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Manu’s Grab Bag: Bittersweet

We talk kits, Emre Can’s last chance and awful, awful injuries.

AS Roma v FC Juventus - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Winter Champions!

In another weird, almost charming idiosyncrasy of Serie A, the final game of the first half of the 2019-20 season for Juventus was played on Sunday, Jan. 12 — a date that, by all intents and purposes, should not still be part of the first round of games. Nevertheless, and odd scheduling issues aside, Juventus finished the first half of its league schedule with a 2-1 victory over Roma at the Stadio Olimpico, and, thanks to Inter dropping points against Atalanta on Saturday, Juventus are once again alone at the top of the table.

It was an eventful game for all the right and wrong reasons, so let’s get right to it.

MVP: Matthijs de Ligt

My son was back after dealing with some injury issues the last couple of weeks, and, despite how good it was to see him on the pitch again, it was a shame it had to come under the circumstances it did. Merih Demiral was given the start again on Sunday, he played well, scored his first goal as Juventus player ... and then fell down in a heap as he had to be subbed out for de Ligt.

More on Merih’s injury later, but for the moment, let’s talk about the Dutchman who under less than ideal circumstances and coming from an injury himself had a superb game.

He led the team in clearances and was all over the place. He did get yellow carded on a rough tackle on Nicolo Zaniolo — more on that on a second — but that was arguably his only blemish for the day. As it turned out, de Ligt capped off his performance with an absolutely brilliant tackle on Edin Dzeko in the dying minutes of the game to deny the Roma attacker a key chance. It was a great return to action for de Ligt.

Runner Up: Adrien Rabiot

Injuries, what are they good for?

So, about that Demiral injury ...

Yeah, it’s as bad as it could have been, as Juventus confirmed that the Turkish center back tore his ACL and will be out for the remainder of the season.

Demiral had been one of the surprises of these last couple of months, as he began to start games and be damn good during those starts as well. It sucks so much more because only minutes before the injury he had scored his first goal as a Juve player, just as everything was looking better than ever. Demiral is slated to miss at least six months, making him a player to watch ... but for next season. Demiral is the second Juventus defender to go down with an ACL tear this season, as captain and Juventus legend Giorgio Chiellini also suffered the same type of injury in September.

Zaniolo was also confirmed to have torn his ACL moments after the game Sunday and will be on the shelf for the remainder of the season as well. Zaniolo was far and away one of the better players for Roma not only on Sunday but during the entire season. He was also likely to be a big part of the Italian national team this summer, who will now do without his services in the upcoming Euro 2020 tournament.

There’s not a lot more to do than to wish both of these great players a speedy recovery and hope against hope that one day, the human being manages to evolve out of that dumb, little ligament that brings so much trouble every season.

Trending Up: Emre Can

Yes, it’s your favorite forgotten midfielder who somehow, someway, might be an unlikely winner in all the bad injury luck for Juventus.

We thought he might get his shot as a midfielder when Sami Khedira went down in December, but those minutes went to a developing Rodrigo Bentancur and Adrien Rabiot, who has started to find his form. But now, with the Demiral injury and a sudden lack of depth at the cente rback position, Can might have a chance at some minutes filling in at his second preferred placing.

Is that far-fetched? I don’t think so. Right now Leo Bonucci, de Ligt and Daniele Rugani comprise the entirety of center backs on Juventus’ roster, and with Coppa Italia games literally right around the corner and Champions League action a month away, that’s awfully thin for a team looking to compete deep into all competitions.

What other options does Juventus have? They could recall Cristian Romero, currently on loan at Genoa and developing nicely. He’s an option that I find pretty appealing, although rather risky considering the inexperience of the Argentinian.

You could make a last ditch move for an experienced guy, a la bring back Martin Caceres, or something like that. Which, I don’t know, who is out there that would be a significantly more appealing option than Romero?

Can has rarely featured as a defender for Juventus, but he is placed there on the German national team relatively often and has been up to the task when being asked to do so.

Calling Romero back and deputizing Can, while praying and hoping Chiellini can come back in a couple months might be the best case scenario for Juventus at this junction.

Kit Etiquette

Roma might have lost this game, but there is one area in which they absolutely obliterated Juventus.

AS Roma vs Juventus FC - Serie A Photo by Claudio Pasquazi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

My oh my ... look at those kits. What’s the etiquette when it comes to wearing another team’s kit? Is it allowed? Is it OK if it’s ... a gift? Or, is it a complete no-no? With football kits becoming more of a fashion statement than just a shirt to support your club, is it more acceptable to wear a kit of another team just because it’s cool?

This year in particular there have been so many cool looking shirts from teams other than Juventus that I would really love to have. This Roma kit is definitely top of the list, the granata Torino kits are always a sharp look, I have a soft spot for Genoa’s away kits and ... yes, I’m sad to report that Inter Milan’s Mint colorway third kits are, in fact, very fire.

So, as the self-appointed Uniform Czar of BWRAO, here’s a handy guide of whether or not to wear another team’s kit.

Starting with the examples I listed above, Inter and Torino kits are a no-go, in fact any direct rivals kits for that matter since there’s lots of history and hatred. Can’t do it, would feel very weird.

The Genoa kits or any other mid-table or lower division’s teams that are not direct rival are fine. Hey, you happen to enjoy the green and black of Sassuolo? Go nuts, make it a “support the league, fan of Calcio in general” move and it should all be dandy.

As for the shirt that started this whole sidebar, Roma’s third kit? As much as it pains me to say, I think that falls right under the direct rival category. Can’t do it, so long you beautiful thing, may Adidas get it together and make something half as appealing one of this days.

Now, vintage kits? That’s a whole other can of worms and I will not get into that this time because this piece would end up being like 3,000 words.

Parting Shot of the week

Juventus are top of the table as the first round of games is complete. But, at what cost?

As we are now fully into the business end of the season, Juventus has injuries on pretty much every group of players, and while their form has been markedly better in 2020 than it was at the end of 2019, this team will face a lot of crunch with the schedule and depth will be vital.

It’s never easy, huh?

See you all Wednesday.