No matter how Juventus did in the first few games of Serie A’s return, there was always going to be the caveat. You know, the “Wait until the really tough part of the schedule arrives!” call from the hilltops where only the most optimistic and pessimistic Juventus fans clash heads in some kind of battle royale that we only wished was televised.
Juventus has gone through a couple of relegation battlers on either side of the turn from June to July. Juve’s beaten their crosstown rival by a very comfortable margin for what seems like the first time in a long time. (Even though it hasn’t been that long, but there’s always close games in the Derby della Mole because them’s the rules.) And now, as we take the second step of this 16-day gauntlet, Juventus has the chance to do something that might not have been possible or even imagined back in January or February.
There’s a chance, if things go right, that Juventus heads into a showdown with those wild and crazy guys from Bergamo this weekend, that the Serie A lead could be 10 points.
Ten, people. Ten points.
Sure, there needs to be a lot of things taking place before that 10-point lead actually happens. There needs to be what would be considered one of the biggest upsets of the season even before Juventus and AC Milan kick off at the San Siro on Tuesday night if Lecce can somehow manage to beat Lazio. You know, the same Lazio team that just lost 3-0 to Milan and looked pretty dang flat in doing so. The same Lazio team that will almost certainly be incredibly pissed off and will want to take out some anger against a Lecce side that is currently in the relegation zone (and lost 4-0 to Juventus just two weeks ago).
The most important thing of the last couple of weeks is that Juventus, after all of the struggles of the first few games coming out of the suspension of play is that Maurizio Sarri has this team looking formidable. Say whatever you want about the competition level, but the fact that Juve, a team that looked in preseason mode just a few weeks back, is now starting to show signs of serious improvement. Cristiano Ronaldo is looking spry again. Paulo Dybala — who obviously won’t be taking part in Tuesday night’s game due to yellow card accumulation — is scoring game after game after game. Juventus’ defense has been about as good and reliable as its been all season. Hell, even Juve’s midfield — yeah, THAT one — looks to be rather competent and far from the glaring weakness it’s been for much of the season.
Yes, this is starting to become a preview that is brimming with confidence.
The way Juventus has played over these last few weeks can do that to a guy, folks.
But with what we’ve seen over the last few weeks, this is also a Milan side that isn’t the same version of the one that didn’t do much of anything when they rolled into Allianz Stadium for the first game anybody in Italy had seen in three months. Milan has won three of its four Serie A games since the restart, with the obvious highlight being the 3-0 dismantling of Lazio over the weekend.
Milan’s win just a few days ago has to be one of its most impressive wins of the season, right?
So, as much as Milan has been on the receiving end of plenty of jokes in recent years since the club has fallen off the pace of Italy’s best and never recovered from it, it’s also irresponsible to say that Stefano Pioli doesn’t have this team playing well right now.
It’s almost like that’s the same kind of trajectory Juventus is currently on.
Either way, if the Milan we saw show up at the Olimpico this past weekend is even close to the one that Juve face Tuesday night, it will be far from the “easy” matchup that Milan has been viewed as the past few years. Juventus is on the right path the last couple of weeks, and with Lazio facing one of the worst teams in the league, the last thing Sarri needs to see is that positive momentum suddenly coming to an end.
The list of unavailable Juventus players is as follows:
- Matthijs de Ligt (suspended)
- Paulo Dybala (suspended)
- Merih Demiral (injured)
- Mattia De Sciglio (injured)
- Sami Khedira (injured)
You may notice that Giorgio Chiellini and Alex Sandro are no longer amongst the crew of injured players that has been seemingly ever-present since training resumed. Well, both of them returned to training on Sunday, and are expected to be on the bench for the trip to the San Siro. (Since Juventus has been doing a lot of same-day traveling to away games amid the pandemic, the traveling squad list was not released when this post was published.)
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Two fo Juventus’ most important players are suspended after picking up yellow cards over the weekend. That means there will actually be some changes to the starting lineup that Maurizio Sarri throws out there Tuesday night.
One of those changes will happen in the center of defense. And you know what that means? That this guy gets to actually play in a game!
The only reason why Daniele Rugani is getting a start against Milan on Tuesday night is because de Ligt is suspended and both Chiellini and Demiral are out injured. The Juventus center back pecking order is about as clear as anything these days. Rugani is the fifth one out of the five — you know, if they were all healthy at the same time — and it’s pretty easy to find evidence that supports that.
Here’s said evidence:
- Daniele Rugani has played 270 Serie A minutes this season.
- Emre Can, who hasn’t been at the club since January, played 281 Serie A minutes before heading out to Borussia Dortmund.
Rugani has become the butt of more jokes around here lately than he has actually contributed in games. Even with Juventus’ current injury situation, he hasn’t appeared in a game since the restart began. You have to go back one ... two ... three ... four months for Rugani’s last appearance — Juve’s 2-1 win over SPAL in late February. And outside of a three-week stretch before that, it’s not like he was playing much at all to begin with.
It makes sense as to why somebody like Emre Can, who didn’t feature much at all before he headed back to the Bundesliga, actually had more Serie A minutes played now, does it?
This will be an important game for Rugani for the simple fact that he hasn’t played in nearly four months. It will be important for Juventus because Rugani is going to be stepping in for one of the club’s most in-form players at the moment. Not that we should expect Rugani to be at the level of de Ligt because we already know what the Italian defender’s ceiling is at this point. But we’ve also seen him be a formidable stand-in during appearances like this where one of the main starters have been out due to injury or suspension.
Basically, as long as Rugani averts any kind of disaster, he should do perfectly fine. And, at this point, with how well the offense is clicking right now, “perfectly fine” on defense is more than enough to get the job done.
When: Tuesday, July 7, 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)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); DAZN (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.