Now that the dust has settled when it comes to Juventus not having any more Champions League for the rest of the 2020-21 season, the attention has turned fully into what is happening domestically. I think we can all agree we wish that Juve was part of the latest Champions League draw that took place earlier in the week, but this is a mess that is their own doing and, therefore, they have to live with the bed that they have made.
Honestly, same goes for what is the current situation in Serie A.
There are 12 games to go in this current Serie A season for Juventus. They have a game in hand, something that has been the case for months now. The team directly in front of them in second place, AC Milan, is wobbling. The team above Milan, Inter Milan, is currently sitting out this weekend as they try to mitigate a COVID-19 outbreak at the club that has already seen four players test positive and forced the postponement on their game against Sassuolo. (And forced our old buddy Beppe Marotta to be admitted to the hospital last week.)
Things, at least at the top of the table these days, are rather unsettled. And even though Juventus has their own very real and very noticeable issues that aren’t exactly close to resolution, there’s the chance to both jump into second place — with some help from some friends in Florence — as well as get that much closer to Inter with Antonio Conte’s squad off for the weekend (and who knows how much longer after that).
Now, Sunday afternoon’s game against Benevento — a team that hasn’t won since the first week of January — is one that we’ve so many times already this season give Juventus issues. Like, in fact, the last time these two teams played back in late November, part of the beginning of an absolutely brutal stretch of fixtures before Christmas as a result of the pandemic-centric truncated schedule. While the schedule has eased up a little bit now — thanks to Juve now only really having Serie A fixtures to worry about — we don’t have to worry about Andrea Pirlo’s squad trying to rebound after a tough result only 72 hours earlier. This squad, hopefully, has gotten some sort of rest even though we’d all love them to still be competing both domestically and in Europe.
The situation seems rather simple for Juventus no matter where we think they actually stand in the Scudetto race. Taking advantage of that situation is another matter — just like we’ve been saying for weeks now because this club just doesn’t do anything easy this season.
At minimum, if Juventus rip off a couple of wins going forward as they hit a friendly stretch of the schedule against teams like Benevento and Torino on either side of the international break, then the likelihood of not finishing in the top four becomes that much less of an issue. And while looking too far into the future is a completely useless thing to do in a post-pandemic world, maybe a couple more wins can turn these games against Napoli, Milan and Inter coming up in April and May into something more than just fixtures that Juve need to ensure they’re playing Champions League football next season.
The fact is, though, Juventus needs to beat the teams like Benevento — who continues to tumble down the Serie A table — that are hanging around the relegation zone if they want any chance of making the final weeks of the season more than just a chance to play in the Champions League next season.
Crunch time is approaching for Juventus. Now comes some final tests of their domestic chops.
- Juan Cuadrado is suspended after picking up a yellow card last weekend.
- Paulo Dybala is still out injured.
- Merih Demiral is still out injured.
- Aaron Ramsey is still out injured.
- Alex Sandro, who was subbed off in the first half of last weekend’s game, is out due to injury.
- Rodrigo Bentancur has been officially cleared to return to the squad after testing negative for COVID-19 earlier in the week. Bentancur, who was asymptomatic, missed two weeks.
- Gianluigi Buffon, who was not called up for last weekend’s game, is back in the squad and is being tipped to start to give Wojciech Szczesny has first break in weeks.
- Andrea Pirlo said at his pre-match press conference Saturday that Alvaro Morata will start. Same goes for Dejan Kulusevski, although it is expected the young Swede will be out on the right wing as Morata partners with Cristiano Ronaldo up front.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
For whatever reason, I logged onto Tuttosport’s website Friday morning and I was greeted with this (after the Google translate automatically kicked in):
For the first time in what seemed like days, Tuttosport’s main story on the front page of their website had nothing to do with summer transfer rumors or anything close to it, really. Instead, Tuttosport put quite an effort into promoting the fact that Andrea Pirlo has, at least over the last few weeks, successfully transitioned Federico Bernardeschi into a fullback along the same lines as Maurizio Sarri did with Juan Cuadrado a season ago.
That is why this is important.
We know that Bernardeschi’s future at Juventus is anything but certain. It’s been that way for essentially the last 12 or 18 months ever since his form went in the tank and took him so long to actually show some signs of life again. A big part of that is that he’s never truly had the ability to settle into a position for extended periods of time under now three different managers in the last three years.
But maybe, just maybe, the terzino-ing of Bernardeschi is something that brings his career back to life. Or, at the very least, makes him a functional part of this Juve squad again.
At the very least, Bernardeschi’s recent transformation as a fullback/wingback as filled a need during the recent depth crunch caused by all of the injuries. We don’t know how long Alex Sandro could be out for, so this could end up being a stretch of a few games where Bernardeschi is in fact playing some time at fullback, other times at wingback, in Pirlo’s 4-4-2/3-5-2 hybrid formation.
I guess the good thing in all of this is that there actually seems to be a plan as to how to use Bernardeschi, Maybe not in the position he was in a few years ago or how we envisioned him when he first arrived at Juventus, but he’s showing that he could possibly be a functional piece going forward these next few months (and, who knows, maybe beyond).
When: Sunday, March 21, 2021
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 3 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 2 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 10 a.m. Eastern Time; 7 a.m. Pacific Time (Remember, if you’re in the U.S., this is the second Sunday of Daylight Saving Time, which hasn’t happened in Italy.)
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TLN (Canada); Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Sport 252 (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); 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.