Through two games, Juventus’ post-coronavirus shutdown bar has been set extremely low.
We’ve seen bits and pieces of a competent squad that can do a good amount of things right, but it’s been completely outweighed by the fact that Juventus has gotten progressively worse as both of its Coppa Italia fixtures this month have gone on as well as the fact that the Italian champions have yet to score a goal.
We’re on 180 minutes (plus a little bit of stoppage time) and counting.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
Aren’t well all excited to see Juventus play again? (I’ll wait for your answer on that, but I can probably predict what many will say.)
OK, so maybe this opening salvo is a little too pessimistic than what you’re used to reading from somebody with this certain byline. And, you’d be right. I have preached patience and a wait-and-see approach in the days and weeks (and podcasts) coming into this restart of play. And if I sound like somebody who has suddenly ran out of patience, then you might be onto something there. As Juventus gets set to face Bologna at the Renato Dall’Ara on Monday night, the one thing we know about Maurizio Sarri’s squad is that we still don’t rally know what this team is all about as the games are getting ready to come at us like never before.
Juve’s semifinal against Milan and then loss on PKs to Napoli in the final have been good before they got bad. There was much more bad than there was good, with Sarri being a clear-cut second best to Rino Gattuso for the second time since the former bulldog of a midfielder took over at the San Paolo in early December.
But to say that Juventus’ reintroduction to Serie A life is less than what you would consider a gauntlet is pretty much right on point. Juve’s next three league opponents before the second Derby della Mole in July kicks off a huge three-week stretch currently sit in 10th place (Bologna), 18th place (Lecce) and 17th place (Genoa). If we ever wanted to see a soft stretch in this suddenly condensed schedule before the truly big games of July arrives, this is it. This is Juventus’ chance to put the Coppa Italia struggles behind them, try and turn a corner and become a competent looking team once again. You know, the team we saw against Inter right before the coronavirus shutdown happened in early March.
Just how long it will take for Juventus to get back to that level remains to be seen — if at all — during this post-coronavirus suspension portion of the season. They are clearly capable because we’ve seen it. But, if the Juve we saw against Milan and Napoli (and for large chunks of the season between October and February) is the one we see going forward in June, July and then August ... yeah, I don’t know what to say.
It starts on Sunday night in Bologna.
Where it takes Juventus over the next six weeks will be a product of just what they’re able to do on the field during this wild and crazy time to close out this wild and crazy 2019-20 season.
Oh, and hopefully Juventus won’t need this to secure all three points against Bologna again:
Flash to @gianluigibuffon's last second heroics in #JuveBologna! ♂️ pic.twitter.com/fjDQMhOyaK— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) June 20, 2020
(I know it will almost certainly be Wojciech Szczesny starting in goal on Monday night, but this was just an excuse to show you the highlight of Gigi Buffon being a wonderful goalkeeper even though he’s 42 years old.)
Some highlights from the Maurizio Sarri pre-game press conference:
- Sarri and Miralem Pjanic apparently did not have a training ground dust-up, according to Sarri himself. He said it was a “hoax.” So take that as you will.
- Sarri described the injury that Alex Sandro sustained in the Coppa Italia final — one that he played through until the very end, by the way — as “not very serious.” So you can also take that as you will.
- Sarri and Cristiano Ronaldo have had a long chat because the former doesn’t want the latter to sustain a loss in confidence. (Ronaldo losing confidence or appearing that he’s lost confidence is pretty amusing seeing as he’s got a rather large ego.)
- What’s Sarri’s general description of the team right now? Well, he said “we lack a little brilliance in general.” That’s one way to describe the last couple of games.
Because there was no squad list announced as of this post going live, there’s only predicted lineups to go off of right now. A few notes:
- Gonzalo Higuain could be available off the bench.
- Giorgio Chiellini, however, is not expected to be on the bench.
- Mattia De Sciglio has the edge over Danilo when it comes to filling in for Alex Sandro. (Although, if it’s a penalty kick, who really knows who will get the final say.)
- Miralem Pjanic at regista, Rodrigo Bentancur not at regista. Take that as you will.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Juventus’ attack has been rather ineffective the first two games out of the coronavirus suspension of play. So, naturally, we will talk about one of those attacking players.
Boom! It’s The Flash.
The Juventus attack was only able to generate three shots on goal against Napoli in the Coppa Italia final. And two of those were because Jose Callejon was trying his best to hand Juve quite the easiest of scoring chances. Those two shots were somewhat difficult saves for Alex Meret. But outside of that, Meret’s day was more about saving penalties rather than saving shots by Juve players during regular time.
You can probably figure out how I feel about all that without going much further.
Douglas Costa was pretty good against Milan, but then tailed off toward the end. He is what he is at this point — probably somebody who can’t be relied on to effective to stay on the field for an entire 90 minutes, and certainly less than that right now as players try to get their match fitness back. Sarri has rated Costa highly from the day that he was introduced as Juventus’ manager, and you would like to think that an in-form Costa could be the desperately needed source of creativity that Juve’s attack doesn’t have at the moment (and for much of the season).
As much as a much-improved Ronaldo will help Juventus over the course of the next two months, getting Costa to be a source of creativity and absolute terror for opposing defenders would bring an element to this squad that we haven’t seen much at all.
If this is the way that Sarri wants to go with his trident for the immediate future — and who truly knows what Higuain’s role will be as he tries to work back to full health and total match fitness — then Juve will certainly need Costa to be the Costa of old rather than the Costa from much of this season.
When: Monday, June 22, 2020
Where: Renato Dall’Ara Stadium, Bologna, Italy
Official kickoff time: 9:45 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 8:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 3:45 p.m. Eastern Time; 12:45 p.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: RAI Italia North America (United States); RAI Italia North America, TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Uno, Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Calcio 1 (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD, LiveScore App (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia, NOW TV (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.