One win in early April will not exercise all of the demons from Juventus’ 2020-21 season. They are in this position because of what has happened from September until the present day, with the final six weeks of the season now to try and salvage a fraction of what expectations were coming into the 2020-21 campaign.
There’s a little bit of breathing room now following Wednesday night’s win that put a momentary stop to the bleeding. Albeit, that breathing room we speak of, it’s between Juventus and who’s in fifth rather than first place and second place, but that is the current reality of this Bianconeri squad. The Scudetto chase ended weeks ago for Andrea Pirlo and his squad, which means that their adjusted prime objective is now making sure that their standing at the end of the season is nothing less than fourth place.
With a three-point edge over fifth-placed Napoli now achieved, the next achievement Juventus will try to unlock is to make sure their third-place standing stays that way and is not something that lasts for all of a few days.
Juventus will try and do that against Genoa on Sunday afternoon at Allianz Stadium. Genoa, which was in a complete state of dumpster fire-ness the last time these two teams played in league play back in mid-December, have rebounded to the point now where relegation isn’t look as likely as it could have been four months ago. That doesn’t mean they’re coming into their second trip to Turin of 2021 — remember, there was that Coppa Italia fixture where we all got to say Hamza Rafia was the unexpected (and unwanted) hero — because they’re most definitely nothing close to on the kind of run that Napoli was entering Wednesday night’s showdown in Turin.
What does that mean for Juventus?
It’s simple: Genoa are more than beatable just like they were in December and just like they were in January. We’ve seen Juventus raise their game against good opponents this season, but they’ve also played down plenty of times. And if that second part happens Sunday afternoon, then all of the good vibes that this team had coming out of the Napoli win will go up in smoke in the blink of an eye.
With less than 10 games to go now, the opportunities to get points against lower-table opponents is becoming fewer and fewer. And when you consider some of the teams Juve still has on the schedule starting next weekend against Atalanta — and then in the final month of the season especially — the few remaining games that Andrea Pirlo’s squad has against the Genoas of the world are all the more valuable.
There won’t be many games left this season where Pirlo and Co. are the overwhelming favorites, but this game is most certainly one of those situations. Genoa, for as much as they’ve been able to dig out of the early-season struggles that put them in relegation danger, have only won one of their last six Serie A games. They’re not completely safe and will likely be in Serie A again next season, but it’s looking that way despite the lack of wins in recent weeks.
No matter what, though, seeing Juventus potentially build off what they did against Napoli will be priority No. 1. Well, winning will be, but if they build off what happened midweek then good things will almost certainly come their way as well. Points are so valuable with what Juventus is trying to prevent from happening, so getting all three and only all three this weekend is something that needs to happen.
Then again, we’ve been saying that for weeks now. And these types of things, with this Juventus squad, is so much easier said than actually done. So that’s fun, I guess. (Not fun. Not one bit.)
- Leonardo Bonucci is still out due to his COVID-19 diagnosis.
- Federico Bernardeschi is still out due to his COVID-19 diagnosis.
- Those are the only two players who are out — which feels weird to think about considering how many players have missed games over the last month or two.
- Wojciech Szczesny will be back in goal, according to Andrea Pirlo.
- Dejan Kulusevski will “probably” start against Genoa, according to Pirlo.
- Giorgio Chiellini will “start from the beginning” against Genoa, according to Pirlo.
- That’s likely due to the fact that Merih Demiral “needs more time to play from the start,” according to Pirlo, after missing time due to injury and then a short COVID-19 absence.
- After coming off the bench over the weekend against Napoli, Arthur and Weston McKennie “are fine and ready to play,” according to Pirlo.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
With so much of the squad actually available again, I’ve got options here.
I could go with the starting goalkeeper who will (likely) be playing his first game since one of his worst outings as a Juventus player last weekend. I could go with the 36-year-old defender with an injury history longer than a Grab Bag from Sergio who looks like he play his third game in the span of a week. Or, I could go with the No. 10 who is back in the fold after 2 1⁄2 months on the sidelines due to injury.
This one is Paulo’s party.
Like my man Sergio said in his post-Napoli win Grab Bag, there are few things more aesthetically pleasing than watching Paulo Dybala hit one of his classic left-footed curlers in for a goal. And if you disagree then that’s your fault, dammit, because it’s true.
With Alvaro Morata playing a whole bunch of minutes the last few weeks both at the club and international level and Dybala back in the fold after making his return with the game-winner against Napoli, the thinking is that Juve’s No. 10 will start his first game since January (!!!) this weekend. That means Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo up front again, something we thought we were going to see a whole lot more this season than we actually have.
Sign me up.
As the Italian media continues to speculate and throw out the narrative that Dybala’s status at the club is going to be determined with each passing game like it’s a final exam that determines whether you get to graduate or not every time you step onto the field, the fact still remains that there is still one thing that La Joya controls right now: how he plays.
Based on the simple fact that he’s played all of about 25 minutes, who knows where Dybala’s match fitness actually is. For all we know, he could play 50 or 60 minutes and then have Morata come off the bench to replace him.
But we do know is that Juventus is better with him than without him, and Dybala’s return was the kind of thing that his teammates clearly enjoyed with the way that they celebrated his goal against Napoli. Dybala has the ability to provide a spark for this team as they try to salvage something from this season that has been filled with disappointment and frustration. It started against Napoli, and if the predictions are true about him starting against Genoa then it will be expected to keep going this weekend.
And while that spark doesn’t always have to come with a left-footed curler or two, the more of those we see over the next six weeks then the better chance Juventus has to win games on a consistent basis. That is something that is more than welcome, right?
When: Sunday, April 11, 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; 9 a.m. Eastern Time; 6 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Sport 252 (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.