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Manu’s Grab Bag: New faces, no problem

Squad rotation time, folks! Five, first-time starters (this season) for Juventus as they pick up a 2-1 victory over a feisty Hellas Verona

Juventus v Hellas Verona - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

After a disappointing result in Madrid mid-week fixture and a quick turnaround against a feisty Hellas Verona, Saturday night’s fixture might have been a recipe for disaster for Juventus. A tailor-made, underdog sneaks by the favorite to get an unlikely result, type of game.

Thankfully, it was not to be. While Hellas Verona did play a tough game that might have made a couple of us sweat a little more than we would have liked, in the end Juventus picked the three points to remain undefeated and in second place of the early Serie A season.

(Inter is going to be a problem, y’all.)

Anyway, there’s a lot to talk about this game, so let’s get right to it.

Winner: Destiny

There’s a Mexican saying that roughly translates to:

“If it’s your turn, it’s your turn, even if you try to move.”

It’s a lot catchier in Spanish, but very true, nonetheless. And that’s the only thing I could think of after seeing Verona go momentarily ahead in Saturday’s game. After the clear-cut penalty given away by new guy Merih Demiral, Verona hit the woodwork not once, but TWICE in consecutive shots.

Miraculously, it seemed, Juventus had managed to keep the game tied, only for the ball to be recouped by Verona, after a cross that was cleared by Demiral the ball fell to Verona captain Veloso who unleashed a wicked volley that nestled in the top left corner.

You can’t outrun destiny, friends, Verona was scoring a goal on that PK one way or another.

Loser: Rotation worries

A common complaint on Maurizio Sarri’s record has been his inability to manage squad rotation. You could argue that it was more related to him having relatively thin squads throughout his career, so the option of rotating wasn’t really an option to begin with. However, with Juventus being far and away his most loaded team so far, it was understandable that some folks were a bit worried about Juventus putting forth essentially the same lineup since the season started with very few changes.

Well, for your worries, there were five new faces in the starting lineup against Verona after the Champions League match with Atletico Madrid. Take that for your rotation concerns.

And speaking of those new starters…

Winners: Aaron Ramsey and Paulo Dybala

One making his home debut, the other trying to regain a starting position. Both, making their first starts of the season. And both delivered the goods.

Ramsey had been held back due to injuries, but now that he’s been deemed fit enough to play, and it was only a matter of time for us to see him penciled in as a starter. With his combination of positional savvy, on the ball awareness and attacking chops, it was assumed that he would fit perfectly in Sarri’s system. If this game is any indication, you can expect the new No. 8 for Juventus to be a mainstay in the lineup.

Sure, the goal was a bit of a lucky break with a fortuitous deflection off a Verona defender, but he was still outstanding on Saturday. His health is a whole other issue, but if he manages to stay healthy, Ramsey could have a very good Bianconeri career.

Dybala finally made his much-rumored start as the false 9 in Sarri’s system and, in my opinion, he impressed. Had a bunch of great link-ups with both Ramsey and Cristiano Ronaldo and his positioning created a lot of space for other players to make dangerous runs.

Juventus v Hellas Verona - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

At the start of the year, it was of my opinion that Juventus’ best lineup would feature Douglas Costa, Ramsey and Dybala all starting. We haven’t seen them all play together, but Ramsey and Dybala together are already working magic. Add Costa into the mix whenever he comes back from injury and watch out.

The more things change…

For the record, I was one of the people who wasn’t really fully on board with bringing Gianluigi Buffon back. At the time, I thought he wasn’t really going to unseat Woj as the starting keeper and Mattia Perin was probably a better player at their respective ages. It seemed like a move for nostalgia’s sake, and I had my doubts.

Two things have changed for me since then: Perin is still injured and might be transferred out in the winter transfer window, making one of my points moot; And, to his credit, Buffon came back and immediately accepted the backup’s role and chose 77 as his kit number, signaling a clear intent to come in and be a locker room presence more than anything.

All of that made it much easier to just feel warm feelings of nostalgia to see the immortal Buffon take his place under the sticks at Allianz, and, to his credit, playing a really good game.

Now we can all just pretend that weird stint with Paris Saint-Germain didn’t happen and Buffon is and forever will be a Juventus player.

Gianluigi Buffon of Juventus FC celebrate during the Serie A... Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images

(With that being said, that Buffon PSG Jordan brand kit will forever be absolute fire and I will accept any and all donations to acquire one.)

Parting shot of the week

I mentioned above that Inter will be a problem, and with them leading the league by two points, Juventus will not have as much breathing room as years prior, so to keep getting three points out of this matches was key for the Bianconeri.

This was a solid test for them, short turnaround, scrappy team and behind for the first time this season. However, there’s not a lot of time to celebrate as there’s a mid-week fixture looming with Brescia on Tuesday, more squad rotation should be expected, so another (potential) trap game for Juventus.

Brescia should not be a huge problem for this team, but then again, trap games never are.

See you Tuesday.