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Coppa Italia Preview: Juventus vs. AC Milan

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JUVENTUS BACK! JUVENTUS BACK!

FBL-ITA-CUP-AC MILAN-JUVENTUS Photo by ISABELLA BONOTTO/AFP via Getty Images

It is absolutely wild that, after a Juventus win over Inter in the early days of March, the next time I would even think about the words “match preview” would end up being over three months later. We didn’t know how long this suspension of play would last, so it could have been three months, four months, six months later until we actually knew a game was going to be coming up on the schedule. Until a few weeks ago, Juventus’ next game was listed as “TBD” and pretty much every single person here knew why.

But, for the first time in over three months, we have an actual live game to think about. Seriously, after over three months, Juventus is going to step onto the Allianz Stadium field and play a game. It won’t be on a video game console. It will be live, live, live.

This match preview has been published on a Thursday.

Juventus’ next game is tomorrow, a Friday, with the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals against AC Milan at Allianz Stadium in Turin serving as the first actual game on an actual schedule that we now have to try and memorize as best as we can in an incredibly short period of time. This is not a drill. Juventus is playing a game 24 hours from this match preview going live, and this will be the first step in the new normal surrounding Serie A and football in Italy as a whole.

We know that if Juventus win this semifinal, there will be another Coppa Italia fixture — the cup final — against either Napoli or Inter Milan a few days from now on June 17 if Juventus are able to advance past Milan.

Other than that, this first game Juve that will play — as well as probably the next handful of fixtures regardless of the opponent — is a complete unknown.

It’s been over three months since Juventus last played a game. (Seriously, it has been.) They’ve been training under the watchful eye of a masked Maurizio Sarri for a few weeks now, but what their respective fitness levels look like is a complete unknown. Everybody was in a different place during Italy’s country-wide lockdown. Some went home to their respective home countries, others stayed in Italy. Some players, most notably Paulo Dybala and Daniele Rugani, had more important things to worry about in the weeks (and months) following the Serie A suspension of play.

Basically, we have no idea what this team is going to look like coming out of this break.

We can say that for every one of the 20 Serie A teams that will be resuming their respective season over the course of the next few weeks. It obviously starts this Friday with both Coppa Italia semifinals, but there are league games just around the corner next weekend.

But the uncertainty of what is to come will take center stage in both of Friday’s semifinals.

It could be good.

It could be bad.

I’m thinking it will be more bad than good. Why? Because the last time Juventus played a game was March 8, and the fact that they’ve only been training for a few weeks now means that they’re certainly going to be nowhere near their best come Friday night. Does that mean we treat it like a late-summer friendly in terms of our expectation level? I really have no idea.

But when you consider the first leg of this semifinal tie wasn’t very good and the only reason why it’s level is because of a late Cristiano Ronaldo penalty and now we’re over three months out from Juve’s last game, this could be ... interesting.

In short, I really have no idea what to expect when we see Juve take the field for the first time in a little over three months. And you probably don’t, either.

The biggest thing is that Juventus is back — and that is something that we might not have thought was a distinct possibility three months ago.

TEAM NEWS

  • In case you’ve completely forgotten what happened 3 12 months ago, Juventus and Milan are tied at 1-1 after the first leg at the San Siro. So, basically, Juventus needs to win if it wants to advance to next week’s Coppa Italia final.
  • Also of note: It was announced Wednesday that if any of the remaining Coppa Italia fixtures is tied after regular time, there will be no extra time. Instead, the tie will go straight to penalty kicks if they are needed.
  • As far as we know, the only player to suffer some kind of muscle injury over the last couple of weeks of training has been Gonzalo Higuain. There have been sporadic reports that Higuain will not be available for selection come Friday night. But we also don’t know the severity of the muscle injury Higuain sustained, with Juventus simply giving the “day-to-day” kind of diagnosis when they announced it on Twitter late last week.
  • It is expected that Gigi Buffon will man the goal as he has done for all of Juve’s Coppa Italia games this season.
  • It is expected that Matthijs de Ligt will get the starting nod over Giorgio Chiellini.

JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH

At this point, we can really only go off the potential starting lineups that are being thrown out there by the Italian press. After three months without games and

So, call me biased all you want. But, I will go with the predicted lineups (and my heart) on this one. Behold, my son.

Juventus Training Session Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Before the shutdown, there was a lot of talk about Rodrigo Bentancur. A lot of it was centered around the fact that, with Miralem Pjanic struggling, this was going to be his chance to thrive as a regista and open the door for Juve’s midfield to have the kind of deep-lying playmaker that it hasn’t had for the last few months.

Since the shutdown has happened, there’s also been a lot of talk about Bentancur ... and Pjanic. As you probably know by now, one has to do with the other, and the fact that the reasoning behind Juve reportedly being OK with Pjanic leaving during the next transfer window is the fact that Sarri thinks Bentancur can thrive in the center of the midfield going forward into the future. The sample size of Bentancur as a regista is rather small, but the performances he’s put in there have definitely warranted the optimism that has come with all of it.

So, as we check the predicted lineups for Friday night’s game, who do we see as Juventus’ regista?

Its not Pjanic.

It’s Bentancur.

Now, that’s obviously the Italian media trying to predict what Sarri might do with his starting lineup after three months of no games actually happening. It’s the same thing every week when there are actually games happening, but — to their credit! — they’re usually pretty accurate as to who ends up being in Sarri’s starting lineup.

So, for now, we will just go ahead and assume that it will in fact be Bentancur that mans the middle of the Juve midfield Friday night. Was that something you saw as a thing back when Pjanic was pinging the ball around like no other in September and getting over 100 touches a game? Probably not. But, then again, you probably didn’t expect Juventus to go three months between games during the spring-time months, either. That’s just a guess on my part, so take it as you will.

MATCH INFO

When: Friday, June 12, 2020

Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy

Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 3 p.m. Eastern Time; 12 p.m. Pacific Time

HOW TO WATCH

Television: RAI Uno (Italy)

Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); FloSports (Canada); BTSport.com, BT Sport app (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.