There is something I’m starting to truly realize about the Serie A restart over these last few weeks. You might have come to this realization as well. It’s not an earth-shattering kind of thing or one that means you’ve got some kind of super inside access to what Juventus may or may not be doing to ensure they win a ninth straight Serie A title a couple of weeks from now.
It’s this: The way the Serie A schedule is made up these days, Juventus’ form has basically become a week-to-week kind of deal. One week things might be good like they were two weeks ago when Juve was storming through Genoa and then Torino. The next week, the most recent of weeks, Juventus looked rather bad after going up 2-0 on AC Milan and then this past weekend against red-hot Atalanta.
It’s the kind of consistently inconsistent approach that we’ve seen from Juve for much of this season. (And prior seasons as well, honestly.) It’s nothing new, but it’s something that will make things interesting these last few weeks if something doesn’t snap into place and Juve continue to drop points.
So, after dropping points in the two games where it looked like Juventus might actually be taking steps in the right direction, a new week has arrived with its own kind of challenges. Coming off two very disappointing performances, Juventus will now look to get back on track against one of the most in-form teams in Serie A not named Atalanta. At the Mapei Stadium on Wednesday night, Juventus will attempt to do more right than wrong against a Sassuolo side that hasn’t lost since Atalanta crushed them 4-1 right out of the restart. Since then, Sassuolo is undefeated in the past six games, winning four of them — including a 2-1 victory over a suddenly struggling Lazio the last time out.
And it just so happens that after Tuesday’s set of games, it’s not Lazio that’s the closest team to Juventus in the standings. Nope, it’s somebody we’ve seen recently, not somebody that we’re about to see.
If you guessed Atalanta, then you’re right.
So, now Juventus’ lead in the Serie A table is down to six points — which could stay the same or be different depending on what happens Wednesday night at the Mapei as well as Udinee when Lazio travel to face Udinese. Regardless of Sassuolo’s current form — the best run of any team in Serie A these days not named Atalanta — the last thing we need to see happen to Juventus is both the squad’s performance level go back in the tank and the lead atop the table go up in smoke.
Obviously the last thing we want to see happen is Juventus enter its final handful of games with a lead that is small enough for Atalanta (or Lazio or Inter). The best way to do that? I think that’s easy to figure out: Actually have Juventus play the way they did two weeks ago, not like we saw last week. If it’s anything like last week, then Atalanta will have the chance to get even closer come the weekend.
And if things go right, then this week already be better than last — and when you have a schedule like it currently is, taking things one week at a time might as well just be the way to go.
- As Maurizio Sarri pointed out at his pre-match press conference, it is very unlikely that Leonardo Bonucci takes part in Wednesday night’s trip to Sassuolo due to a problem with his foot. Sarri said that the problem would be evaluated Tuesday, but the line of thinking is that Bonucci won’t be risked knowing that Lazio is next on the schedule.
- With Giorgio Chiellini still not at 100 percent match fitness and Merih Demiral just back to training with the group, Daniele Rugani is expected to take Bonucci’s spot in the starting lineup and pair with Matthijs de Ligt in the center of Juventus’ defense.
- After missing the draw with Atalanta over the weekend, Miralem Pjanic is expected to return to the starting lineup Wednesday night.
- It’s Danilo’s birthday on the same day that Juve plays Sassuolo. What a blessed day.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
As we are well aware of, there hasn’t been much squad rotation during the restart. Some of that is likely due to the limited options that Maurizio Sarri has had to turn to. But some of it is also become Sarri is well known to not be one who rotates his squad. (Maybe I should just tell you Google “chelsea sarri rotate weaintgotnohistory” to see what our Chelsea fan friends said during his one season in England.)
Because of that, my son is tired. But my son has also had as little rest as any of Juventus’ regular starters over the course of the last five weeks. It was no more apparent than the last time Juventus played a game.
Rodrigo Bentancur is a young guy. As somebody who just turned 23 years old, he most certainly falls into the category where maybe monitoring his workload isn’t as such a big deal as somebody like Leonardo Bonucci or Giorgio Chiellini. But that doesn’t mean he’s completely immune from seeing his form dip because he’s been playing a heavy amount of minutes.
Like, you know, the last five weeks.
Where, you know, he hasn’t had much of a break at all.
Bentancur has started all eight of Juve’s post-lockdown games. He’s played 90 minutes in seven of those, with the exception being a second-half sub (before the 70th minute) in the 4-0 win over Lecce a couple of weeks ago. (Probably because he was on a yellow and is on the brink of a suspension due to yellow card accumulation.) Outside of that, Benantacur has been as busy and depended upon as any Juve player over the last five weeks, with his workload being the only that much tougher to deal with when you consider that it’s the middle of the summer in Italy and the temperatures rarely dip below the 80s.
So, yeah, if Bentancur is tired — which he very much looks it these days — and it’s hard to tell when he’s actually going to be given a rest unless it’s because of him reaching his yellow card limit. (And who knows, maybe that’s just what Sarri is waiting for.)
The statistics say that Bentancur had a very good game against Atalanta over the weekend. He was WhoScored’s highest-rated Juventus player, after all, and simply looking at that, you would think that his form has pretty much been what it’s been for much of the season. But then when you consider that Bentancur played a big role in both of Atalanta’s goals, purely looking at the stats doesn’t tell the whole story.
Knowing how Bentancur’s role within Juve’s midfield has been growing more and more as this incredibly stupid season has gone on. But, if Bentancur isn’t meeting that certain standard and making mistakes he almost never does because he’s absolutely gassed these days, then Juve’s much-maligned midfield will be that much more under the spotlight.
Yes, that’s possible, folks.
When: Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Where: Mapei Stadium, Sassuolo, 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 (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.