Juventus has 11 games to go this season. They come out of the international break still very much a team that is a giant question mark as to what we are going to get from week-to-week. They are on the brink of falling out of the top four, with all of two points separating them from a Napoli team that they will be “welcoming” to Turin in just a couple of days.
So, Andrea Pirlo, not only is Juventus’ Champions League standing for next season very much at stake as we hit the home stretch of the 2020-21 season, but the same can be potentially said about your job even though you’ve gotten some votes of confidence in the press over the last week or two.
No pressure, dude.
The first of those games with maximum impact for Juventus’ and Pirlo’s personal future comes Saturday evening when the meeting of the two biggest clubs in Turin happens once more. This Turin derby, one that will be played at the Stadio Olimpico following Weston McKennie’s heroics at the Allianz back in early December, comes as both clubs are both struggling with their form. They are, however, in two very different situations in the league table, as Juventus is holding onto fourth place for dear life just as Torino is trying to not be relegated a few months from now and sit all of one point out of the drop zone.
Oh, and as an added bonus: Juventus’ preparations for Saturday’s derby has been overshadowed by another two players — Leonardo Bonucci and Merih Demiral — testing positive for COVID-19 and another three players — McKennie, Paulo Dybala and Arthur — breaking current pandemic restrictions in Italy and risking fines on top of being suspended by the club this weekend.
Good times, right? (No, no, no. Don’t answer that.)
With the shocking — or maybe not all that shocking to some based on how Juve’s been playing of late — loss to Benevento in the final game before the international break, the last remaining Scudetto hopes are gone. This team, as we’ve been saying for weeks now, is way too inconsistent to put together the kind of winning streak needed to overcome the 10-point gap they are still looking at in the league table. And, as has been the case all season long, there’s so much fluidity in terms of who’s available and who isn’t from week to week that Pirlo’s had to juggle things so much that he’s probably beyond sick of it all these days.
But no matter who’s called up for Saturday night’s game and who isn’t, this is a Juventus team that is in need of points and they need them in a hurry. Not for the sake of trying to catch Inter, but to ensure that they can have some semblance of a much-needed summer makeover, there’s going to have to be a job getting done in April and May.
That means beating teams you should beat — like Torino, which is going to be fighting for its Serie A life over the course of the next two months.
That means overcoming the absences for whatever reason has caused them.
That means, for at least two months, trying to find some sort of consistency outside of being inconsistent and frustrating us every couple of weeks.
The biggest thing Juventus needs to do right now is win games and prevent anything that leads to the Europa League anthem playing at their home stadium next season from happening. That involves winning most of, if not all, of their remaining games. The way they have played this season that seems like a daunting task. But at least they have two more months to try and change our perception ... right?
- Leonardo Bonucci is out due to COVID-19.
- Merih Demiral is out due to COVID-19.
- Gianluigi Buffon will not be available as he is suspended for one game as a result of his “blasphemous language” verdict handed down earlier in the week.
- Arthur, McKennie and Paulo Dybala — who had returned to full squad training earlier this week — were not called up as a result of breaking COVID-19 protocol with their little dinner party earlier in the week.
- On top of his breaking of COVID-19 protocol, Arthur is reportedly injured again and out for the next two weeks. It’s the same kind of injury that kept him out earlier this calendar year.
- Wojciech Szczesny, who was on international duty with Poland and returned to Turin on Wednesday, has been called up despite being one of the players being closely monitored after a COVID-19 outbreak within his national team. So far, Szczesny has tested negative. (And yes, if Szczesny did miss the Derby della Mole it would have meant Turin-born Carlo Pinsoglio would make his first Juventus start against Torino.)
- Alex Sandro has fully recovered from the knee injury that kept him out for the last couple of weeks, according to Pirlo at his pre-match press conference on Friday.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
This was going to be a space reserved for Weston McKennie because you just know a couple of weeks of no games to play had to be pretty damn helpful for that injured hip of his and that he was going to be hungry — no pun intended — to come out firing again.
So, we will go with another potential starter in the Juve midfield that has not been playing all that much the last few weeks, although for much different kinds of reasons.
Come on down, Dani.
You might be asking yourself, “Wait a second, I thought you were going to talk about another midfielder?” Well, yes. I did indeed say that. But I will first say that Andrea Pirlo also said this Friday:
Danilo is also available and is an option to play both in defence and in midfield for tomorrow night’s derby.
Yes, with so few options in the midfield once again, Danilo playing as a makeshift midfielder might be a thing once again. This isn’t just me speculating about Danilo playing in the midfield because La Gazzetta dello Sport and their lineup predictor machine is thinking the same thing as of the time of this article being written. If it hadn’t already been a thing a couple of times this season, maybe we could laugh it off and think that Pirlo is just trying to throw Torino for a loop. But since it has, we gotta think that this latest wrinkle in the renaissance season that has been Danilo’s personal 2020-21 campaign isn’t just something to make us laugh.
So ... Danilo ... as a midfielder ... prepare yourself.
Not to say that Danilo playing as a midfielder has been anything close to a disaster because it hasn’t. I get that the sample size is all of a couple of games and 180 minutes will not be a good or bad thing to go off of unless we’re trying to confirm certain biases and make people we don’t like look like fools. (Or something like that.) But we can only go on what we know, and what we know is that Danilo playing as a midfielder has been a pleasant surprise, much like his overall form this season.
Maybe that goes south and he somehow becomes a key player in Juventus’ latest disappointing result. I know you probably don’t want me to entertain another negative thought, but with the last 24 or 48 hours that Juve’s had, it’s not to think about something else going haywire before everybody (hopefully) goes their separate ways to celebrate Easter on Sunday.
For now, though, there aren’t too many other options that Pirlo can turn to when it comes to the midfield. You can scream “NICOLO FAGIOLI!!!” all you want at me — and you wouldn’t be all that wrong because he still hasn’t played in a senior team game since February — but, for the time being, it looks as though Danilo is ahead in the midfield pecking order even though he’s isn’t actually a midfielder. Oh well.
When: Saturday, April 3, 2021
Where: Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 6 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 12 p.m. Eastern Time; 9 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 2 (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.