Although the sample size is small, Juventus’ Coppa Italia experience this season has been one that has actually been a much-needed refresher from what has otherwise been a relatively disappointing 2019-20 campaign in terms of how the team has played.
The 4-0 beatdown of Udinese was the perfect tonic coming out of a holiday break that still had Juve’s Supercoppa loss to Lazio still ringing in the back of our heads. The 3-1 win over Roma, all of two weeks after an incredibly close victory at the Stadio Olimpico, was a sign that things could be changing for the better for Maurizio Sarri’s side as huge stretch of the schedule starting to approach.
So maybe, just maybe, the Coppa Italia can provide some much-needed good vibes again come Thursday night.
Although, it’s not like Juventus’ opponent in this first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals, AC Milan, are entering the game in a good mood after its own result this past weekend. While Juve is coming off the back of a disappointing loss against Hellas Verona, Milan have to still be at least a little shellshocked over what happened in Sunday’s Derby della Madonnina against city rivals Inter.
As bad as we though the loss to Hellas Verona might have been think about this:
- Milan was up 2-0 at halftime was in complete control over Inter, who looked like they were expecting the exact opposite of what their city rivals did in the opening half.
- Inter ended up winning the derby 4-2, flipping the game on its head and leaving Milan searching for answers as to what the hell happened in the second half.
Throw into the fact that — although it doesn’t have much relation to the Coppa Italia — Milan’s loss allowed Inter to jump over Juventus and into first place in the Serie A standings on goal differential and you’ve got a lot of things that relate to these two clubs even though they haven’t played each other in three months.
They’re both coming off bad losses. And not just that, but bad losses in two very different kinds of ways. Sure, the second half in both games ended up being where leads were lost and losses ended up developing. But it’s not like Juventus ever dominated Hellas Verona in the same kind of way that Milan was throttling Inter. Juve’s performance in Verona was just as bad — if not worse — than what we saw against Napoli two weeks earlier, and the latest sub-par showing in a season that has become full of them.
In the minutes following the loss, Wojciech Szczesny called Juve’s latest dud of a performance away from home as “embarrassing” — which is a pretty tell tale sign that the players are really starting to realize they need to get this season turned around in a hurry. The tone of the Italian media has started to turn as well, with a whole lot of talk about the upcoming fixtures being what defines Sarri’s first season in Turin.
It’s not wrong of them to do that, either.
There’s Coppa Italia, a Derby d’Italia showdown with Inter and the first half of the Champions League Round of 16 all taking place over the next 2 1⁄2 weeks. The first of those comes in the Coppa, with a trip to Milan looking Juventus right in the face. They could use that to try to rebound from (another) terrible performance, or it just could be another string of disappointing results.
At this point, it’s hard to say which team will show up.
- Douglas Costa is hurt again, this time with a timetable of 15-20 days on the sidelines.
- Gianluigi Buffon is expected to take his regular place in goal with the Coppa Italia returning.
- Danilo returned to full training with the squad on Tuesday.
- Even though he hasn’t played much at all over the last month, Federico Bernardeschi remains ... extremely, extremely extra.
- The Italian press is predicting that it will be back to the 4-3-1-2 for Juventus — which makes sense seeing as the only real wide player available is Cristiano Ronaldo with Bernardeschi not called up for the match.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
The player to watch in this game isn’t a player at all. Instead, it’s the guy telling the players what to do while also gnawing on the butt of a cigarette from kickoff to final whistle.
Bingo. You know where we’re going now, huh?
Juventus is coming off its second really bad loss in the last three games. Juventus is also looking at a title race that is probably not going to be just Inter unless something seriously slows down what is happening with Lazio over the next month or two. Juventus, also, have been pretty unimpressive for a large portion of the season to date, and has key clashes in all three competitions it is currently competing in coming up over the course of the next three weeks.
This is the first of said important matches.
And now, maybe more than ever, the microscope is on Maurizio Sarri to get this club headed in the right direction knowing that a season-defining stretch is essentially upon us.
Tuttosport have put it out there that Sarri and club president Andrea Agnelli dined together Tuesday night and that Juve’s under-fire manager has gotten a vote of confidence from the guy who signs his paychecks. That’s not really much of a surprise seeing as Juve’s front office has been quite patient with their managers during this Scudetto run. But, as Tuttosport also pointed out, Sarri and Co. also know just what kind of importance lies ahead these next few weeks, with crucial ties on all three fronts on the schedule.
As much as the players need to get their on-field act together, it’s not like Sarri has really gotten them into much of a groove as we hit the mid-February grind. And as more time goes on and the struggles of the past few months continue to persist, it’s not like the crowd calling for a new manager — or just the overall optimism surrounding the club as currently constructed — is going to go quietly or let down.
Sarri can say that Juve needs to fix its mistakes, get back on the right track and everything that we already know to be true about this team right now, but until we actually see it take place then those words are just ... words.
When: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020
Where: Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, Milan, Italy
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time; 11:45 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: BT Sport 2 (United Kingdom); RAI Uno (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); FloFC (Canada); BT Sport Live (United Kingdom); RAI Play (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.