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Champions League Preview: Juventus vs. Dynamo Kyiv

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The Champions League is back ... and we’re not totally sure if that’s good or bad news.

Adrien Rabiot of Juventus FC in action during the Serie A... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

As it stands right now, Juventus is one big question mark.

That’s not necessarily because I don’t think they are a good team. I do, and I think once Andrea Pirlo figures out a few things and how to truly get this team playing the way he wants to then things will at least start to fall into place. But, for now, there are a lot of questions about this team, about Pirlo’s approach and just how long it will take for everything to hopefully fall into place and the team can make a true run at the lofty goals that it obviously has.

OK, so maybe it’s more than one question mark. Maybe they can morph into one giant one that turns into a run-on sentence of sorts? I don’t know.

No matter the quantity, Juventus head into their first European fixture of the 2020-21 season very much a team that is far from its best. That was even before Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Crotone happened. That might have even been the case if one of the close calls that Álvaro Morata had actually found the back of the net rather than hitting the post or being called for offside. It was far from convincing, far from impressive and even a close 2-1 win almost certainly wouldn’t have changed all that much at all other than where Juve sits in the standings.

Juventus’ first Champions League group stage fixture of the season is here. They have made the long journey east to Ukraine, with some of their most important players back in Turin because they’re either injured (Alex Sandro) or still isolated due to a positive COVID-19 test (Cristiano Ronaldo). The matchup against Dynamo Kyiv and the fact that Pirlo will be facing a guy in Mircea Lucescu who was his first manager at Brescia is interesting for so many reasons beside the fact that Juve do need to show us something to start the group stage.

The positive vibes from the Sampdoria win last month aren’t really then anymore. Since them, we’ve seen Juventus have a subpar showing against Roma, a subpar (at best) showing against a Crotone team that was sitting in dead last entering the weekend and now they’re far from full strength heading into the first European fixture of the new season.

Pirlo made things pretty clear after Saturday night’s draw: Juventus is a team that is very much one that’s in progress. That’s not exactly some ground-breaking or earth-shattering kind of comment, but it’s also the acknowledgement that this thing is not going to suddenly click over night. As much as we want it to and we want Juventus to roll through this big three-week stretch with room to spare, it’s not going to always be pretty or even totally successful.

Maybe facing Dynamo Kyiv will be the first step back in the right direction that we had hoped the trip to Crotone would be. Maybe it won’t. I really don’t know right now seeing as we’re learning so much about Pirlo as a manager with every week that goes by.

But, at the very least, this could be the start of something good — and I’ll take that at this point in time.

TEAM NEWS

  • In case you missed it earlier in the day Monday, here is the traveling squad that has made the trip to Ukraine:
  • As you will see there, there’s no Cristiano Ronaldo or Weston McKennie as they continue to isolate and quarantine after their respective positive virus tests.
  • Back after missing the game against Crotone over the weekend: Aaron Ramsey. That’s a good development. (Even though Pirlo did say that “we hope to have him back for the match,” so take that how you want.)
  • As Pirlo mentioned in his pre-match press conference, Paulo Dybala will be available after spending 10 or so days out during the international break because of a stomach issue.
  • Pirlo said that Álvaro Morata is set to start up front, but who starts alongside him is still something he’s trying to decide on. (Most Italian outlets think it will be Dejan Kulusevski.)
  • If you’re worried about Juve’s midfield and the system being used, this is what Pirlo had to say about all of that: “Playing a midfield with two holding midfielders is the best solution for our four midfielders, who can express themselves very well.”

JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH

With no Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala still working his way back to full match fitness after a very inactive international break even though he was on international duty and Juve’s only other option up front as a striker being Dejan Kulusevski, this is a pretty easy one.

Behold, your new No. 9, the same as your old No. 9.

FC Crotone v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images

Morata’s game against Crotone was very much the opposite of what it was when he made his official return to the field as a Juventus player against Roma three weeks later. We’ve stated that time and time again in the articles on this website following the final whistle sounding Sunday in Calabria.

Now we get to see what the follow up to the first big game Morata has had in a Juventus jersey will be.

I said it in my post-game thread Saturday and I will say it again here: Morata showed during his first run with Juve just how much of a threat he is when the ball starts rolling (and into the back of the net). Sure, that’s not a far-fetched thing for a lot of strikers and players in general. But when it comes to Morata, when he’s going good, he’s really good and can be a true difference maker. It’s always been about the consistency with him, and being a difference maker over the course of a season rather than a couple weeks here, a couple weeks there and that’s that.

I feel like I’ve said it before when it comes to Morata, but you hope that the first goal isn’t the last goal for a few weeks. You hope that his quality performance against Crotone — and say what you want about the competition level — is the start of a run where he can at least partially make up for Ronaldo’s absence in terms of goals being scored. You hope that he can really become a player who hits some form just as the likes as Ronaldo and Dybala make their return to regular playing time over the next few weeks.

We know Morata’s scored some big goals in the Champions League before. We hope that he can do it again. And with Ronaldo not in Ukraine and Dybala probably starting from the bench against Dynamo Kyiv, seeing Morata make it (at least) two goals in two games would be a nice little development during a time when Pirlo is still trying to figure a lot of things out with his team.

MATCH INFO

When: Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020

Where: Dynamo Stadium, Kyiv, Ukraine

Official kickoff time: 7:55 p.m. local time in Ukraine; 6:55 p.m. in Italy and across Europe; 5:55 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 12:55 p.m. Eastern Time; 9:55 a.m. Pacific Time

HOW TO WATCH

Television: TUDN USA, UniMás (United States); BT Sport 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Uno (Italy)

Online/mobile: CBS All Access, TUDN.com, Univision NOW, TUDNxtra, TUDN App (United States); DAZN (Canada); BTSport.com (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.