It has been six weeks since Juventus last played a game. Just think about that for a second. Six weeks — that’s it. In normal times, we usually get June and much of July even before the team starts training again, let alone seeing the team take the field for a handful of friendlies as they ramp things up for the soon-to-begin season.
Since 2020 is, well, 2020, this year is much different. Much, much different.
And Juventus enter the 2020-21 campaign under much different circumstances, the kind of which we’ve rarely seen, if ever before.
Sunday night won’t be just the first Juventus game of the new season. This will be the first time that Juventus, the nine-time reigning champions of Serie A, take the field with Andrea Pirlo as their manager, a hire that was part of the whirlwind 48-hour period following that exit from the Champions League Round of 16 at the hands of Lyon. It is the same Pirlo who, a week before the elimination form the Champions League, was named the manager of Juve’s Under-23 side, a job that was thought to be the thing that prepares him to make the leap into the fray of managing at the level he now finds himself at.
And just for an added twist, as Juventus announced late Saturday, Pirlo’s official managerial debut will be played in front of fans. OK, so it’s only a crowd of 1,000 people, but that’s 1,000 more spectators than were allowed in Allianz Stadium the last time Juventus played a game there. (We don’t mention that game any more, I promise.)
No pressure, sir.
Go ahead as you were.
It is still somewhat surreal that we are talking about this man with this little coaching experience now in charge of a Juventus side that is obviously aiming for more than just a 10th straight Scudetto and continued domestic supremacy. The task Pirlo has is not easy, just as it wasn’t easy for Maurizio Sarri, somebody who has an absolute wealth of coaching experience as compared to the guy who replaced him in Turin all of 24 hours later.
We have one friendly to go off of with Pirlo. That’s it. One friendly against a Serie C side, a few interviews since he was hired as both Under-23 and then senior team manager. That is what we have to try and figure out what Pirlo can try and do with this team.
We figure that it will be a 3-5-2 or some variation of that when Juventus take the field against Sampdoria on Sunday night. We don’t have a hunch of what his preferred midfield is, and with the current injury and transfer situations, we don’t know for sure what Pirlo’s vision is when it comes to how he wants his attack to look. This is very much a team that will be developing an identity as it gets healthier and Pirlo gets more experience and a better grasp on what works and what doesn’t.
For all we know, Juventus will look great against Sampdoria.
Or, they could look completely uninspiring like a huge chunk of the games Sarri coached last season.
That’s the biggest thing with this season — until we know for sure what this team is really made of and how it can play, there is just a giant shrug emoji hanging over Juventus because the man calling the shots has never called the shots before. We simply don’t know, for sure, what this team is all about. We felt completely at ease when he was on the field as a player because he was the one who made things tick and had the kind of skills that so many people envied. But now that Pirlo is the manager, he is a complete unknown.
This is the first official step that Pirlo’s Juventus will take.
We have no idea what it will be like.
We do know that he will look a whole lot more dapper on the sidelines than his predecessor.
Other than that, with each passing game, the more we will learn about Pirlo as a manager and Juventus under their former midfield maestro. And it all starts Sunday against Sampdoria at Allianz Stadium.
- Andrea Pirlo: officially a UEFA-licensed coach. That’s good!
- Paulo Dybala, who just returned to partially training with the group on Saturday, has not been called up for the season opener.
- Alex Sandro, as we heard earlier in the day on Saturday, will be out for at least two weeks after suffering a thigh injury during Friday’s training session.
- As we’ve known for weeks now, we won’t be seeing Matthijs de Ligt will be out until November due to shoulder surgery.
- Also injured and missing out on Sunday’s season opener: Federico Bernardeschi, who suffered a muscle injury during the international break earlier this month and was forced to leave training with Italy just barely after it started.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
You could honestly pick the entire team seeing as this is the first official voyage into the fray under Pirlo’s watch, but there’s a certain potential debutant that is going to be on the mind of many. You know, the biggest name to join this club this summer. (Or , technically, last winter, but you know what I mean.)
There is no doubt that Kulusevski is the most exciting of the new arrivals at Pirlo’s disposal this season. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that he will be making his Juventus debut eight months after the club bought him during the January transfer window, but even if he was acquired a couple of weeks ago it would be that same kind of way.
Either way, with Dybala hurt and the expected arrival of a No. 9 still a matter that hasn’t been totally finalized, Kulusevski’s first official game with Juventus will come as a striker, not his natural role out on the right wing.
As he showed against Novara last weekend — YES I KNOW IT’S A THIRD DIVISION TEAM, FOLKS — he’s got the kind of skillset that makes him a threat even if he’s out of position.
The main point of all of this is that after waiting eight months to see Kulusevski actually training with Juventus, we now don’t have to wait all that long at all for him to make his official debut with the club. (Unless Pirlo pulls some match day surprise with his starting lineup, of course.) There are a lot of expectations attached to Kulusevski’s young shoulders, and by the looks of it the 20-year-old Swede isn’t all that fazed by all of the talk surrounding his arrival in Turin.
Kulusevski has declared himself the “happiest guy in the world” since he’s started training with Juventus. Let us hope that a happy Dejan is one that plays like the incredibly talented player we know that he can be — yes, even if he’s playing a little out of position for the next few games.
When: Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time; 11:45 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: RAI Italia North America (United States); RAI Italia North America, TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 2 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Uno, Sky Sport Serie A (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); Sky Sport GO (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.