Nineteen rounds down.Nineteen rounds to go.
This is the time of each and every season when watching the scoreboard becomes just that much more of a priority, where keeping track of the league standings becomes that much more of a priority and anything to do with the current title race becomes a little more magnified. It’s the time of year where the Serie A schedule gets flipped back over and the reverse fixture of every game is played, with both plenty already known about what has taken place but also plenty to still find out.
For Juventus, again Serie A’s winter champions, all of those things are pretty much the norm. Just as is the fact that there’s a title race and Coppa Italia domestically along with the fact that a European campaign is about to start up again in a matter of weeks.
Juventus’ game against Parma on Sunday night is the official start to the second half of the 2019-20 season. It is the start of the stretch of games over the next month that will do a whole heck of a lot that will determine how things go the rest of the season on all three fronts — Serie A, Coppa Italia and, finally, the Champions League.
What we’ve seen from Juventus thus far in 2020 has been extended glimpses of what the good times under Maurizio Sarri could be like. The team has, for the most part, looked much improved from the team that we saw struggling through November and much of December. Was the 2-1 win over Roma last weekend perfect? Well, no. There were a host of things that will make you think that Juventus didn’t all that impress after scoring two goals within the first 10 minutes of game time.
This isn’t a case where we can sit back and try to compare teams from where they were at to start out the beginning of the season to where they are now. Juventus won’t be pulling a “see you soon!” kind of deal like we will see in a couple of days against Roma since, you know, Parma just lost to Roma in the Coppa Italia Round of 16, with Juventus’ second game in a week and a half next on the schedule for Paulo Fonseca after this weekend.
Juventus is a different team than it was back in the third weekend of August — and, as we seem to think based on the small 2020-only sample size that we’ve seen, it is hopefully for the better as compared to a couple of months ago.
Parma, as we have also seen this season, hasn’t exactly started 2020 all that well. (A 5-0 thumping at the hands of Atalanta as well as the aforementioned elimination from the Coppa Italia at the hands of Roma.)
So maybe Juve are catching Parma at a good time knowing that the first couple of weeks haven’t exactly gone as well as they might have hoped for. And maybe this upward trend that we’ve seen from Sarri’s bunch is something that becomes more and more of a thing as time goes on.
That’s what history tells us. That’s what we want to think, too. It’s about proving history to be correct one more time just as this title race starts to become more and more interesting with every passing weekend.
- Rodrigo Bentancur will be serving the final game of his three-game suspension after his red card (and subsequent outburst) against Lazio in the Supercoppa.
- Giorgio Chiellini, still injured.
- Sami Khedira, still injured.
- Merih Demiral, unfortunately now injured for many months to come.
- Maurizio Sarri on playing Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo together at the same time: “With regards to the trident, we must find the right balance.”
- Maurizio Sarri on Douglas Costa: “He has never had great continuity in training this season, so (Saturday) we will realize how strong his ability is to recover.”
- Maurizio Sarri on Adrien Rabiot: “Rabiot has found continuity, form and more confidence, his performances are improving and he is becoming a different player, more present in the defensive phase and more tactical than before. If he continues like this, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a call-up to the French national team.”
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
There are some players who make sense here. Paulo Dybala is on an absolute heater right now. Same goes for Cristiano Ronaldo. Matthijs de Ligt and Aaron Ramsey are both back in the starting lineup after an extended period of time coming off the bench. Adrien Rabiot has started to thrive now that he’s getting consistent minutes.
But I think it’s time to zig while everybody here thinks I will zag.
When it comes to Sunday’s game against Parma, this is the Juventus player I want to focus on and spend the next couple hundred talking about:
Ah ha! Ah ha! I zigged and you thought I would zag.
If Juventus hadn’t made a deal for 19-year-old Dejan Kulusevski earlier in the month of January, maybe Sunday’s game against Parma would be just another game against mid-table opposition. But because Juventus forked over €35 million (plus another potential €9 million in bonuses) and then sent Kulusevski immediately back to Parma on loan — not exactly a surprise there — this game just got a whole lot more interesting.
Kulusevski is known for his ability to make things happen. And at the age of 19 and a whole lot of Serie A minutes (hopefully) still in front of him this season, there’s still tons of room for him to develop even before he gets to wear a Juventus jersey. (The obvious logic says next season because of the amount Fabio Paratici just dished out for the young Swede.)
I’d be lying if I said I’m looking forward to see what Kulusevski — who is second on the Parma squad in goals and leads the team in assists — will be able to do against the likes of another certain young player Juventus purchased recently for big money in de Ligt. And you have to think that they will be seeing a whole lot of one another unless Parma does what a lot of smaller clubs seem to do at Allianz Stadium and basically sit back for 90 minutes.
But, knowing that Parma sit in seventh place and are nipping on now-struggling Cagliari’s heels for a European spot, that probably won’t be the case.
The first half of Kulusevski’s season has been impressive regardless of what team he is. It just so happens that he plays for a club that is facing Juventus all of a couple of weeks after Juve actually signed him. It’s even more impressive when you consider that he’s 19 years old and didn’t have much Serie A experience at all before the 2019-20 campaign got underway.
It’s an interesting situation to say the least, and hopefully one that involves Kulusevski impressing against the eight-time Italian champions but not costing Juventus three points.
When: Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020
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 North America (United States); RAI Italia North America, TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Uno, Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Calcio 1, Sky Supercalcio HD (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player 1 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.