Here is something that I haven’t been able to do in about 3 1⁄2 months: write about an upcoming fixture a couple of days after a Juventus win. It only took three games coming out of the coronavirus suspension of play for that to happen, but here we finally are, folks.
Feels good, doesn’t it?
Well, it depends on how look at it.
It’s been about two weeks and we’ve already seen Juventus win a game, lose a game (on penalty kicks) after they kinda-sorta shoot itself in the foot during the course of a cup final. It hasn’t been all that glamorous in these first three games of the restart in Italy. Yet, here we are, a day after the most entertaining day — by far! — of football’s restart in Italy and Juventus has the chance to push its lead atop the Serie A table to seven points if the eight-time defending champions when they face Lecce at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
It’s not exactly what we thought could happen based on how Juve has played over the course of these first few games. (Hint: not great!)
But when you get a little help from your buddies in Bergamo, you gotta take advantage of it.
And when you then see what Juventus’ schedule is going to be like in July and early August, you damn well take advantage of this opportunity — especially when you’re hosting one of the worst teams that Serie A has to offer right now.
As much as Juventus’ post-coronavirus shutdown form has been not all that special, the fact that we know an absolute gauntlet of teams lies ahead in a couple of weeks — and in a very short amount of time, I might add — makes games like this next one (and next Tuesday against Genoa) all the more important. Juventus could very well push its lead atop the Serie A table to seven points with a win against Lecce, but the Scudetto race is far from being a wrap. Why, you might ask? Just look at Juventus still has to play:
- AC Milan
And that’s less than three weeks into the month of July, people. That’s ... a lot. All within a 16-day period, too. There are plenty of points out there. Plenty of chances to potentially drop points, too.
That makes the next couple of games, both against teams that are sitting in or just outside of the relegation zone, all the more important. This is a chance for Maurizio Sarri and Juventus to not only do a little bit of squad rotation after the first three games out of the restart, but try and get more right than wrong knowing that some huge fixtures are essentially right around the corner at this point in time.
We know Juventus needs to be better if the club wants to make it a successful end to June and make sure that, at minimum, there’s at least a little bit of the cushion before the July crunch truly arrives in a couple of weeks. What remains to be seen — kinda like the Miralem Pjanic-Arthur Melo swap deal before Thursday’s rather important developments — is that one thing that makes us think otherwise.
In this case, if Juventus can better Good Juventus more often than the Bad Juventus where they are leaving us wanting a whole lot more than they’re offering on the field.
In case you need a reminder, these are the players not available for Friday’s game:
- Danilo (suspended)
- Mattia De Sciglio (injured)
- Alex Sandro (injured)
- Giorgio Chiellini (injured)
- Merih Demiral (injured)
- Sami Khedira (injured)
You will notice that almost all of those names are defenders. That’s a problem!
Some other notes:
- Higuain, who was the first Juventus player to suffer a muscle injury after group workouts resumed, returned to full training on Wednesday. It is still unclear as to whether he will actually be called up and be made available to come off the bench against Lecce.
- Also coming out of the Wednesday training recap was the nugget that Chiellini will rejoin the group for training come next week. That’s important.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Who’s ready for me to be prisoner of the moment?
Hello, Fede. It’s been a while.
For all I know, Douglas Costa could get the starting nod again and all of this will become null and void the very next day just in the same kind of fashion as when Bernardeschi got the start against Bologna. The predicted lineups didn’t think Bernardeschi wasn’t going to start over Costa, so at least I wasn’t the only one fooled, I guess.
But part of me thinks that a lot of Sarri’s mindset right now will be playing of the hot hand. How much that changes when Higuain comes back will obviously be something that we can’t predict, but the fact that Satti went with Bernardeschi immediately after Costa had a so-so game might be giving us a hint into how he’s going to handle things for the time being.
We know full well that Costa and Bernardeschi are different kinds of wingers. We saw on Monday just how much more of an impact on the pressing end of the equation Bernardeschi brings as compared to Costa, and what that means for Paulo Dybala as well.
And you just have to think that after how well Bernardeschi played against Bologna that he’s earned himself another start at the very least.
Now, we know full we just how much of a struggle this season has been for Bernardeschi. At the club level, that is. When he’s been on international duty, Bernardeschi has looked like the player we’re used to — and I think we know why. The Bernardeschi we saw against Bologna was more of the international team version rather than the one we’ve seen much of the 2019-20 season. He had more freedom to operate out wide, he was able to cut inside and, as his assist to Dybala (and almost-assist to Cristiano Ronaldo in the second half) indicated, he was just playing with a lot more confidence.
Who knows what Bernardeschi’s future at Juventus is. One game against (a shorthanded) Bologna isn’t going to suddenly change the front office’s opinion about him and if he will be a part of the club come September or October. But Monday night’s Man of the Match kind of performance was a very good start, and that’s a whole lot more than we can say about the vast majority of Bernardeschi’s appearances this season.
When: Friday, June 26, 2020
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, 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: TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Calcio 1, 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.