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November’s Monthly Juventus Thoughts: Who Needs Rest?

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Juventus continued their erratic form with a mixed bag of results and performances in November.

Benevento Calcio v Juventus FC - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The title to this month’s review says it all.

It was a relentless month of football for Juventus with a whopping six games in 27 days for the team in addition to three games during the International break. I fear that there will be a medical reckoning for European clubs as a result of this merciless footballing schedule in which players have barely four days to recover between games.

But hey, who needs rest, right?

Inconsistency

Juventus started the month with an away match against Spezia, with the two sides meeting for the first time ever in the Serie A. The visitors wasted no time getting started: after a marvelous through ball from Juventus’ Ballon d’Or nominee Danilo to Weston McKennie, the American beat the offside trap and found himself one-on-one with the keeper. He unselfishly squared the ball to Álvaro Morata — himself narrowly and successfully (!) beating the offside trap — who completed the exquisite passing triangle by tapping it into the unguarded goal: 1-0.

The lead didn’t last long though. Spezia equalized 20 minutes later through a deflected Tommaso Pobega strike that legendary Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon could do nothing to stop. Despite some wonderful attacking play spearheaded by the red-hot Morata — who had yet another (!) goal ruled out for offside in the first half — and impressive McKennie, Juve found themselves frustrated as the first half came to an end.

Alvaro Morata of Juventus FC reacts during the Serie A... Photo by Andrea Staccioli/LightRocket via Getty Images

As I’m sure many a journalist has written at least once in his/her life, everything changed when Cristiano Ronaldo showed up to save the day. Returning to the fray for the first time since recovering from testing positive for COVID-19 a few weeks prior, Ronaldo latched onto a perfectly-weighted Morata through-ball, took the ball around goalkeeper Ivan Provedel, and slotted it into the back of the net to put the Bianconeri back in the lead!

Adrien Rabiot quickly added the team’s third goal after running onto Federico Chiesa’s world-class ball over the top, completely ignoring Morata who was free in front of an open goal (a decision that I still argue was foolish and reckless), showing some sparkling footwork to shimmy past Spezia defender Claudio Terzi, and finishing it with a shot off the inside of the post: 3-1! Ronaldo added gloss to the result with a 76th minute penalty after Chiesa was fouled by Paolo Bartolomei (which, funny enough, was the third foul in the buildup to that event). A comfortable 4-1 victory at the end of the day for Juventus despite a brief scare in the first half.

Juventus then headed east to the beautiful city of Budapest to face the ever-so-unpronouncable team of Ferencvárosi on Matchday 3 of the Champions League group stage. Morata, who just can’t stop scoring, kicked things off with an early goal in the seventh minute after Cuadrado narrowly beat the offside trap and latched onto Bonucci’s inch-perfect pass, before squaring the ball for the Spaniard to tap in at the far post. It stayed 1-0 for a long time, with the Hungarians creating a few half chances to remind the Bianconeri that there was still only one goal to separate the sides.

That wasn’t the case for much longer, though, as Morata scored yet again on the hour mark to double the team’s lead. It was a great finish after a nice passing move: Ronaldo passed to McKennie, who performed a lovely dummy to keep the ball moving to Morata, who finished the move by blasting a first time shot past goalkeeper Dénes Dibusz.

Juventus substitute Paulo Dybala added a third after Dibusz’s poor touch from a backpass granted the Argentine an open goal to tap the ball into. Dybala then scored another (although it was somewhat harshly awarded as an Lasha Dvali own goal by the Dubious Goals Panel) after yet another error in possession gifted the Juventus playmaker the ball in a dangerous area and allowed him to place a heavily deflected shot into goal. The Bianconeris clean sheet was unfortunately ruined in the last minute of the game as Franck Boli scored after following up on his rebounded shot: 4-1.

Ferencvaros Budapest v Juventus: Group G - UEFA Champions League
That defender sure is putting his life on the line there.
Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images

The last game before the International break (which is a topic that I had much to say about in a recent podcast episode) saw Pirlo’s side face an incredibly tough test: an away game against Lazio. The visitors started the game on the front foot though, with Ronaldo picking up where he left off in the last Serie A game by scoring a goal from Cuadrado’s driven cross into the box. Juve were comfortable in the first half and really should have doubled their lead after Ronaldo hit the woodwork just before halftime. Although Lazio probably had the better of the second half, Juve were overall still comfortable and good value for their lead.

Alas, it was not to be as Felipe Caicedo showed an exquisite piece of skill to control, turn, and shoot all in one move and equalize for the home side with the very last kick of the game: 1-1 and heartbreak at the death for Juventus after a good performance by Pirlo’s men.

