So far, the month of December has been rather kind to Juventus.
That doesn’t mean it has been perfect because that would mean they wouldn’t have needed any kind of significant help from Russia a few days ago, but thankfully that helped actually arrived so it’s all good.
But, at least domestically, what this final month of 2021 has been about is trying to get some sort of good thing going against a run of teams that are far, far, far and away from even being considered a completely average squad and sitting mid-table. Juve’s first two Serie A opponents this month have both been in the relegation zone, and their numbers on the season very much prove that point.
While Saturday night’s opposition, Venezia, aren’t sitting in the relegation zone, they are very much close to it, and expect to be there throughout the second half of the 2021-22 season. That means, as we’ve been saying for the last couple of weeks now ever since Juve got throttled in London by Chelsea, these are the games where Max Allegri’s squad need to bank points — and a lot of them. And considering what kind of form Venezia is in entering Saturday night’s game at the Pier Luigi Penzo Stadium, it is very much three points or bust.
Because, why wouldn’t it?
Allegri, as he tends to do, is very much playing this trip to Venice as the kind of matchup that could give Juventus some difficulties. He pointed to the fact that Venezia plays better at home than away from home — which is true, with two-thirds of their goals scored this season coming at the Penzo. He also pointed to the fact that Venezia are coming off a very bad loss and will want to have a bounceback kind of effort — which is also true, as they lost 4-3 to Hellas Verona last weekend after leading 3-0 midway through the first half.
To quote Allegri when describing Saturday’s game: “it’s a complicated one.”
So as much as Max’s answer could be used to describe your most recent (or current) relationship, it’s still very much a case of Allegri wanting to play it safe at his press conference. He knows that this is very much a trap kind of game, the one after an emotional Champions League night — in this case, it’s more because of what happened in St. Petersburg rather than what took place in Turin — where Juve’s dropped points in the past.
Even though Juventus was able to get three points closer to Atalanta in the race for fourth place, they are still seven points behind La Dea in the standings. Juve’s in fifth, but it’s more about the point total than the place in the standings at this point. Who knows what kind of shape Atalanta will be in when they take on that same pesky Hellas Verona side just a few days after their own wild Champions League night. (Which, as you might know, didn’t exactly go as well as Juve’s did.)
So there is a chance to get within four points and put some pressure on Atalanta knowing that Juve play 24 hours before the match in Verona on Sunday.
That is the kind of situation that this soft spot in the Juventus schedule could have allowed for. And, no matter how much Allegri tries to talk up Venezia and the effort they could put forward, they are still a relegation battler and that is the kind of game that Juventus has no business dropping points in.
- Federico Chiesa is still out injured.
- Danilo is still out injured.
- Weston McKennie is still out injured, although Allegri said the American midfielder should be back next week.
- Aaron Ramsey, per the norm, is still out injured.
- Dejan Kulusevski is expected to return next weekend after undergoing a nasal procedure before the Champions League group stage finale against Malmo earlier this week.
- Arthur was not called up for the trip to Venice because he was late to training on Friday.
- After subbing off Paulo Dybala at halftime due to illness, Allegri said Juve’s No. 10 “ is fine, available for tomorrow and ready to play.” That settles that then.
- Called up from the Under-23 team: Koni De Winter, Fabio Miretti and Matias Soule.
- Another roster note: Allegri said Juventus are not thinking of loaning out Kaio Jorge during the January transfer window. Kaio Jorge has played all of 44 minutes in Serie A this season.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
In its three consecutive losses, Venezia’s defense has looked ... bad.
In losses to Inter, Atalanta and most recently Hellas Verona, Venezia has allowed a total of 10 goals, which is just six goals less than the number Juve’s allowed all season.
So, as you might imagine, there could be some openings at the back for Juventus to try and exploit no matter how many players Venezia plan to drop behind the ball.
As much as Alvaro Morata, a guy who has not scored very many goals this season makes sense in this space, we will go with one of the guys who has actually last scored a goal for Juventus. Sure, it may not have actually been intended to be a goal, but it was a goal and therefore we shall treat it as one that was completely on purpose.
So, Juan Cuadrado. Welcome to the space.
Not that Cuadrado won’t play a role in Juventus trying to score a goal in this game. He is very much one of the main providers going forward no matter if he’s playing as a winger or as a fullback. And seeing as Mattia De Sciglio is back in the fold, there is a pretty good chance that Allegri could take advantage of a little more depth at the fullback spot and play Cuadrado in a more advanced role.
That would give Allegri’s 4-2-3-1 much more of a natural look, with Paulo Dybala playing in the No. 10 role and Federico Bernardeschi playing on the left, a spot that Allegri said suits him quite well. And it would also mean that Cuadrado, who is well rested after not starting midweek against Malmo, will have some room to run if Allegri’s hunch that Venezia will attack a good portion of the time comes true.
No matter what, though, getting Cuadrado involved and creating chances for Dybala, Morata or whoever else Allegri plays up top is what he does best. That’s why he’s become so important to this squad, and it’s also why he’s got a contract extension coming his way in the next few months. Dude scores some goals, but he sets up more, and as Juve’s attack continues to search for improved accuracy, the least they can do is to continue to create those scoring chances.
When: Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.
Where: Pier Luigi Penzo Stadium, Venice, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 6 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 12 p.m. Eastern Time; 9 a.m. Pacific Time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: BT Sport ESPN (United Kingdom).
Online/mobile: Paramount+ (United States); BTSport.com, BT Sport App (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.