Knowing that we’re still in the somewhat early stages of the resumption of play in Italy, my mind keeps telling me not to get too far ahead of myself following Juventus’ performance against Genoa. As much as I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt when they didn’t play well in the first few weeks, it wouldn’t exactly be right — or maybe all that smart at this point — to go head over heels after one good performance over the course of 90 minutes.
Won’t. Do It.
Trying ... not ... to do it.
As tempting as it is to say that Juventus has officially turned a corner and is now in really good shape, that verdict is still to be determined. And, as we know based on being observant people around this here corner of the internet, we’re going to be finding out rather quickly over the next three weeks just how much progress Juve has actually made. The July gauntlet is here, and it brings with it the kind of schedule over the next 17 days that will go a long way in determining whether the Bianconeri are nine-time defending Italian champions or if Lazio end up shaking up the scene in Serie A.
What we do know is this:
- Juventus enter July with a four-point lead atop the Serie A table.
- Juventus is coming off what is easily one of its best games of the season in Tuesday night’s 3-1 win over Genoa at a previously difficult place to play in the Luigi Ferraris.
- Juventus begin this three-week stretch with one of its most intense fixtures of the season, hosting Torino in the Derby della Mole at Allianz Stadium.
- Lazio plays a couple of hours after Juventus, so if the lead is stretched to seven points again, there’s going to be a whole lot of pressure on Simone Inzaghi and crew to get a win against a Milan side that hasn’t lost in four games coming out of the restart.
And as much as Torino has struggled for much of the season and is trying like hell not to get into a position where it’s swearing the relegation zone like Juve’s last opponents currently are, we know better than that. As cliche as it is, this is one of those games where it is almost always competitive no matter the form of the two sides. Just look back to early November when Juventus needed a 70th-minute goal from the big Dutch baby boy Matthijs de Ligt to edge past Torino — it’s just how this derby almost always operates. Close games aren’t written in the rule book, but the way this matchup goes they might as well be.
This is Juventus’ last game against a side that is in the bottom third of the table for three weeks. And with how the schedule is constructed these days, a whole hell of a lot of stuff can happen within a three-week period. You need to look no further than, well, the next three weeks for Juventus where a showdown with Lazio is what caps off this massively important stretch for Maurizio Sarri. Hell, knowing what this month entails, this probably is Sarri’s most important stretch as Juventus’ manager to date. His team has the chance to put the Scudetto race out of reach entering the final two or three weeks of the season. Or, they could well either leave the door open for Lazio and a late-season overtaking atop the table or very well fumble away first place all together.
Either way, it all begins against Torino at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
The stands will be empty. But there still will be an intense derby taking place between city rivals.
Hopefully the month of July begins in the same kind of way that June ended.
- Tuttosport reported on Thursday that Maurizio Sarri hopes to have Alex Sandro on the bench for Saturday’s derby against Torino.
- I meniton that because Alex Sandro has not been called up for the match against Torino.
- The other injury list is what it has been for the better part of the last two weeks.
- Giorgio Chiellini isn’t expected back for another week or so.
- Merih Demiral could be ready to go come the end of July.
- Also injured: Sami Khedira and Mattia De Sciglio, with the latter expected back in a few more weeks.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
This was going to be Adrien Rabiot since all the predicted lineups on Thursday said that Blaise Matuidi was going to be starting at left back again. But, that has since changed, and with Matuidi now predicted to be starting in his usual spot to the left of Miralem Pjanic, I think I know where to turn in a pinch.
You know, this guy ...
Paulo Dybala has basically made a rule for the Serie A restart: Every goal he scores for the rest of the season must be incredibly pretty and, most of the time, be the difference in Juventus winning a game or not winning.
Now, I don’t know if that is an actual rule Dybala has put forward, but it seems like it is. Why? Because you look at the goals he’s scored against Bologna, Lecce and most recently Genoa, and the fact that the Dybala beautiful goal rule is an actual thing might not be so far fetched.
Just think about this for a second or two: It wasn’t so long ago that Dybala couldn’t kick COVID-19. He was the one Juventus player where the virus truly lingered no matter how many tests he had to undergo. Matuidi and Daniele Rugani recovered in what seemed like the “usual” amount of time it takes to get the clean bill of health, but Dybala dealt with it for the better part of two months until he was declared to have fully recovered on May 6.
Since then, Dybala has simply been superb.
The false 9 role has truly gotten Dybala back in goal scoring form. As much as the role on the right wing played to his drift-out-wide kind of ways, getting him closer to goal is something that allows him to do what he does best — work wonders with that left foot of his. Not only is he creating goal chances for teammates, but he’s taking advantage of his chances as well. You see the chances that he’s taking (and scoring) and it is reminding you of a few years ago when Dybala was the leading force of Juve’s attack and just about everybody was saying that he should be a cornerstone of the club’s future.
(I still think that, for what it’s worth.)
All of this could very well be what Sarri mentioned all the way back a year ago right before Juventus was about to play one of its first friendlies of the summer. (By the way, that article is from July 23, 2019, and to think that we’re still in the same season now in July 2020 is absolutely crazy to think about.) Sarri said the false 9 role could fit Dybala “quite comfortably,” and I think the way that Juventus’ No. 10 is playing right now is pretty much right in line with that. Dybala looks comfortable, he looks confident as hell and he is pretty much looking like his old self once again.
That version of Dybala is an absolute ruthless one, the kind of striker that makes you perk up any time he’s even in the general vicinity of the penalty area. His left foot is so locked in right now — no pun intended, I swear — that you get the feeling good things are going to happen more often than not.
These days, that’s pretty much the case. And we’ve got a handful of games played within the last couple of weeks to back that up.
When: Saturday, July 4, 2020
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 5:15 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 4:15 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 11:15 a.m. Eastern Time; 8:15 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: RAI Italia North America (United States), TLN, RAI Italia North America (Canada); Premier Sports 2 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Serie A (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (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.