For much of the last two months (and going even further back than that), Juventus’ schedule has been relentless. Play a game, three days pass play another game. Maybe, just maybe, they would get lucky and get a fourth day in between games and the extra 24 hours of rest would surely be cherished by those who need it most.
This season has been unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
So as we sit here on the brink of February becoming March in a matter of a couple of days, Juventus’ fixture has slowed down ever so slight. Yes, another welcome change, even by those who write about this team 12 months out of the year.
That doesn’t mean the game has any less significance, though.
I know this is hard to believe based on the last two months, but Juventus has actually had five whole days from their last game to this one. And while it hasn’t exactly helped their current injury situation, it’s something that this weary squad most certainly needed. Whether the extra bit of rest will be judged when Juventus makes the trip over to Verona to face Hellas at the Bentigodi, a stadium that has been a mixed bag of results over the years.
This week started rather well, despite all of the absentees due to injury and suspension, and Juventus now has the chance to do the same against a team that they also dropped points against. You know, just like their last opponent, although now we can’t say that Juve will be lining up against the worst team in the league again as we did earlier in the week.
Hellas has proven to be the exact definition of a mid-table team. And that’s not just because they’re sitting in ninth place in the Serie A table entering the weekend. They’ve had some good wins this season — namely wins in the final weeks of 2020 against Atalanta and Lazio. But they’ve also settled into a pattern where they have a few good weeks, then a few bad weeks and their results in 2021 are very much proof of that. After winning two of their first three games of the new year, then lost three of their next four and are now coming off a draw against suddenly resurgent Genoa.
Some good, some not so good. Mid-table at its finest.
Of course, we could say the same “some good, some bad” line about Juventus this season even though they’re now in third place after a few things fell their way last weekend even before they took the field against Crotone on Monday night.
As much as the Crotone game was a reminder of the ills that hampered Juventus during the the first couple of months of the 2020-21 season, the same can be said for the first meeting against Hellas Verona. It was bad, with only a late Dejan Kulusevski goal being the thing that allowed Juventus to claim a point.
I think it’s safe to say something like the first time Juve played Hellas won’t fly again.
With the chance to catch AC Milan in second place now very much a real possibility with their own drop in form and Inter now with a little breathing room at the top of the table, the situation is very much like we’ve been saying pretty much all of 2021: it’s must-win territory. As much as Andrea Pirlo continues to keep the faith and say that his team is in the Scudetto race, coughing up points will open the door to Juventus’ exiting title contention.
As much as we don’t like it, Inter sense blood in the water with Milan falling back and Juve still susceptible to dropping points in games they have no business doing so. That means, like we’ve said before, Juventus will have to be nearly perfect when it comes to their results over the next few months — which is something that they have yet to do this season.
That’s no easy thing for this team to do, it seems. And with whole host of players out injured, it seems even tougher to envision Juventus suddenly finding consistency. But there’s only one way for them to prove that line of thinking wrong, and that’s to actually go out and do it before it’s officially too late.
- Paulo Dybala is still out injured.
- Juan Cuadrado is still out injured.
- Arthur is still out injured.
- Giorgio Chiellini is still out injured.
- Leonardo Bonucci is still out injured.
- Alvaro Morata is still sick.
- Danilo will miss this game due to yellow card accumulation.
- You wanna see a squad list that is full of youth players? Well, this weekend you get that chance! Here you go and remember where you were when a non-Coppa Italia game had this many youngsters in it:
- Hey, at least Coppa Italia Round of 16 hero Hamza Rafia is back from injury, so prepare yourself just in case Juventus needs another stoppage-time goal or something like that.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
While Juventus’ matchday squad is full of names that we might not be all too familiar with, there happens to be a young player who is doing quite well right now.
And no, this is not going to be a breakdown of Matthijs de Ligt’s thighs.
I feel like it’s a fairly safe assumption or statement (or whatever the hell you want to call it) that Federico Chiesa is one of Juventus’ best and most in-form players these days. That is not because it feels like half of the usual starting lineup is out injured, but it’s truly because Chiesa’s importance to this team’s success is becoming rather clear. And with somebody like Juan Cuadrado out, the creativity on the wings has, for the most part, come through Chiesa.
You look at his goal against Porto in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 or how he’s got what seems like as many key passes of anybody in a Juventus jersey the last couple of weeks, and the Chiesa experience has been rather enjoyable of late.
So yeah, we’re getting good Chiesa right now.
And with sooooooooo many important pieces out, that’s going to have to continue.
With the injuries and the importance of just about every Juventus game these days knowing what the situations are domestically and in Europe, Chiesa will have to continue to be the player he has been the past few weeks (at minimum). That’s not some kind of hot take. It’s just reality because of who Andrea Pirlo doesn’t have available to him these days.
So far he’s shown that he can be a difference maker, a sign that maybe all the money that Juve will owe Fiorentina wasn’t all that crazy of an idea when the transfer first went down right before the close of the summer transfer window. That’s going to have to continue to be the case these next couple of weeks as the injured players slowly make their way back from their respective ailments.
When: Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021
Where: Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi, Verona, 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 1 (United Kingdom)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); DAZN, Sky Go Italia (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.