There may have been a slight glimmer of hope among the Juventus faithful Sunday morning as everyone geared up for a massive match against AC Milan but that was quickly taken away just a few hours later. And even after the Rossoneri dismantled the Old Lady, the negative headlines did not end Sunday evening.
From the possibility of getting banned from Serie A to Cristiano Ronaldo and Andrea Agnelli apparently calling it quits on their manager and the season to Gianluigi Buffon leaving again, it has been a rough couple of days for Juventus fans. We even had an article on this very site with “Eulogy” in the title.
And without much time to process any of it, there is somehow another match to play. And a pretty important one at that.
With just three games remaining in the 2020-21 campaign, Juventus is sitting on the outside of Italy’s Champions League spots and is on the verge of moving back over to the Europa League for the first time since 2014. And after losing to Milan, the club no longer controls its own destiny as three wins to end the season will not definitely be enough to finish in the top four.
So while Juventus will still need help from other clubs and whether it will even be playing in UEFA competition next year at all is still up in the air, there is still plenty to play for. And it begins Wednesday evening in Emilia Romagna.
Sassuolo are currently sitting eighth in the table, but its fate when it comes to having European play next season is not sealed. Not only could the club be a top beneficiary of a punishment being handed down to Juventus but the Neroverdi could sneak into the league’s final qualifying spot for the new UEFA Europa Conference League.
Currently trailing Roma by just two points, Sassuolo are finally starting to turn things on to end the season and are looking like a team who belong in European play. It has one of the hottest forms in the league (5W-1D-0L) and has lost just once since the start of April (2-1 defeat to Inter) while taking five points from three matches against clubs in the top seven (AC Milan, Roma, Atalanta) during that span.
Sure, Juventus won the first league matchup between the two clubs but four months ago seems like an eternity and it is very clear these two teams are in different shape than they were in January. Sassuolo appears to be just as dangerous of a club as any in Italy right now and as always, it starts with the attack.
Sassuolo have only been held off the score sheet once since the start of 2021 and with the mistakes at the back from Juventus defenders and goalies in recent games, it doesn’t seem likely this match will add to that total.
The long-time will-they-won’t-they, pain-in-the-side of Juventus Domenico Berardi is leading the way of that offense. He scored in a third consecutive game over the weekend against Genoa, adding to his total of 16 goals and five assists on the season. Giacomo Raspadori is heating up at the top of the formation, scoring again against Genoa which comes on the heels of a brace against Milan three weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Juventus has not held a clean sheet in league play since a 3-0 win over Spezia on March 2. Its last clean sheet against a club in the top 15 of the table was February 6.
This game is not going save anybody’s job and a win may not make anyone feel any better but three points would still be huge for either side and could go a long way in determining someone’s European fate.
- Andrea Pirlo confirmed Danilo and Arthur are both fine and could both play 90 minutes against Sassuolo.
- Pirlo also hinted at the possibility of Cristiano Ronaldo starting on the bench, saying the star forward has played in many games this season and a decision would be made one way or the other the day before the match.
- Wojciech Szczesny has started a midweek league game just once over the last two months and Buffon, despite his recent announcement on his future with Juventus, got those starts in wins over Parma, Napoli and Crotone. Buffon was rumored to get the start already and the decision is said to have nothing to do with the Milan defeat.
- Setting aside any fatigue from the quick turnaround, Pirlo will have a full squad to choose from without any injuries reported and no players suspended.
- There are still four Juventus players who are currently one yellow card away from a suspension: Leonardo Bonucci, Cristiano Ronaldo, Weston McKennie and Matthijs de Ligt.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
You never know from day to day or even minute to minute who will be sitting in the middle of the midfield when Juventus has the ball. It could be a striker, it could be a full back and sometimes it can even be an actual midfielder (not often). It becomes even more unpredictable when you have some potential midfield options (Weston McKennie, Adrian Rabiot and Juan Cuadrado) getting just two days rest after playing 90 minutes.
Since Manuel Locatelli still isn’t technically a Juventus player, I don’t think I can put him here yet so let’s go elsewhere. Danilo has made an appearance as a true midfielder at times this season and even when he lines up at right back, he finds himself in the center of the field quite a bit during the attack. It is clear Juventus wants to use him more as a possession player than a true overlapping fullback.
You can tell Danilo spends his time mostly in his position but he certainly has the freedom to become a centralized player when needed. He may not be the flashiest and at times, it seems like he may not be doing too much but he’s also been one of the most consistent players for Juventus this season and even bland consistency should be welcomed more often than not with this team.
Danilo started in his right back role against Sassuolo back in January but he found himself back in the midfield for much of that game with Juventus holding 56 percent possession. He bagged himself one of the best goals of the season, scoring a goal in a second consecutive game against Sassuolo. Danilo provided a late assist while adding a team-high four tackles on his way to a Man of the Match performance in the 3-1 victory.
A replicate of that kind of performance may be a lot to ask for but it also may be needed. Danilo did not play on the weekend and should be fresh to play the full 90 minutes. He could be moved around to a couple of different positions and could play as a true holding midfielder if Cuadrado is fit enough to play on the wing.
Expect Danilo to get the start and if he does, expect him to be near the top of the team leaders in touches, passes and tackles. Because just like we all expected, Danilo could play a crucial role in keeping Juventus in the hunt for a Champions League spot.
When: Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Where: Mapei Stadium, Sassuolo, 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: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, RAI Italia North America (United States); RAI Italia North America, TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 2 (United Kingdom)
Online/mobile: ESPN+, WatchESPN (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); Sky Go Italia, DAZN (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.