This is the kind of game that Max Allegri would always warn us about.
The man who won five straight Scudetti had a point for this simple fact: Juventus’ history in the game after a big Champions League game — especially big European win — isn’t exactly the best and brightest. That is why Allegri warned that the European hangover and the inability to carry over the good vibes from midweek to the weekend almost every single time this kind of situation arrived.
This is the trap game.
And even though Juve’s on its second manager since Allegri left, heeding his advice is still most definitely the right thing to do.
Juventus got the big win against Barcelona midweek, leapfrogging the struggling Spanish giants to finish atop their Champions League group, something that provided a much better standing entering Monday’s Round of 16 draw. Now comes the game after the big result — which just so happens to come against a club that is in the kind of situation that a good number of Juventus opponents have been in this season. Genoa are struggling in the same way that the likes of Crotone, Spezia and Benevento are through the first three months of the 2020-21 season. So, as Juve head to the Luigi Ferraris looking to avoid any kind of weirdness that has sometimes happened at said stadium over the past decade, they will also try to avoid a major slip up against a Genoa side that sits in 19th place entering the weekend.
The performance against Barcelona was a much-needed boost both for the players as well as the man who fills out the starting lineup each and every game. So much of the previous weeks (and months) have been about what Juve hasn’t been able to do rather than focusing on this team playing well. It’s most certainly been a start-stop, start-stop kind of season at the very least, and the fact that the team had previously dropped points against some of the worst teams in Serie A hadn’t helped move the needle when it comes to what Andrea Pirlo is trying to implement.
But the key as we move on from the 3-0 win over Barcelona: consistency.
It’s something we’ve been saying all season long. It’s something we wanted to see last season, too, before it became pretty evident that the only consistent Juve was going to do was play relatively poorly. This is about what Pirlo’s Juve can do after a big win — continue in the right direction or go back to sub-par results against teams in the bottom half of the Serie A table.
If there ever was a team for Juventus to continue the good vibes, it’s Genoa.
But there’s also the trap — and it’s one that Pirlo can’t allow his team to fall into.
Genoa haven’t won since the opening weekend of the season all the way back in September. (And knowing how 2020 has gone, that definitely feels longer than a couple of months.) They’ve got nine league games without a victory and dealt with Serie A’s worst COVID-19 outbreak of any single team at the same time. They’ve flirted with relegation the last handful of years, and this might be the season where that actually becomes a reality.
This is the kind of game where you want Juventus to get up by a few goals early and cruise the rest of the way. But, as Mr. Allegri told us for all of those years, this is also the kind of game where you need to be careful and not mess around against a team you shouldn’t drop points against even though you’re just a few days removed from a big European victory.
On Saturday afternon, the Juve women showed us what it’s like to have no Champions League hangover whatsoever. I guess all that’s left to say is ... over to you, gents.
- Friday brought some good news: Alvaro Morata’s suspension following his red card against Benevento was reduced from two games to one. And seeing as he’s already served one of those games, that means Morata will be available for this weekend’s trip to the Marassi.
- Carlo Pinsoglio, meanwhile, will serve his suspension in this game after getting a red card because he talked some smack to the ref in the final moments of Juve’s win in the Turin derby last weekend. Good thing Gigi Buffon proved to us that he’s 100 percent healthy when he got the start in goal against Barca. You know, just in case anything silly happens.
- Pretty much everybody you expected to be called up by Andrea Pirlo has been called up for the trip to Genoa. Giorgio Chiellini and Merih Demiral are still out with their respective muscle injuries.
- Outside of saying how his team must be able to the Barcelona performance in the rear view mirror now that we’re onto the next fixture, Andrea Pirlo’s pre-match comments weren’t exactly all that help when it comes to who will be playing. But with Genoa really struggling and some players — like, say, Matthijs de Ligt — still logging heavy minutes, there’s bound to be some kind of squad rotation taking place on Sunday.
- Juventus will wear black armbands during Sunday’s game in Genoa to recognize the passing of Italian legend Paolo Rossi, who died earlier this week at the age of 64.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
If it wasn’t for Morata’s suspension being cut in half, you can probably guess who would be filling this space. But, since Morata is likely to start now that he’s eligible to do so again, I guess we need to go in a different kind of direction.
Like who is being thought of to play behind the strikers.
These past few weeks haven’t been great for Dejan Kulusevski. Not just because he hasn’t been playing well. But also the simple fact that he hasn’t been playing all that much. His last four appearances in all competitions have all been off the bench, and we’re close to a month since he last started a game (Nov. 21 against Cagliari).
As we looked at earlier this week, Kulusevski is a weird place where we know he’s hugely talented and is capable of being one of the best players on the field each time he steps out there, but he doesn’t necessarily have a set spot in the 3-4-1-2 that Pirlo has been sticking with through the first three months of the season. Kulusevski is a winger, that’s where he thrives and that’s where he can stretch those long legs of his before he tries to break a defender’s ankles. But unless he’s playing as a wingback, then there isn’t really a natural fit for him at the moment because of how Pirlo has team routinely switching formation between the attacking and defending phases.
With all that being said, take a guess where the Italian press is thinking Kulusevski will play against Genoa?
It’s not as a winger — which probably isn’t all that much of a surprise at this point since it’s been a while since his last appearance as an out-and-out wingback or anything close to it.
It’s in the attacking midfield spot behind Morata and Cristiano Ronaldo, not out wide.
That’s not a surprise to anybody who has paid attention. In terms of pure talent, then Kulusevski can do damage there even though it’s not his preferred place. And, for the time being, that seems like the place where he is going to get the majority of his minutes since Pirlo using a 4-4-2 (or even a 4-3-3) isn’t a full-time thing at the moment.
Maybe Kulusevski will have a bounce back kind of a game against a team that has only won once so far this season. If there is a game for it, it could very well be this one. At least in theory, I guess.
When: Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020
Where: Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa, 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); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom); SKY Sport Serie A (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (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.