In recent weeks, trying to figure out what to say in match previews have been a relative chore. Sometimes, I feel like copying and pasting what I wrote from the game before, making a couple of updates and then hitting the publish button. It’s been that kind of season, that kind of second half of the season and just incredibly tiresome to see so many of the same problems rehashing themselves over and over again.
So as I sit here in the subsequent days after another disappointing Juventus result trying to figure out what to say about the next game, it’s the same old thing with the same old issues.
The difference is that now Juventus has five games to play rather than six and they’re going to play a team in black and white rather than purple.
The situation for Juventus isn’t any different this weekend than it was last weekend. We know Juventus are still fighting for a spot in the top four. We know Juventus’ form is the reason as to why they are in this position. And we know that Juventus’ opponent this weekend is a team that comes into the game far from what you would describe as a squad in good form. Udinese may not be in the same kind of potential relegation battle that Fiorentina is, but when you pull up the form guide and see what they’ve done in recent weeks it looks a little bit like this:
- 1-0 loss to Lazio
- 3-2 loss to Atalanta
- 1-0 loss to Torino
- 2-1 win over Crotone
- 1-0 loss to Cagliari
- 4-2 win over Benevento
That’s a lot of one-goal games. That’s a lot of one-goal losses, too. But you’ll also notice that Udinese’s last two wins have come against teams currently sitting in 20th and 18th place, respectively, in the Serie A table.
It’s not like Juventus’ last couple of wins have been against all that much more impressive competition, either. (No offense to Genoa and Parma, but y’all are where y’all are in the table and there’s nothing we can do about it.) So as much as we think that Juventus is currently in better shape than a team like Udinese that is in the bottom half of the table, maybe that’s just not the case.
But the reason as to why I keep thinking that I’m typing out the same three or four things each match preview is because Juventus’ situation hasn’t changed over the course of the last month or two. Just when you think they might snap out of things, they stumble. They win a couple of games, then they drop points to a team like Fiorentina. One step forward, two step backwards — over and over and over again.
So now with five games to go we are still wondering if Juventus can actually get this readjusted seasonal goal done and make the top four. With Milan’s 2-0 win over Benevento Saturday night, it means Juventus enters Sunday’s game in Udine not in the top four and will take the field at the Dacia Arena already knowing how Napoli did in their game against Cagliari. Of the three teams that entered the weekend tied on 66 points, Juventus will be the last ones to actually play. They will know full well what needs to happen to ensure that they don’t go into this upcoming three-game gauntlet that involves both of the Milan clubs on the outside looking in of the Champions League picture.
Basically, Juventus will know they will have to win to jump back into the top four. That is something we’ve said so many times already this season. But, just as they did last season, they are limping to the finish line rather than running right on through the tape. The difference, of course, is that they had a title virtually clinched instead of a serious chance of finishing in fifth or sixth.
Points are at a premium now more than ever before — both in the current day and knowing who is on the schedule in the final few weeks of the season.
- Federico Chiesa is back training! Chiesa, however, is not 100 percent, according to Andrea Pirlo, and was not called up for the game against Udinese.
- Merih Demiral is also out with his lingering injury issues.
- Alvaro Morata is dealing with a calf problem that he picked up earlier in the week at training and “will be evaluated” prior to Sunday’s game. Morata has been called up regardless of the situation with his calf.
- That means Paulo Dybala will start alongside Cristiano Ronaldo against Udinese.
- Arthur has only trained with the team one day this week.
- That’s more than we can say about Aaron Ramsey, who has been training apart from the group, according to Pirlo. With all of this being said, Ramsey was still called up for the Udinese game.
- Pirlo is unsure if Dejan Kulusevski will play from the start or be an option off the bench.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Here is a photographic recap of how the last few weeks have gone for Cristiano Ronaldo:
He is a man searching for answers in front of goal right now. That somewhat puzzled facial expression could very well be accompanied by something like “What the f*** is going on here?!” as a thought bubble right above his head because it would be totally applicable.
Things have not been good for the player just as they haven’t been good for the team. There have been misses, there have been bad misses and, most important of all, nothing to show for the heavy volume of shots that Ronaldo has taken. As in-form as Ronaldo has looked at times this season where he is rattling off goals in game after game after game, this is not one of those moments. Those are games when he’s locked in. These days, he’s simply misfiring.
As we know, Ronaldo is going to play as long as he deems himself fit enough to play. And with the current situation being what it is and a Champions League spot hanging by a thread, Juventus need their money man to start firing in goals again. That’s the simple way to put it, and there’s really no other way around it.
Alvaro Morata has been pretty hit and miss lately. Paulo Dybala is still very much a player who is trying to regain match fitness after nearly three months out due to injury. That means Ronaldo, the only Juventus striker who is a virtual lock to play nearly every minute of every remaining game this season, will need to snap out of whatever it is that is causing the glitch in the system of the CR7 cyborg in a hurry if Juventus want to have any chance of finishing in the top four.
It’s totally understandable that a player of Ronaldo’s level is frustrated that this is what the 2020-21 season has come down to. Hell, I’m frustrated as hell, too — and I don’t even kick the ball for this club. But we know full well that if Juve want to avoid disaster and actually finish in the top four, then Ronaldo will have to be more of a contributor than a detriment to this team once again.
Basically, Ronaldo scoring goals again would be good. Ronaldo continuing to miss wide-open chances and then having more pictures like the one above get taken would mean that there’s likely another wasted opportunity that prevented Juventus from scoring.
When: Sunday, May 2, 2021
Where: Dacia Arena, Udine, 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 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport 251, Sky Sport Serie A (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); 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.