Hot take alert: Last weekend went pretty well for Juventus.
The biggest thing was that the Bianconeri themselves got a win and looked rather competent doing so as they picked up a 2-0 win over Brescia in front of their hometown fans. The kicker was that they did so, regardless of the level of the competition or how many players said opposition didn’t have in the starting lineup and then on the field past the 37th minute, in rather stress-free fashion where Wojciech Szczesny had little to nothing to do all afternoon. A couple of hours later, Lazio’s win over Inter Milan allowed Juventus to take back sole possession of first place all within one simple Serie A Sunday.
Now, as we sit here on the eve of the game before the big (Champions League) game, Juventus is set to face the team on the exact opposite end of the Serie A spectrum.
There are 42 points that separate Juve and SPAL in the league standings. Entering the weekend, Juve has a goal different of plus-23. SPAL’s goal different is minus-24 and they have easily one of the worst defenses in the league this season. Juventus’ five wins since the calendar changed to 2020 is more than SPAL has all season long (4). By no means is Juventus looking like the runaway pick to win the Scudetto this season, but SPAL is in such an incredible funk this season that getting out of the relegation zone and into safety simply seems like a monumental task.
Of course, we think that Juventus playing SPAL is always going to be a lock. We thought that even going into last season’s trip to Ferrara when Max Allegri rotated the absolute hell out of the squad before a Champions League fixture. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if Maurizio Sarri decides to do some squad rotation of his own knowing that Juventus has the first leg of the round of 16 tie against Lyon in France all of four days after Saturday’s fixture.
The thing is, though, Sarri doesn’t exactly have the squad flexibility these days — and there’s only been a few players from the Under-23 team called up — with so many injuries (and players back from just back from injuries) up and down the roster. There won’t be primavera players all over the place when Juve take the field in Ferrara on Saturday. This will, most likely, look a lot like the same starting lineup that Sarri will use when Juventus faces Lyon in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 tie Wednesday night.
So, yes, a mostly-full strength Juventus will be looked upon to do some good against the worst team in the league. Maybe more than what they did against Brescia, which was an improvement but obviously not enough to blow you away and through the living room wall.
That would be nice — especially with a rather important Champions League game just a matter of days away.
I can’t imagine what the vibes surrounding this squad will be like if they pretty much bumble away another chance to do some good (as well as possibly first place in Serie A again) this weekend. It’s not like confidence in how they’re playing these days is bubbling over to begin with.
- As expected, Miralem Pjanic has not been called up for the trip to Ferrara due to his muscle injury he picked up against Brescia last weekend.
- After picking up a yellow card against Brescia, Leonardo Bonucci will be out due to suspension, with Daniele Rugani a virtual lock to take his place in the starting lineup.
- Douglas Costa: still injured.
- Federico Bernardeschi has returned to training this week.
- Sami Khedira, like Bernardeschi, has returned to training this week. But, unlike Bernardeschi, Khedira has not been called up for the trip to Ferrara.
- Also not called up Saturday’s game: Gonzalo Higuain, who has been battling a back issue all week and hasn’t been training all that much the last few days.
- While Giorgio Chiellini has officially made his return to the field following nearly six months on the sidelines, the Italian media does not think that his first start since ACL surgery will come against SPAL this weekend.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
No Miralem Pjanic this weekend. Possibly no Miralem Pjanic next week against Lyon. Therefore it is time to talk about my son because he is the one who is expected to be the one who steps into the regista role once more in place of the injured Pjanic.
Based on what we know, Pjanic is not going to be out for as long as we all worried he could have been when we first saw him go down injured last weekend. It was the kind of game where Pjanic — who has been one of Juve’s most-used players this season — probably shouldn’t have even seen the field to begin with. (And that’s not really hindsight talking.)
Even with Pjanic out for the weekend and maybe not more than that, this is another chance for Bentancur to show that the Bosnian is not the only player on the Juventus roster capable of playing as a regista. And if his performance on Saturday is going to be anything like what he did last weekend against Brescia, then there’s at least one thing that we won’t have to worry about when it comes to Juventus’ always-influx midfield.
As much as he’s become one of Sarri’s regulars in the center of the park, Bentancur has proven to be very much the utility player in the midfield that the club desperately needs. While he’s settled into his role playing to the right of Pjanic more often than not, Bentancur’s ability to play as a makeshift trequartista on the spot as well as now a second option as a holding midfielder is refreshing to see based on how some of Juve’s other midfielders are struggling these days.
And why yes, I do sound like a proud dad.
I will drive the Bentancur bus as much as it is humanly possible.
We don’t know what Juve’s midfield is going to look like a year or two down the road — because upgrades are needed so, so, so, so bad! — but Bentancur has shown he deserves to be included in the group for the future.
The good thing is that his present day form is pretty good, too.
When: Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020
Where: Stadio Paolo Mazza, Ferrara, 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 2 (United Kingdom); Sky Supercalcio HD, 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.