just go ahead and blame them for everything, shall we?)
But, since one of the aforementioned changes of La Gazzetta’s predicted lineup doesn’t involve Dybala, we’re going to stick with him being under the spotlight.
Dybala’s season to date — and we’re talking about on-field stuff, not the whole transfer saga part of the summer where it looked like he might be headed to the Premier League — has been more about how he hasn’t played rather than what he’s done to help Juventus win. Dybala has appeared in two games off the bench — one in Serie A, the other being against Atlético Madrid in the Champions League group stage opener this past Wednesday. In those two games, Dybala has played a combined 30 minutes. Thirty! And that’s after playing less than 100 minutes in the Copa America with Argentina over the summer.
So, when Sarri says that Dybala isn’t in top shape just yet, it’s pretty understandable.
But, at the same time, there’s only so much you can do to get in game shape when you’re not actually playing in games.
And that’s where we’re at right now.
Dybala, obviously, has the kind of talent where can thrive in a system like Sarri has. And once he does hit optimal game shape, it’s going to be interesting how Sarri plays it considering that Gonzalo Higuain has gotten the bulk of the playing time in the center of Juve’s front three attackers early this season. Sarri has talked about Dybala as a false 9, but we have yet to truly see Juve’s No. 10 in that position to get any kind of reading as to how he will actually do.
Maybe Saturday evening is that first legitimate chance.
Maybe it’s Tuesday against Brescia.
Either way, Dybala needs to play — and it would be nice if it’s soon, too.
When: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 6 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 12 Noon Eastern Time; 9 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Calcio 1, Sky Supercalcio HD (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia, NOW TV (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.