Over the past decade, Juventus getting a win over the team at the bottom of the Serie A table would not be anywhere close to a big deal whatsoever. Not one bit. It was just get the three points, take the win for what it was and then move onto the next one.
But as we know, this season is not like much of the last decade. It might be a lot like last season in terms of results and scrambling to get into the Champions League for next season, but it’s very much nowhere near the campaign that involves beating provincial on the way to the Serie A title.
The victory over last-place Salternitana didn’t completely stop the bleeding a few days ago, but it was a bit of positive momentum — hopefully not momentarily — after a week in which Juve were embarrassed on the European stage and then dropped seven points behind in the race for the top four. In Salerno, Max Allegri shook things up, with a tactical shift resulting in the use of a 4-2-3-1 formation — something that the roster has been crying out for ever since the start of the season. It resulted in a win, an incredibly-needed win, with the shift giving Juve a little bit more freedom to attack.
To see what happens next is what we wait for now.
Juventus’ matchup Sunday night against Genoa is very much the same kind of situation as it was against Salernitana a few days earlier. Juve will be facing an opponent who is in the relegation zone that hasn’t done much of anything right as of late, and the only real option during the long-awaited soft spot in the schedule prior to the new year. Genoa, as has been the case for what feels like the last few years at least, is playing the delicate dance of being oh-so-close to relegation but hasn’t seen it actually happen yet. They’ve already been through one manager, with former Milan star Andriy Shevchenko now tasked with keeping Genoa in Serie A as he experiences club management for the first time.
That sounds like the team that Juve should be racking up points against, right?
But that’s not always the case — especially the last couple of years.
There’s also this to pay attention to following the win in Salerno: Whether or not Max Allegri will stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation that he rolled out for the first time this season on Tuesday night. That is what the Italian press thinks Allegri will do. And with who’s available to play and who’s out injured — which is basically the same group of players who were called up to face Salernitana — you gotta think that the 4-2-3-1 is what Allegri will go with again Sunday night.
We know this formation is the same one that helped turn Juve’s season around and propel them to a second Champions League final in three seasons during the 2016-17 campaign. It’s now with completely different personnel outside of Paulo Dybala, but getting a more offensive-minded team on the field is something that Allegri and Juventus need at the moment. They can’t afford to play the fine line of potentially dropping points anymore — especially during this December stretch where the domestic opposition is a cavalcade of sub-par teams.
Genoa, like Salernitana, has one of the worst defenses in the league, and the early stages of the Shevchenko era haven’t exactly turned things around in terms of results. Genoa’s last win was on Sept. 12, people!) They’re coming off a 3-0 dismantling by AC Milan, with the winless run extended to 12 game sin the process.
Just like Tuesday night, this is as must-win as must-win gets just because there’s so much of a gap between the two squads. Hell, even if Genoa was sitting mid-table it would still be a must-win game. They all are at this point. And with Atalanta coming back to beat Napoli on Saturday night, it’s even more of a must-win situation now.
- Federico Chiesa and Danilo are currently the two long-term injuries for Max Allegri.
- Mattia De Sciglio is close to returning, but will not be ready for Genoa’s trip to Turin, according to Allegri at his pre-match press conference.
- Weston McKennie, who like Chiesa was injured in the loss to Atalanta last weekend, will miss the Genoa game as he continues to get back to full fitness.
- De Sciglio and McKennie, however, have reportedly been training away from the group.
- Aaron Ramsey is still out injured and it sounds like Allegri doesn’t really have an idea when the Welshman is coming back.
- According to himself, Allegri will decide Sunday morning if it will be Moise Kean or Alvaro Morata starting up front.
- “Luca Pellegrini should play, as well as Dejan Kulusevski and Manuel Locatelli,” Allegri said at his pre-match press conference, so there’s one-third of the starting lineup for Sunday, folks.
- Another injury note: Juventus loanee Nicolo Rovella will miss out on the trip to Turin this weekend due to injury. Rovella, arguably Juve’s best prospect currently out on loan, picked up an injury and had to be subbed out in the second half of Genoa’s 3-0 loss to AC Milan on Wednesday night.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
He’s in the photo above.
And no, it’s not Nico Rovella. (Although, to be completely transparent, I want to write about Rovella in this space before it looked like he wasn’t going to be available for the trip to Turin.)
So, we’ll go with the 21-year-old rather than the guy who just turned 20.
As noted above, Dejan Kulusevski is expected to start against Genoa. We know this because his manager basically said so at his pre-match press conference. And if that does indeed take place like we’re expecting it to, then it will be the first time in months that Kulusevski has started back-to-back games.
Not exactly what he had in mind, I’m sure.
But when it comes to who’s available to play, there’s only so many ways that Allegri can currently go. That means Kulusevski, no matter what form you may think he’s in or how little he’s played this season, is going to get minutes with Federico Chiesa out for the next month or so and Juan Cuadrado forced to play in defense on a full-time basis with Danilo out injured until February.
The good part is that Kulusevski can play in a much more natural right wing position in this 4-2-3-1 formation that Allegri is being tipped to use again this weekend. And if that’s the case, then getting the young Swede back in familiar territory could be the thing that starts to get his season back on track. If he can build on the good things that he did in Salerno — most notably that sweet assist to Paulo Dybala for the opener — then things are officially headed in the right direction.
There will be the conspiracy theorists out there that say Kulusevski playing regularly all of a sudden is because Juve want to essentially put him on audition for potential buyers come January. We know it’s been reported that Juve are “exploring” Kulusevski’s future earlier this week, but nothing has been really progressed from there.
Either way, Juve will need offense and Kulusevki, when he’s on, can provide just that. And the hope is that
When: Sunday, Dec. 5, 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: BT Sport 1 (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.