Come this weekend, we will be three legs into this 10-game swing that will give us a lot of answers as to what this Juventus team is all about. We’ve already seen them play well in the first of those Serie A fixtures and then clinch a spot in the Champions League Round of 16 in the other, so to say it’s been a total waste is far from the reality of the situation.
But this is what we also knew about Juve’s big late-November/December stretch of games: The first part of the Serie A schedule was going to be rather friendly, just in the same way that the early-November portion of it was. The domestic opposition, up until Juventus faces Atalanta in mid-December, are all in the bottom half of the table — which, as you might expect, are good teams to really try and get right against when things aren’t exactly going so well.
That is where Benevento comes into play, as Juve will check the third and final Serie A newcomer off its list of opponents even before the month of December arrives. This is the same Benevento side that has allowed nearly as many goals as anybody has through the first couple months of the season and has very much lived up to the high-wire act that Pippo Inzaghi has very much tried to have every one of his teams try to play.
Some, combine a newly-promoted side with a struggling defense and one of Serie A’s most in-form strikers in Alvaro Morata and maybe you’ve got the recipe for some goals happening.
We’ve seen Juventus play well against mid- or bottom-of-the-table teams this season. We’ve also seen them struggle against those same types of teams. It’s very much been a mixed bag of performances to start the 2020-21 season against the provincial sides as Andrea Pirlo gets his footing as Juve’s new manager. So maybe some of those struggles were to be expected with everything going on both at Juventus and Serie A in general. (Just look at some of the other leagues with some of the unexpected results that have happened the first few months of the season.) But, at the same time, Juventus shouldn’t be struggling to just barely beat a newly-promoted side or, hell, dropping points against those same kinds of teams.
So as we get ready to head into December and there’s another relegation battler on the schedule, you know full well that the hope is Juventus does what they did to the last relegation battler they faced a few weeks ago. Benevento are allowing over two goals per game, and that is the kind of defense that you know Juventus can take advantage of if the likes of Morata, Paulo Dybala and Dejan Kulusevski get the opportunity to do so.
And with the other teams that are either ahead of Juventus or right behind them in the Serie A standings playing some rather tough opponents this weekend, there’s a chance to get closer to the mountain top once again this weekend. The first thing matters is Juventus taking care of business against the 18th-place team in Serie A entering the weekend, then we’ll go from there.
One step at a time, and hopefully that means Juve’s collecting three points against Super Pippo and the Witches.
- Cristiano Ronaldo not called up due to Andrea Pirlo giving him the weekend off to rest.
- With Ronaldo being rested and Under-23 striker Giacomo Vroni — who has been a part of many matchday squads this season — suffering an serious injury during training Friday, the only two strikers Pirlo has at his disposal for the trip to Benevento are Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala. I guess we don’t need to think too hard about who should start then.
- Gianluigi Buffon not called up due to what seems to be some kind of muscle injury.
- Leonardo Bonucci has been called up for the first time since the international break ended after recovering from his own muscle injury. Many in the Italian press are expecting him to start in the middle of Juve’s back three against Benevento, pushing Matthijs de Ligt out to the right side.
- Pirlo hinted that he could give Alex Sandro a rest after he made his first start since returning from injury midweek against Ferencvaros. With Bonucci back in the squad, Pirlo now has a little more flexibility in terms of potential players in defense that he can rest.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
With so many fixtures in such a short period of time, the ability to rotate the squad is going to be a key component for Andrea Pirlo over the next three or four weeks. And with the options Pirlo has in midfield, it’s a distinct possibility that one combination might start one game in the Champions League and then be rested (at least in part) over the weekend.
After resting midweek, Adrian Rabiot figures to be back in the starting lineup on Saturday. The other spot? Well, that might be a little tougher to figure out. But, since it’s a little bit of a guessing game, we will go with who the Italian press thinks will be starting alongside Rabiot this weekend.
Come on down, my son.
This season has not been the same kind of strong start to a new campaign like last year was for Rodrigo Bentancur. This time 12 months ago we were praising him for his ability to pretty much play any kind of role that Maurizio Sarri needed him to play. It didn’t matter if it was as a regista or trequartista, Bentancur was getting the job done and was arguably Juve’s most in-form midfielder for much of the first half of the 2019-20 season.
Not so much the case this season.
That same groove that Bentancur found last season hasn’t been present much at all this season. He’s still contributing in some areas, most notably his work defensively. But the same kind of impact he was making a year ago definitely isn’t the same this time around.
What’s the issue?
Well, we know that Pirlo has talked about having to work Bentancur slowly into things because his workload was so heavy over the summer that he was still feeling the after effects of it all. But we’re almost to December, and you would think that it’s been enough time for Bentancur’s physical standing to be considered ready to roll.
Either way, and I say this as the driver of the Bentancur bus on this blog, there is plenty more than he can provide this team. Whether it’s still a physical thing or still acclimating himself to Pirlo’s tactics, there is still something lacking in what we’re seeing from the young Uruguayan at the moment.
With Rabiot clearly the best midfielder Juventus has right, it will be interesting to see who emerges as the compliment to the big Frenchman. And we will certainly have plenty of chances to see that potentially happen over the next few weeks. There’s minutes out there to be had, and it’s just a matter of who really takes advantage of this unique opportunity where Juve’s going to be playing nearly 20 percent of their league schedule during this stretch of games.
When: Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020
Where: Municipal Stadium Ciro Vigorito, Benevento, Italy
Official kickoff time: 6 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 12 p.m. Eastern Time; 9 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TLN (Canada); FreeSports TV UK (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Sport 251 (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); LivSoccer App (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.