If you were to draw up a path for Juventus to secure a spot in the Champions League group stage with room to spare and without any kind of late-stage stress, it would look a little something like this:
- Have the top two teams separate themselves from the bottom two clubs after one a few games.
- Have Juventus face said bottom two clubs in back-to-back order to begin the second half of the group stage, with the first one being against a team we just saw the Bianconeri beat 401 a couple of weeks ago.
- Have those next two Juventus fixtures be played in Turin.
- Get a little help from Barcelona when they play Dynamo Kyiv.
OK, so that last part is very much out of Juventus’ hands at the moment, and with how shorthanded Barcelona is — and, by the way, they’re currently 13th (!!!) in La Liga! — that is anybody’s guess at this point. But, when it comes to those first couple of points, Juventus very much has control over how things go when they begin the second half of the group stage against Ferencvaros on Tuesday night in Turin. As we’ve hammered into your head over the last couple of weeks ever since Juventus got a 4-1 over Ferencvaros a couple of weeks ago, Juventus need to win and then see Dynamo Kyiv not win for a spot in the knockout stage to officially belong to the Italian champions.
Maybe more important than that is that we are waiting to see what the encore to Saturday night’s 2-0 win over Cagliari is.
Not to say that locking up a spot in the knockout round with two games to go isn’t important because it very much is — and especially so when you consider what Juve’s current injury situation in defense is.
But if Juventus plays anywhere close to as well as they did a couple of days ago, then a win over Ferencvaros is going to happen. It’s almost like these these are connected, right?
That’s what everybody wants to see, though. We want to see if the performance against Cagliari — arguably Juventus’ best of the 2020-21 season — was just a one-off type of deal or if it can be the start of something during a very important stretch of games with a summer-like kind of hectic factor to it all. The attack was productive and getting contributions from everywhere. The defense, with a young Dutchman back leading the way, was about as strong as its been all season. Things looked good — really good — on Saturday night.
That is what Pirlo wanted to see based on the simple fact that he declared his intentions about the team coming out of the international break.
Now it needs to be taken a step further: do it for a second game and make this start to a four-week stretch a very good one knowing full well there’s still eight games to go in all competitions.
If Juventus can do that, then they’re most definitely going to be in position to get into the knockout round of the Champions League sooner rather than later. Maybe it will be this week, maybe it will be next week. Either way, if Ferencvaros sees the same kind of performance from Juventus that Cagliari did, then it’s going to be another very pleasant step forward for a team that hasn’t always made things easy on themselves to begin the 2020-21 season.
- Juventus is down another central defender after Merih Demiral was ruled out for at least 10 days due to a muscle injury. In case you’re counting, that’s not three of four natural central defenders who are out due to injury. Good thing Matthijs de Ligt is back, right?
- Current injured defenders: Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Merih Demiral.
- Current healthy defenders: Matthijs de Ligt, Alex Sandro, Danilo, Juan Cuadrado, Gianluca Frabotta.
- After his latest injury absence, Aaron Ramsey returned to training on Monday.
- Andrea Pirlo’s press conference was a relatively low-key affair, so it’s not like there was a whole lot of newsworthy things to come out of it. Well, outside of one guy potentially getting his second Champions League start of the season ...
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Sky Sport Italia says Paulo Dybala is going to partner with Cristiano Ronaldo up top.
La Gazzetta dello Sport says Pauli Dybala is going to partner with Cristiano Ronaldo up top.
Tuttosport says Pauli Dybala is going to partner with Cristiano Ronaldo up top.
Andrea Pirlo hinted that Paulo Dybala could partner with Cristiano Ronaldo up top.
Therefore, I think you can probably figure out who we’re going to spend a few hundred words talking about over the course of the next part of this match preview.
Dybala’s 2020-21 season has yet to get going. That’s an obvious fact. But it was against Ferencvaros a couple of weeks ago where we saw him do something he hasn’t done much of so far this season — and that’s actually find the back of the net. Sure, it was a moment in time that clearly benefited from Ferencvaros having some absolutely terrible distribution and decision making at the back, but a goal is a goal, right?
Well, let’s hope so.
Monday’s pre-match press conference was the first legitimate time that Pirlo has talked about playing Ronaldo, Dybala and Alvaro Morata together all at once. He hedged it with the fact that it will take time to try and work all three players in at once, which means we might not be seeing it all that much during this four-week stretch before Christmas. And because of that simple scheduling detail, the likelihood of all three strikers playing against Ferencvaros from the start seems slim to none at this point.
So if it’s Ronaldo and Dybala up front, then there’s still plenty of intrigue.
Ronaldo has obviously picked up right where he left off from last season. But for Dybala, it’s been a very different story. As Pirlo pointed out in Monday’s press conference, getting Dybala back on track is going to take time and seeing things snap into place isn’t going to happen completely overnight. But you know that Dybala is definitely feeling the need to start delivering for this team simply because that’s the kind of bar he sets for himself. He knows he’s capable of so much more, and so do we — which is a big reason why, even with all of the stuff going around him, we want to see him turn the corner and get going again.
So let me remind you of something that our resident Texan, Hunter, wrote last week:
Here’s the thing: an angry, motivated Paulo Dybala is not a bad thing. Given Morata’s form and Cristiano Ronaldo being who he is, the Argentine must know he needs to figure out how exactly he’s going to fit into Pirlo’s approach — and to start scoring goals.
I can let my head run away and start thinking about what an in-form Dybala can add to this team all I want. But until I see it, I won’t totally go crazy with those happy thoughts.
Maybe that run of good form starts Tuesday night, though, and that’s something I definitely object to, folks. With so many games coming up over the next four weeks, it sure would be a pretty nice development because you know everybody is going to get their minutes.
When: Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 3 p.m. Eastern Time; 12 p.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: Galavision (United States); Sky Sport Uno (Italy)
Online/mobile: CBS All Access, TUDNxtra, TUDN.com, Univision NOW (United States); DAZN (Canada); BT Sport Extra, 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.