Juventus returned from the international break with a clear desire to heed Pirlo’s words and “show a different fighting spirit” in a home game against Cagliari. It was arguably Juve’s best and most dominant performance in the league since beating Sampdoria 3-0 on the opening day of the season. A first-half double by Ronaldo secured all three points and a 2-0 victory as Juventus peppered Cagliari’s goal, dominated the match, and had barely a defensive worry throughout the game. With Matthijs de Ligt and his impeccable Italian and Alex Sandro returning from injury, it was a perfect day for all things Juventus and a much-needed return to form for the team!

Next up was a home game against our Hungarian friends Ferencvárosi in the Champions League. It was a starkly different encounter than the game in Budapest as the visitors somehow took a shock lead in the 19th minute through Myrto Uzuni as Juventus were, once again, a shambles in defense.

Even though Pirlo’s side equalized less than 20 minutes later through a Cristiano Ronaldo rocket into the bottom corner, the Hungarians gave the Bianconeri a real run for their money by deploying two solid banks of four and impressively nullifying the Juve’s attack. Despite all their hard work though, Ferencvárosi were outdone in stoppage time of the second half after Morata’s header from yet another excellent Cuadrado cross just about squirmed through the legs of goalkeeper Dibusz: a fortunate and scarcely deserved 2-1 victory for Juventus.

Last and apparently least in terms of quality of the performance was an away game against Benevento. The red-hot Morata — who was sent off after the final whistle for bad-mouthing the referee —gave the Bianconeri an early lead after controlling an exquisite cross-field pass by Chiesa, beating the defender, and finishing with a perfect shot. Alas, it was not to be as Gaetano Letizia equalized deep into first-half stoppage time through an impressive first-time volley from a poor Arthur clearance from a corner kick. The game ended with this 1-1 scoreline as Juventus closed the month with yet another poor performance and yet another draw against low-level opposition.

Benevento Calcio v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Álvaro Morata: Spanish Fire

Speaking of Morata, he has been an undisputed phenomenon since returning to Juventus. Aside from a difficult debut in the 2-2 away draw against Roma — a game that he was prematurely thrust into just days after securing his transfer to the Bianconeri — and a needless red card for dissent against Benevento, the Spaniard has been playing stunning football and banging in offside goals with remarkable frequency. His fantastic form has not gone unnoticed, with Morata earning a recall to the Spanish national team last month for the first time since November 2019.

With eight goals and three assists in 11 appearances in all competitions for Juventus so far (and a goal against Germany and assist against the Netherlands for Spain during the international break), the sky is the limit for Morata. He has always professed his joy and love Juventus, and he can rest assured that the feeling is entirely mutual, because Juventini love him just as much.

Just try to stay onside, mate.

Juventus Women

As always, Rita Guarino’s side started the month in relentless form. (Danny wrote this excellent piece about their start to the season.) A home game against Sassuolo was on the calendar just before the international break, and it ended in a comprehensive 4-0 victory for the Bianconere. Although the first half was a tense affair that ended goalless, the second half resulted in a flurry of goals for Juventus. Linda Sembrant opened the scoring in the 57th minute and Arianna Caruso quickly doubled the lead 12 minutes later. A quickfire double in the last five minutes of the game from Valentina Cernoia and Annahita Zamanian put the result beyond doubt and ensured a fantastic 4-0 victory!

Juventus v Sassuolo - Women Serie A Photo by Alberto Gandolfo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Juventus were made to work much harder in their away game against Florentia. For the first time this season, they were not the team to score the first goal of the game as they fell behind right on the stroke of half time. Florin Wagner scored the 1-0 in the 44th minute for Florentia after an assist by Luisa Pugnali. But the Bianconere is a team of winners, and it hit back with two quickfire goals in the 54th minute (Caruso) and 57th minute (Girelli penalty; who else?). That three-minute period of the game ended up being decisive as Juventus ground out a hard-fought 2-1 away victory.

In the team’s final game of the month, the Bianconere traveled to Bari to face Pink Sport Bari for their first game this season in the Coppa Italia. The visitors came flying out of the gates, with three goals in the first 15 minutes of the game (Bonansea, Maria Alves, Zamanian). The hosts hit back with a goal right after half-time through Emelie Helmvall, but Bonansea restored Juve’s three-goal lead with the team’s fourth goal just 14 minutes later. A comfortable 4-1 victory as the Bianconere move on to the next round of the Coppa Italia!

You Say Soccer, I Say Football

After long wait, the day has finally come! I’m proud to announce that my second book You Say Soccer, I Say Football is available for purchase! You can now buy both the paperback (available through Blurb) and e-book (available through Amazon and other vendors) versions of my book by visiting my website here.

Thank you all so much for you support and kind words during the long two-year journey of writing this book. Many thanks to our Supreme Overlord Danny as well for giving me the platform to talk about it. Grazie!