There have been years during this Scudetto run where Juventus winning the title yet again has gotten the adrenaline pumping, the optimism flowing and just about anything to do with positive energy shift from 0 to 100 real quick. It was the culmination of a dominant run through Serie A and the proof that, once more, they are the best team that Italy has to offer.
This title that we all expect Juventus to win again, honestly, doesn’t feel that way.
I don’t doubt that Juve are the best team in Italy again this season. They are certainly the most recognizable, the ones with the deepest pockets and the squad that every other team in Serie A is chasing. But right now, the way they are playing, they are far from impressive, far from a cohesive unit and far from a team that looks like they actually prove that all the criticism being thrown their way isn’t actually deserved. (Hint: It is.)
So, as we enter the second-to-last weekend of this disjointed and extended Serie A season, Juventus will again have the chance to clinch the club’s ninth straight Scudetto when they host Sampdoria and old buddy Claudio Ranieri at Allianz Stadium on Sunday night. Juve doesn’t need any help to have it happen just as was the case when they faced Udinese a few days ago. It’s all about you win and you secure the Scudetto. That’s it, and there’s no fancy kind of scenarios needed this time around. The hope, obviously, is that this time around they actually clinch said league title rather than throw it away like they did on Thursday in Udinese. (Yes, both the second-half lead as well as the chance to win the title at the first mathematical crack.)
By now you know how tough it’s been these last few weeks — five points out of a possible 15 over the course of the last five games; 18 points dropped when in a winning position; 38 goals allowed in 35 games this season, the highest single-season total since Juventus were a mid-table side and coached by Gigi Delneri. The last few weeks, in a way, could be a microcosm of the entire season with the way the team has played. The performances have never consistently been there, and even though this team is about to win its ninth consecutive Serie A title, it’s far from the dominance that we’ve seen of previous Juve teams over the rest of the league.
For every step forward they’ve taken lately, there’s been a step or two back.
It’s really the only consistent thing they’ve done from the start of the season to now.
But as we wait for Juventus to give Maurizio Sarri his first-ever Serie A title as a manager, we also wait to see if the team as a whole can find some semblance of form entering the resumption of the Champions League next month. The chances are running out for that to happen, though, and Sampdoria will be coming to Turin and facing a Juventus side that is having the same kind of problems now that we saw in September and October.
We’ve said it before and we will say it again: Juventus isn’t storming its way to the 2019-20 title. No, this is much more of a crawl to a ninth straight Scudetto. That’s far from convincing, and maybe in another season this kind of three-week stretch would have derailed in title hopes Juventus would have had. This season, though, Juve are a win away from another title with three games to go.
One more win and it’s an official goal checked off the list. That would be nice to see.
- Leonardo Bonucci is back from suspension, which means less Daniele Rugani for the time being. (And hopefully Bonucci left the stupid mistakes he’s been making of late at home.)
- With Douglas Costa out injured for the next couple of weeks at minimum, Federico Bernardeschi is expected to continue starting on the right wing. That’s unless Maurizio Sarri feels the need to give us more Danilo in our lives.
- The other injured players besides Costa are who you expect to be there. Maybe a Scudetto celebration will bring Sami Khedira and/or Mattia De Sciglio out for first time in a long time.
- On the topic of playing Miralem Pjanic — who last played in Juve’s 3-3 draw against Sassuolo — Sarri said the following: “I didn’t play him in the last two because I made different choices against physical teams. Miralem Pjanic has played a lot and at the moment he has a small fixable ache, Today, he is back in the group and we’ll see tomorrow if he will play or not.”
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Because of the way the schedule is these days, there are a lot of games in a short amount of time. And sometimes, for whatever reason, things just blend into one another.
That’s because of this: Suddenly, one of Juventus’ best goal scorers hasn’t scored a goal since the Fourth of July. You know, the guy who’s raising his hand in the picture below ...
It’s weird to say that Dybala hasn’t scored in four games for the simple fact that he was so damn good coming out of the restart. He was matching Cristiano Ronaldo goal for goal, and the two of them — even though they might not have been in a free-flowing offense like all of envisioned when this season started — were becoming quite the complimentary pair.
Of course, it’s not all about scoring goals when it comes to Dybala making contributions and being one of the leading forces on this team. We saw that in the win over Lazio when he was putting forward one of his best games of the restart, one of those games where he most certainly deserved a goal.
But, as was mentioned, it’s been four games without a goal for Dybala after he scored goals in four straight starting with the win over Inter right before the shutdown. During this stretch Dybala has suddenly found himself coming off the bench and then being a last-minute starter after Gonzalo Higuain got hurt. (Yes, the same game where he was great against Lazio.)
The way Dybala has played this season, he is very much capable of busting out of this mini slump in a major, major way. That, of course, would never be a bad thing for those of us who root for the team that Dybala plays for. And the fact that he is able to play at that kind of level on a consistent basis again after this time last year looking like he was on his way out of Turin entirely speaks volumes to just how important this season has been to getting his career back on track.
Maybe this is the game where Dybala’s short run of games without a goal comes to an end. Or maybe this is the game where he plays like he did against Lazio again and is a constant thorn in the side of Sampdoria’s defense. Either option is fine with me, and probably you as well. But it would be nice to see Dybala get a goal or two after the way he’s played outside of the last few goalless games, right? RIGHT?
When: Sunday, July 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: RAI Italia North America (United States); RAI Italia North America, TLN (Canada); Premier Player 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Sport Uno (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.