Thus far, Juventus’ start to the 2020 calendar has looked a lot like the final month of 2019. There’s been some good. Then there’s been some not-so-good times. There’s also been something you would consider somewhere in between, with Juventus showing the good and the bad side basically right after one another during the course of 90 minutes of game time.
Juventus’ loss to Napoli on Jan. 25 — that wasn’t good!
Juventus win over Fiorentina last weekend — pretty good!
The consistency of a complete game is still lacking, and when it will actually shows up remains a guessing game to just about anybody who follows this team on a regular basis. There are, however, probably more encouraging signs about this team right now as compared to when things were going rather tough to close out November and then the early goings of December.
There is one thing Juventus does have going for themselves these days on top of the fact that there’s currently 19 other teams trailing them in the Serie A standings: Over the course of the next 14 days, Juve will play four games against nobody higher than eighth place, including a pair of games against two of the three teams currently in the relegation zone. That means, as things start to truly get busy again with the Coppa Italia and Champions League Round of 16 also make appearances this month, Juventus has the chance to position themselves quite well before the current month comes to an end.
It all begins this Saturday night against Hellas Verona at the Stadio Bentigodi. It’s the same Verona side that, in its first season back in Serie A, currently sits in 10th place in the league standings and has not lost a game over the course of the last two months following a rather inauspicious start to the 2019-20 season.
But, as we saw on Wednesday night, there’s one new wrinkle added to this equation: Hellas Verona, sitting in ninth place entering the weekend, just held Italy’s hottest team, Lazio, to a scoreless draw in a game where everybody expected the Biancocelesti to stroll and leapfrog Inter in the league standings. It was a result that, as you can see from the last part of that last sentence, benefited Juventus since it meant Lazio isn’t entering the weekend all of two points behind the Italian champions. And it was a result that said Hellas is no pushover despite the fact that people are thinking this is a two- or three-week stretch of games for Juve before the showdown with Inter on the first day of March.
As we know, though, that stretch before Inter’s visit to Allianz Stadium also involves the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16, so Juventus getting a nice little roll going in February would be quite a nice development. They started the month off in solid fashion against Fiorentina last weekend, and putting back-to-back quality showings would be something we haven’t seen much of this season from Juventus.
You know, consistency. Or, I should say, consistently improving instead of consistent inconsistent.
- GIORGIO CHIELLINI BACK ... training ... partially.
- Federico Bernardeschi suffered some kind of muscle injury in his right leg during training on Tuesday. Since then, Bernardeschi’s status has basically been assessed on a day-to-day basis. Bernardeschi has missed the trip to Verona this weekend, but it it was widely expected most of the week that he will be available for next week’s first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals against Milan.
- Other than Bernardeschi missing out on the Hellas Verona game, those who have been called up were expected to be called up.
- Should we expect a 4-3-1-2 or a 4-3-3 tomorrow, Mister Sarri? “We are ready to play whatever formation gives us the biggest guarantees and we are prepared for different set-ups,” is what he had to say at his pre-match press conference on Friday — which is not exactly a help to any of us trying to gather clarification on what formation Sarri will use.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Since I’ve struck out the last few times I’ve done previews — like, you know, picking a player to watch who ends up not playing — I decided to ask a friend who I should go with this weekend. That friend just so happens to be our boy Chuks. So if I swing and miss this week, let’s just go ahead and blame Chuks. Here’s Chuks’ pick:
We’ve talked about Adrien Rabiot quite a bit in these last few weeks — and rightfully so. As 2020 has gone on and the big Frenchman has gotten consistent minutes under his belt, we’ve seen him start to really show that he’s the player that was so highly thought of during his time with Paris Saint-Germain. The caveat, of course, was that he hadn’t played in months and months when he signed with Juventus, so that adjustment period was going to be that deserved that much more patience.
We could very well see that patience paying off now.
Rabiot looks like he’s starting to establish himself as one of Juventus’ best midfielders these days. (Some will say that doesn’t take much, but I digress.) That is especially the more important of note since Rodrigo Bentancur is now back from suspension and pretty much resumed his own claim to one of Juve’s three midfield spots. That means, with Miralem Pjanic firmly established as the man in the center of the midfield, Rabiot has had to unseat his countryman Blaise Matuidi on the left hand side of the midfield three.
Over the last month, Rabiot has seemingly gotten better and better as the weeks has gone by. The win over Fiorentina was arguably his best game in a Juventus jersey, and that’s coming off a few games before that with the same kind of distinction. The interesting thing is that we don’t really know what the ceiling for Rabiot might be since he still hasn’t gotten very many minutes under his belt just yet. He’s still just played a little over 900 minutes in Serie A this season, and Rabiot’s total for league minutes is just a couple hundred of Sami Khedira, who hasn’t played in a game since Nov. 26.
But, the most important part of this is that Rabiot is getting better as he gets more minutes under his belt. And with Juventus’ midfield being the continued problem child that it has been the last couple of years, seeing Rabiot — and my Uruguayan son Bentancur — develop into something that can stay around a little while is something that this Juve squads desperately needs right now.
(Again, if I get this wrong and Matuidi starts over Rabiot, just go ahead and blame Chuks. Or you can blame me for listening Chuks. Whichever one is more convenient for you.)
When: Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020
Where: Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentigodi, Verona, 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: TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); DAZN, DAZN1 (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.