In a “normal” year, like the previous eight have generally been, the game after Juventus winning the Scudetto would be one where we don’t stress much because we know the job has been done. We expect squad rotation, we expect a whole lot of players who haven’t played much and we expect planning for the future if there is a Coppa Italia final or some kind of Champions League knockout round in the not-so-distant future to play.
But there’s a catch with this season: Juventus has been going full bore for the last two-plus months, and there’s still an unknown amount of Champions League football still to be played, starting Aug. 7 against Lyon.
The focus should, understandably, now be about setting up the squad for what is going to happen in Europe since the domestic work has been done and put away for the summer.
Juventus’ penultimate game of the 2019-20 season takes them to Sardinia, as they will play their first-game as the official nine-time defending Serie A champions against Cagliari. In a perfect world, it would be a game where Juve sends out 11 backups and gives the entire starting lineup — which has been pretty consistent since the restart — the night off and the result is the least of our worries. But, since this is current day Juventus, the perfect world doesn’t exist and the fact that Maurizio Sarri doesn’t have a lot of his rotation options means that squad rotation isn’t always the kind of possibility that we hope it might be envisioned as.
And then you see the kind of squad list that Sarri has named and sometimes you think that the hopes of rotation might become an actual reality. Hopefully. Maybe? I don’t know.
What we do know is this: Juventus has two games before the games actually matter again. That game, of course, is when Serie A is over and the Champions League comes back into our lives for the first time since before the coronavirus shutdown went into effect. It’s that game against Lyon where Juve’s eyes should be right now. It should be why Sarri chooses to do what he does both on Wednesday night against Cagliari and then this weekend when Roma comes on over to Turin for the season finale.
Seeing so many regulars not called up is a start.
And the starting lineup we will likely see against Cagliari will be another step in that direction.
Just like we said after the title was clinched weeks and weeks and weeks in advance of the season finale last season under Max Allegri, the biggest thing Sarri needs to play out is the fact that Juventus enters the second leg fixture against Lyon the healthiest that the team has been in weeks. Matthijs de Ligt’s shoulder needs to feel as good as its felt in weeks. Paulo Dybala needs to hopefully be healthy enough to play. And on and on it will go.
As much as a win would be cool against Cagliari, the focus is Lyon now. That is the luxury that Juve has now that the latest Scudetto race has been wrapped up and put to bed. Sarri can now plan a little for the future while managing things in the present. That’s good, right?
The following players have not called up for the trip to Sardinia:
- Giorgio Chiellini
- Mattia De Sciglio
- Danilo (rest and/or injury)
- Matthijs de Ligt (rest)
- Sami Khedira
- Aaron Ramsey (rest)
- Douglas Costa
- Paulo Dybala
- Adrien Rabiot (suspended)
That’s nine players that would usually be called up that haven’t been called up for Wednesday night’s game against Cagliari. When you see that, it’s pretty easy to understand why, as a result, Maurizio Sarri has dipped deep into the Under-23 roster to fill out his match day squad. (Seeing as Sarri didn’t have a pre-match press conference on Tuesday, we don’t really know what the plan is in terms of squad rotation might be. Judging by there’s a whole lot of first team players not called up, you can probably guess that rotation is happening.)
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
I was going to try and pull something clever with this one, but injuries are stupid and forced Luca Pellegrini to miss another game over the weekend, so I guess we’ll keep it to players that will actually wear a Juve jersey Wednesday night.
So, I guess I’ll go with somebody else who is of Italian descent. There aren’t too many of those on the Juventus roster these days anyways.
Just think about what Federico Bernardeschi just did. He’s a talented guy who arrived in Turin with a whole lot of promise and hope after a big-money move from Fiorentina. He’s a guy who was pretty good in his first season with Juventus, will always be remembered for that game against Atletico Madrid last season and went nearly TWO CALENDAR YEARS without scoring a goal against league opposition.
That scoreless streak ended Sunday against Sampdoria.
You think that goal meant something a little extra to Bernardeschi? Just look at that picture that was right after the ball found the back of the night. There are plenty more like them. Let’s just say that it was a very photo friendly kind of moment involving a player who has had a TOUGH 2019-20 season, one that could very much be his last as a Juve player.
All that said, I will say this: One of the first things I thought when I saw that Douglas Costa is going to be out for a couple of weeks wasn’t anything about Douglas Costa, it was about Bernardeschi and how is pretty much the only option on the right wing if Juan Cuadrado is to stay in defense where he has been quite good for much of this season. And now with Danilo recovering from a head injury, one more option that Sarri has is now a question mark.
What I want to see from Bernardeschi these next couple of games is the simple notion that now that he has his this massive goose egg behind him, just how much pressure he may be done with as well.
Maybe it’s nothing and Bernardeschi’s struggles will roll right into the second leg of the Champions League Round of 16 against Lyon in now less than two weeks. Or maybe the simple matter of scoring his first Serie A goal in nearly two years will give Bernardeschi a little bit of a confidence boost and allow him to play a little more freely than he has for much of this season. I don’t know. I’m thousands of miles away, not right there understanding his thought process while he’s out on the field.
But, with Sarri having little to no other options to turn to, Bernardeschi will get playing time no matter how far Juventus’ season goes into August, and he will be playing because he has to. Maybe seeing that ball go back into the net is the thing that he needs to get going again. And if that’s the case, then feel free to #RockNGoal as much as you want, man.
When: Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Where: Sardegna Arena, Cagliari, 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)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); DAZN, DAZN1 (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.