Unfortunately for all of us here, there are plenty of contenders for the worst result of Juventus’ 2020-21 season. The nature of the beast is that we’ve basically become accustomed to disappointment this season — no matter if it’s domestically or in Europe. (Or maybe in the Super League, I don’t know.) Those types of results, be it draws or losses, are stacked up like we haven’t seen in a decade, definitely not since Juve’s Scudetto count entered the 30s.
One of those came in the final game of 2020. In Turin. Against a club that was clearly in crisis at the time and not getting the new manager boost they were hoping for.
So here we go again against a Fiorentina team that is in the bottom half of the table but far enough above the relegation zone that their Serie A status for next season is relatively safe. Back when we were on the cusp of opening Christmas gifts, trying to stay in the Scudetto race was the prime objective. Now, as it has been for weeks, simply hanging onto a place in the top four is the only thing that matters to Juventus — at least on the field — right now. And when you happen to get a couple of games within a matter of days of one another when you’re playing against two teams that are very much in the spot in the table that their form this season has represented, then getting three points is an absolute must.
That’s nothing new to anybody here.
Unfortunately, the squad doesn’t always come through with it. (And honestly, that feels like something I’ve been saying for months now. So please forgive me if I’m repeating myself ... again.)
Because things have been rather busy off the field and completely roller coaster-y on the field lately, I decided to seek some help from our Viola Nation friends to see how Fiorentina have been doing the last couple of months ...
Sank to the bottom of the swimming pool. Possibly resurfacing. pic.twitter.com/OLIx7cLgs0— Viola Nation (@Viola_Nation) April 23, 2021
Ah, OK. That’s one way to put it, I guess.
But in this season that has seen just as many downs as there have been ups — and probably even more of the former than the latter — the fact that Juventus is facing another team in which they had no business losing to is now back on the weekend’s schedule is anything but a reassuring feeling. It doesn’t matter that Juventus just beat one of the worst teams in the league or that they’ve only lost one game in their last five Serie A outings. No matter how Fiorentina are playing of late — and it’s not all that impressive simply in terms of wins and losses — there’s always going to be the worry that Juventus (again) play down to their competition and either let La Viola stick around or potentially sweep the season series.
And for a team that is trying to ensure they finish in the top four, losing to a Fiorentina team that has pretty much been in the bottom half of the table all season is yet another pretty bad look. Like, really bad look.
We know what Juventus has to do to finish in the top four. The coaches and players know what Juventus has to do to finish in the top four. It will take more results like we saw against Parma a few days ago rather than what we saw the first time around against Fiorentina. With how the Serie A table currently is and how crowded things are behind league leaders Inter Milan, slipping up once or twice before the end of the season could see you suddenly playing in a different European competition than you want to be playing in.
That’s the message Andrea Pirlo gave us during Saturday’s pre-match press conference, too:
“We’re going to Florence to get the three points. We face a team that is struggling fighting to not be relegated and we haven’t forgotten the first match we faced them, in which we suffered a bad defeat. We have a great desire to overturn it and it will be a good match.”
In terms of what your manager says going into a game against a team like Fiorentina, that’s pretty checking all the boxes of how you want to be approaching the trip to Florence.
- Federico Chiesa is out due to injury.
- Merih Demiral is out due to injury.
- Danilo has been dealing with an adductor problem, but Andrea Pirlo is expecting the Brazilian to play against Fiorentina.
- Pirlo said Alvaro Morata didn’t start against Parma “because of squad rotation.” Despite that, much of the Italian press is predicting that Paulo Dybala will start alongside Cristiano Ronaldo for the second straight game.
- To the joy of everybody, Pirlo said that Aaron Ramsey may be in the starting lineup against Fiorentina. According to Pirlo, “(Ramsey) hasn’t played much in this period because he has had some small physical problems.”
- The full squad list is as follows:
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic is having the best year of his career this season. He’s young, he’s tall, he’s built like a tank and he’s scoring goals for fun in recent weeks.
Juventus, on the other hand, has one of the best defenses in Serie A. Or at least that’s what the stats tell us even though all of our eyes tell us something that is a very different story.
So when you’ve got a red-hot striker who only seems to be getting better by the month this season going up against a defense that has had plenty of dumb moments over the course of the 2020-21 season (and the year or two before that). So, naturally, somebody who tries to stop somebody else from scoring goals fits in well here, don’t they?
Leonardo Bonucci is a man who gets a lot of attention around here — both for good reasons and more regularly for bad reasons (deserved or not deserved). No matter what your opinion is of him and how much longer you think he should be a regular starter at a club with the ambitions of Juventus, he is still going to be one of the club’s most important players the rest of this season as they look to finish in the top four.
Bonucci played pretty well in his return to the starting lineup against Parma midweek following his positive COVID-19 diagnosis a couple of weeks ago. The thing as to why he’s the pick here is that Andrea Pirlo gave us a hint as to what he’s thinking when it comes to his starting lineup against Fiorentina — and that hint didn’t involve the mention of Matthijs de Ligt starting alongside side Bonucci. Instead, it looks like it will be the old Italian guard starting at the heart of Juve’s defense in Florence, with said hint Pirlo gave is that “Giorgio Chiellini should play from the first minute,” he said at his pre-match press conference Saturday afternoon.
Now, as much as Chiellini has been a solid performer since becoming a regular starter again and de Ligt is coming off one of his best games, this Fiorentina game can be look at as one of the few chances against lower-table competition to do at least some sort of squad rotation in these final weeks of the season. As important as he is, de Ligt has played a whole lot of minutes — in fact, ALL OF THE MINUTES — over the course of the last month, which means you gotta think he’s at least in need of some kind of rest.
The possible lack of a Dutchman in the starting lineup means that Bonucci’s role in Juventus’ success in stopping Vlahovic and the rest of Fiorentina’s attack that dropped three goals on them four months ago is just that much more important.
Sometimes that can be an interesting situation.
But when it comes to slowing down Vlahovic, a player who has scored seven goals and recorded two assists in his last six games, Pirlo will need Bonucci (and Chiellini) to be much more good than bad. That’s not a difficult formula to follow, but sometimes it’s rather difficult for this team to actually go out an execute.
When: Sunday, April 25, 2021
Where: Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence, 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); FreeSportsTV UK (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Sport 251 (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); 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.