At the very least, Juventus will be entering a Champions League game in a different kind of situation this week as compared to the previous two group stage games: coming off the back of a win in Serie A rather than a disappointing draw. That might not seem like much, but the way the last couple of weekends had gone for Andrea Pirlo’s squad, we most certainly will take what we can get at this point.
In a season of quirks and truncated fixtures, we are already at the midway point of the Champions League group stage. This busy three-week stretch is nearly at its end, and now we get to see if Juventus can avoid further European dramatics when they head to Hungary to face the club that everybody expects to finish at the bottom of Group G when this thing is all said and done.
And so begins another common theme of this early season.
Juventus again finds itself matching up against a team that they have no business losing to more often than not, this time in Wednesday night’s trip to Hungary to face Ferencvaros. The same Ferencvaros team that picked up its first-ever point in the Champions League the last time they took the field against a continental opponent. And the same Ferencvaros team that is all of two points behind Juventus through the first two games of group stage competition.
But Juventus will be in the same kind of position they were two weeks ago when they opened Champions League group stage play against Dynamo Kyiv: They are away from home, but they are most certainly the favorites in this game. There is no way around it — Juve need this game, and they need to make sure that these next two games against Ferencvaros on either side of the international break are must-win kind of fixtures.
We know Juventus has plenty of room to spare when it comes to trying to live up to the lofty expectations that we have for them. And, honestly, the same kind of feeling is probably going on in their very own dressing room these days. They know they’re better than how they’ve been playing, and the second half against Spezia over the weekend was a small glimpse of what could happen.
Yes, Spezia, I get it.
But we saw what Juventus did the previous two weekends, and it wasn’t what they did against Spezia.
So now we see what Juventus can do in the game after Andrea Pirlo’s first-ever win away from home as a Serie A manager. And we see what Juventus can do as they are about as full strength as they’ve been in weeks. (Not completely full strength, but getting rather close!)
Maybe, just maybe, that would mean Juventus builds off a relatively positive weekend and beats a team that we know they should beat even though the worst-team-of-the-group has always been an interesting fixture for them to deal with. We remember the trips to Scandinavia and the like. We remember Juve scratching by teams they had no business even potentially drawing against. So now we see what this team has in store for us Wednesday night as they come off a rare positive weekend domestically.
- Giorgio Chiellini is back in the traveling squad.
- As expected, there is no Matthijs de Ligt nor Alex Sandro in the traveling squad.
- Merih Demiral is suspended for this one after being sent off against Barcelona last Wednesday. That, obviously, means there’s a very good chance that Chiellini returns to the starting lineup against Ferencvaros.
- Andrea Pirlo’s pre-match press conference on Tuesday was very light on actual newsworthy items, if there was anything at all. He did mention that there will be fans in the stands, so there’s that. But, outside of that, it was pretty much just general talk about the team rather than individual things.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
You think the guy who has scored more goals than anybody ever in the Champions League is raring to go after missing Juve’s first two European games of the 2020-21 season?
I think so, too.
No matter if his jersey is making him look like a pumpkin or if he will be in the usual black and white stripes, the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo is going to be back in Juventus’ starting lineup will be the big thing that your match announcer will be talking about when the ball is kicked off Wednesday night in Budapest.
And the matter of which Ronaldo marked his return to the team after three weeks out due to COVID-19 will only amplify that.
Ronaldo’s impact on the win over Spezia was undeniable. It was more than just scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal as we all know, and it was pretty much him just coming onto the field and flipping the game on its head. His presence opened up things that weren’t always there for the first 60 or so minutes, and that meant Juve scored three goals when it looked like they were starting to hit the skids.
So now we get to see what Ronaldo can do from the start next to a very in-form Alvaro Morata. (Let’s see how many times he can stay onside this time.) What he can potentially do with somebody like Dejan Kulusevski playing in the No. 10 role if Pirlo decides to go in that direction. Or maybe Pirlo has something up his sleeve when it comes to his starting lineup that we don’t really know yet since he now has some options at his disposal.
Either way, we know that Ronaldo will be in the starting lineup.
And that alone should be a boost to a Juventus team that hasn’t exactly entered both of its first two Champions League games this season on the back of good weekend results.
This time, though, they’ve headed to Hungary with a win, with their top scorer back and him showing no signs of COVID-19 rustiness. That was all of about half an hour over the weekend, but it was a sign of just what this team might be able to do if Ronaldo, Morata and the like are clicking.
Sure, Ferencvaros and Spezia aren’t anywhere close to top-of-the-heap kind of teams, but this is who is currently who’s on the schedule, and you know that Ronaldo will be damn well hellbent on marking his first Champions League appearance of the season a memorable one. That’s just how he’s wired.
When: Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020
Where: Groupama Arena, Budapest, Hungary
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Hungary 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, Sky Sport 252 (Italy)
Online/mobile: CBS All Access, TUDN.com, TUDN App, TUDNxtra, 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.