Three weeks ago we saw what was sitting in front of Juventus and had flashbacks to times when there wasn’t a global pandemic hanging over every single thing that we want to do. The schedule was going to get busy for the first time in the fall, and the Champions League group stage was going to be a major part of that. It had us thinking back to 12 months ago even though it was felt about four times that amount because of — /gestures around in the general area/ — all this stuff.
Twenty-one days and six games later, we are at the end of that three-week run of games and overall busyness.
And Juventus has the chance to do something they have yet to do under Andrea Pirlo — win three straight games (in all competitions) and finish off a pretty good weeks worth of fixtures.
It just so happens that this stretch is against the team that was being talked about as one of Juventus’ main Scudetto rivals from a season ago. Lazio, as we can all remember, gave Juve a pair of ass kickings 11 months ago. And then, the lockdown in Italy happened, and Lazio’s good form went completely up in smoke. Since then, they haven’t exactly recovered and looked like the team that was arguably the best going in Serie A for the first half of the 2019-20 campaign. As they’ve dealt with poor form, they’ve also dealt with plenty of COVID-19 absences with much of their roster. (In case you haven’t seen any of the recent news involving Lazio and their recent virus testing happenings, it’s quite the doozy.)
Sounds very ... 2020-y, doesn’t it?
As Juventus gets closer and closer to full strength following both injury recoveries as well as both of their COVID-19 positives testing negative, the same can’t be said for Lazio. As it stands right now, Lazio could very well be without half of its usual starting lineup. They most certainly will be without the guy who led Serie A in goals last season in Ciro Immobile. Simone Inzaghi won’t be writing a few other regulars’ names onto the starting lineup a little bit before noon arrives in the Italian capital. Out of all the teams that have been hit with COVID-19 cases in Serie A in recent weeks, it is Lazio that have arguably been hit the hardest.
In short: Lazio most definitely won’t be at full strength, and Juventus must take advantage of that fact.
This, for Juventus, most definitely sounds like another opportunity to go into the international break with some good vibes surrounding the club and how they finished this busy three-week stretch. While it has been far from perfection over the last few games, there are positives to take out of the wins over Spezia and Ferencvaros. I know, I know — it’s not the competition level that will truly test Juventus like we’ll see when the games get going again later this month. But, it’s a start — and that’s what Juve need to show these days.
Juventus were never going to be a finished project in September, October and November. Not with the shortened preseason they had, not with the manager they hired being completely inexperienced up until a couple of months ago and not with all of the absences — due to injury or COVID-19 — and newcomers on the roster these first two months of the season. The last couple of games, though, even though the competition level hasn’t been anywhere top level, Juventus hasn’t played down to it. They were struggling to do much of anything right against Crotone and Hellas Verona. A couple of games later, they’ve got some of the best players back, they’ve got one of their summer signings scoring goals on goals on goals and there’s at least some signs of life.
It’s a long season, and small progress can be good sometimes.
Based on what we saw a couple of weeks ago to begin this big three-week stretch, I’ll take it. Sometimes it’s the small victories in the moment that can pay off in much bigger ways down the road. Or, at least I hope that’s the case when it comes to this Juventus team.
- The biggest news to come out of the squad list being announced was that Giorgio Chiellini was not called up for the trip to Rome after suffering a thigh injury in training on Saturday. (He also wasn’t called up for national team duty by Roberto Mancini, for what it’s worth.)
- Also not making the trip to Rome is Aaron Ramsey, who will be out a couple of weeks after he had to be subbed off injured in the win over Ferencvaros. (It’s unfortunate this keeps happenings because he really is a good player, but this is his reputation and he’s lived up to it.)
- As expected (and hopefully this is the last time we say this for a while), Matthijs de Ligt and Alex Sandro are still out injured. I don’t want to type that after the international break, OK?
- Out of what I will go ahead and assume was something that has to do with Italy’s new lockdown protocols, Andrea Pirlo did not hold a pre-match press conference on Saturday.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
So many midfielders to choose from, so little time.
I guess I will just go with the one who grew up in the same country that I did.
LOOK AT THAT MAN. HE IS A HAPPY MAN.
With Ramsey out injured (again) and Andrea Pirlo has seeming to be leaning toward having a natural central midfielder play behind the two strikers (almost certainly Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata) the last few times out. That means having Dejan Kulusevski available to play in a much more natural wide position, but it also opens up a spot for somebody to take the spot as the third midfielder in the starting lineup.
At least for now, McKennie might be that guy. At least for this weekend anyway.
We know that Pirlo has bounced between 3-4-1-2 and 3-5-2 in the last couple of games. And no matter which kind of look it ends up being, somebody like McKennie seems like a logical choice to use knowing what he brings to the table — especially when it comes to trying to win the ball back and press the opponent.
That doesn’t mean he needs to play as an all-out No. 10. Nor does it mean that we should expect him to be the creative outlet that Ramsey can be when he’s actually able to play.
But, at least for now, we know what we’re going to get from Juventus’ American representative — and that’s something more than what we can say about the guy whose spot in the starting lineup he will be taking this weekend.
When: Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020
Where: Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy
Official kickoff time: 12:30 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 11:30 a.m. in the United Kingdom; 6:30 a.m. Eastern Time; 3:30 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes (United States); TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom)
Online/mobile: ESPN+, WatchESPN (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); DAZN, DAZN1 (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.