Through the first two games of 2021, Juventus has two wins and has scored seven goals in that 180 minutes of play. That’s good, and it’s hopefully something that continues over the course of this incredibly important month and then well beyond that.
But just like Wednesday night’s game in Milan was a major test of what this Juventus team is all about, so will this weekend’s visit from Sassuolo on Sunday night. Same goes for the trip back to Milan to face Inter Milan next weekend. Same goes for the Supercoppa against Napoli a few days after that. And so on ... and so on ... and so on.
There will be no quick solution when it comes to cutting down on Milan’s lead atop the Serie A table over Juventus, which was pushed back to 10 points for the time being thanks to the league leaders’ 2-0 win over Torino. (Thanks for that, Torino.) Juventus will have to chip away, slowly but surely in all likelihood, over the course of the next few weeks and months because this season has taught us already that nothing is going to come easy to Andrea Pirlo’s squad during his first go-around as a professional manager.
Part of that means playing three of the best teams in Serie A in back-to-back-to-back matchdays — something that few of the other teams that are at the top third of the table have had to deal with of late.
Juventus got through the first major test, getting the much-needed win over Milan to keep their Scudetto hopes alive for another couple of days. But, as Pirlo said during his pre-match press conference on Saturday, the win over Milan will lose all of its value and standing if Juve are to slip up and drop points against Sassuolo.
“It was an important victory, but if we don’t win tomorrow, then it will all have been for nothing. If we don’t get a result here, then what we did at San Siro will fall into the background.”
We’ve talked so much about how this team has been inconsistent with its results. That’s nothing new. But the fact that Sassuolo is coming to Turin for yet another big game in January even though we’re not even two weeks into 2021 and it’s a chance for Juventus to at least momentarily shed their trend of starting and stopping against Serie A opposition.
Juventus need points. They need wins. They didn’t get help this round, which means keeping pace with Milan is pretty much the only thing that needs to happen on Sunday.
Trying to do it against Sassuolo won’t be easy even if they’ve cooled off a little bit after their impressive early-season run of form. But the fact still remains that Juventus need to win this game just as much as they needed to win the last one and just as much as they will need to win the next one. This is not the time for the same kind of things we saw in November and December when draws were happening just as frequently as wins.
Basically, after over 500 or so words, the situation is this: Juventus’ opposition has changed, but the situation and circumstances are still very much the same. And it’s going to be like that for weeks and weeks and weeks. Better get used to it, folks.
- There will be no Alex Sandro because of COVID-19.
- There will be no Juan Cuadrado because of COVID-19.
- There will be no Matthijs de Ligt because of COVID-19.
- During his pre-match press conference, Andrea Pirlo said that Alvaro Morata — who has missed the first two games of 2021 due to injury — will “at most be on the bench” against Sassuolo.
- Pirlo on Federico Chiesa: “His performance at San Siro should be a starting point for him.” (That seems like it would be a pretty good starting point, doesn’t it?)
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
No de Ligt available. Giorgio Chiellini can’t be relied on to play 90 minutes anymore. That pretty much leaves only one other guy to play in Andrea Pirlo’s three-man defense against Sassuolo.
The guy who used to play for Sassuolo.
Reports have floated around the interwebs in recent weeks that Merih Demiral is not exactly happy with his current playing time situation. Well, if those are anywhere close to being true, then it’s all about to change for the young Turk, who will be the main benefactor of de Ligt testing positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week.
Demiral has yet to start a game since coming back from a muscle injury that took him out of the starting lineup following Juve’s win over Dynamo Kyiv at the beginning of the December. Basically, the only minutes he’s played since returning to 100 percent health came this past Wednesday, essentially serving as defensive cover as Pirlo looked to secure three points against Milan. (Hint, Juve did secure those three points.)
But the uptick in minutes is about to come quickly considering Chiellini’s role at the club these days is essentially the captain who never actually plays much at all. (Which is obviously a very unfortunate thing.)
No matter how much truth there are to these grumblings about playing time, Demiral is going to be an important piece for Pirlo over the next few months ... as long as he himself stays healthy. Because of when he tested positive, de Ligt is a virtual lock to miss next weekend’s Derby d’Italia against Inter Milan, which will obviously be a pretty close runner-up to the win over Milan in terms of importance during this big opening month of 2021. And as long as Demiral is healthy, he is going to be playing, And he’s going to have to play well — although it will obviously be very, very tough to resemble the form de Ligt was in — if Juventus wants to keep the early-2021 good vibes going.
We know he’s got the talent to be an important player on this team. We also know he still needs to still very much get a handle on his talent rather than doing some very silly mistakes. Maybe this shot at playing time will be when things start to really click. With Juve’s best defender out for a still-unknown period of time as he tries to shake COVID-19, wouldn’t that be nice, huh?
When: Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021
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, Sky Sport 251 (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.