Maurizio Sarri wants you to trust the process.
This is not some kind of cross-sport reference where I mention the Philadelphia 76ers and their now-infamous tank-athon that led to them becoming relevant again. It’s not to mention that one of those 76ers high draft picks, Joel Embiid, is sneaky good at this football thing even though he is a 7-foot tall freak of nature. This has nothing to do with basketball entirely even though this last paragraph has involved nothing but basketball references.
This is about a process.
It is about Juventus’ process.
Sarri, relatively positive after Juventus escaped San Siro with a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals on Thursday night, talked about his team’s process. He talked about the process and how Juve are continuing along that despite the fact that these past few weeks have been about as frequent of a reminder that the adjustment to Sarri’s Juventus is on about as rocky of a road as we’ve been on all season long. This is what Sarri said about the process:
“I am not worried, as the only real worries in life are your health. It seems a normal phase to be going through, it’s unthinkable for a team to be a continual ascent. This is a sport, so much depends on the physical and psychological conditions of so many players.
“Our growth has stalled a little in the last three weeks, we concede avoidable goals. Having said that, we’ve conceded only two more than the best defence in Serie A, so it’s not that much of an issue.”
On Sunday, Juventus will host Brescia, a club that is nearly at the bottom of the table. That’s not exactly much of an improvement from the last time Juventus met up with Brescia back in September as the newly-promoted side was in the midst of losing all but of its first 13 games back in Serie A. Back then, the tone around the reigning Italian champions was about how there were small but noticeable signs about how the early stages of life with Sarri were starting to pop up.
Lest we forget, this is the same Brescia side that led 1-0 all of four minutes in against Juventus in the first matchup this season. Yeah, that game was fun ... and maybe it should have been a hint as to how things might develop over the course of the next four months. WE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN!
With Lazio and Inter playing one another later in the day on Sunday, the importance of not dropping points against Brescia is just that much more of the highest order. Juventus, regardless of form entering Brescia’s visit to Turin, has no business dropping points against a team that is sitting in 19th place and is going through managers like I go through pairs of socks during the work week.
That’s the easy part to say.
What kind of Juventus team we will see, that’s the hard part.
We thought they were going to take advantage of a clearly-struggling Napoli side and get a much-needed win, that didn’t happen. Same goes just a few days ago when facing a Milan side that fell apart in the second half against Inter in the Milan derby last weekend ... and that didn’t happen.
When you think Juventus should do something, it hasn’t always worked out that way.
Just remember, though: Sarri wants to trust the process. Yes, even with the results that his team has stumbled into lately. Yes, even with the overall meh quality of play they’ve had much of the season. Sarriball takes time, sure, but even this process is going to have to kick in some time soon ... right?
- GIORGIO CHIELLINI BACK!!! (Although I highly doubt he’s going to start.)
- Cristiano Ronaldo has not been called up by Sarri. Prep your narratives now.
- Douglas Costa is still injured.
- Sami Khedira, not training with the group, is still injured.
- Merih Demiral is, obviously, going to be injured for many months to come.
- Sarri said at his pre-match press conference on Saturday that Federico Bernardeschi still isn’t healthy enough to play and he could be ready to return at some point next week. Although, the tone at which he said didn’t exactly sound very convincing.
- The suddenly always-positive Sarri with the confusing quote of the day regarding Miralem Pjanic: “I see a player that is always growing in his performances.” Come again, Mister?
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
OK, I could have gone with the guy who has scored in 10 straight league games and has scored about 150 goals in the first six weeks of 2020 ... but he hasn’t been called up. So, because of this little development, I will go with the guy who will be looked to provide some more offensive firepower since Ronaldo isn’t going to be playing Sunday.
It’s time for us to talk about Paulito.
I’m not picking Dybala because he’s played poorly lately. Far from it, actually. I know I mentioned he’s gone five appearances without a goal — not all of those being starts, by the way — but he’s also picked up a pair of assists and was probably Juventus’ best player outside of Gigi Buffon in Thursday’s 1-1 draw against Milan.
Dybala’s season has been marked more by games where he deserved to score a goal based on how he’s played more than actual goals themselves. He’s basically at the same kind of stat line he finished last season with — and it’s only the middle of February. The obvious hope is that he’s going to be reaching double digits in goals by the time the 2019-20 campaign comes to a close.
But without the guy who has seemingly scored every Juventus goal over the past six weeks, there’s going to be two pre-determined narratives that the announcers will be reminding you of plenty during the early stages of the game:
- Juventus can’t do much offensively without Ronaldo
- Juventus need Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain to step up without Ronaldo
Imagine what it’s going to be like from the announcers if Juventus are struggling offensively like they have in their previous two losses. Sure, Brescia aren’t playing as well as Hellas Verona are right now and currently have one of Serie A’s worst defenses, but this Juve side has shown that even the worst of defenses aren’t exactly a lock to power right on through.
Do Juve need Dybala to be a little more accurate with his shooting as compared to the Milan game on Thursday? Well, yeah. I don’t think we’ve seen Dybala be that off the mark — especially with his incredibly gifted left foot — in quite some time. Even though Dybala isn’t lighting up the back of the net this season, he’s been so good so many times that you get the feeling one of those games where he just completely takes over is going to come.
At least I do.
And without Ronaldo playing this weekend, and with the announcers certainly going to remind us that Ronaldo isn’t playing this weekend, it sure would be nice for Dybala — or his fellow Argentinian striker by the name of Higuain — to hush the “Juve can’t survive without Ronaldo” kind of talk for at least a day or two.
When: Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 3 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 2 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 9 a.m. Eastern Time; 6 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, RAI Italia North America (United States); RAI Italia North America, TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Calcio 2, Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Supercalcio HD (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.