When the final four games of the andata arrived in mid-January, it was looked at as the chance for Juventus to both shake off their inconsistent ways while also getting back into the Scudetto race against two of its closest rivals. Back then, in the early days of the 2021 calendar year, Juve were still considered title contenders, with over half a season worth of games left and plenty of points still up for grabs.
As we sit here in the early days of May with the season only having four games left, this same stretch where Juventus once thought it could get back into the Scudetto race has turned into one where their European hopes hang in the balance. (And even then their European fate might be completely out of their hands even though they’re responsible for it all going down the way it did.)
Up first: An AC Milan side that is essentially in the same situation that Juventus is currently in. Rather than this being a top-of-the-table kind of clash like it was in January, there is no title at stake here. Instead, as Juventus and Milan enter level on 69 points (nice) in third place in the Serie A table, both are only trying to fortify their spot as one of Italy’s Champions League representatives. Both teams have been struggling of late, with Milan in drastically different form than they were when the two historic rivals met four months ago.
That could work out in Juve’s favor, but it’s also something we’ve said plenty of times before in the fact that a team that hasn’t been playing all that well before facing the Bianconeri suddenly are being lauded for what they did a couple of hours after kickoff.
At this rate, though, with how few games are left and who is still remaining on the schedule following Milan’s trip to Turin this weekend, this is going to be a final stretch of the season where Juventus plays more like how they did in January rather than how they did in March and April.
As we saw last weekend when Cristiano Ronaldo’s pair of goals within the span of a couple of minutes bailed Juventus out, the biggest thing right now is to get the three points and go onto the next fixture. But, as we know, the better teams that Juve play in this end-of-the-season stretch, if they play as poorly as they did against Udinese against the likes of Milan, Sassuolo and then
newly-minted Serie A champions forever frauds Inter, You better believe that if Juventus come out struggling like they did against Udinese and Fiorentina before that then Milan will take advantage of it.
That was a point of emphasis during Andrea Pirlo’s pre-match conference, and that’s the kind of thing will be one of the biggest keys to success for Juventus on Sunday night. If they don’t kick the habit of struggling early in games, then they could very well be looking trouble right in the face once again.
You could be able to get away with it against mid-table teams. But against a team you’re tied with in the standings that is fighting for the same exact thing you are with only a few games remaining on the schedule? Yeah, might want to end all of that.
But at the current rate, we’ve seen Juventus play poorly more often than they have played well over the last month or two. They are limping to the finishing line rather running strong through the table like an all-world marathon runner. With only 12 more points up for grabs, the chances to win are shrinking and shrinking. It’s now or never when it comes to Juventus clinching a Champions League spot — and then I guess we’ll see what happens in terms of actually being in the Champions League.
- FEDERICO CHIESA BACK!
- And while the official squad list has not been released and therefore we can’t get 110 percent confirmation that Chiesa is back at the time of this match preview going live, Andrea Pirlo talked about how much of a full squad he has going into the showdown with Milan. There’s also the fact that just about every Italian media outlet is predicting Chiesa to start, so there’s that.
- Juventus don’t have any players suspended, either.
- During his pre-game press conference, Pirlo unofficially confirmed that Alvaro Morata will be playing from the start against Milan now that he’s healthy again.
- Since pretty much every game is incredibly important from here, here are the four 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
Time to go to Church.
You should know what I mean when I say this.
Maybe I will give a big hint. Like, you know, one of the best images from when these two teams played at the San Siro back in mid-January, a game that Juventus won and subsequently put an end to Milan’s unbeaten start to the 2020-21 season.
When Juventus beat Milan and looked pretty good doing it four months ago, Federico Chiesa was one of the star players in that big-time performance that had us thinking that this team could turn things around and make a late-season run at the Scudetto. It also turned out to be the game where Chiesa’s impressive form over the last few months really started to take off, and his importance since that game has only seemed to grow by the week.
And even when Chiesa hasn’t been in the lineup recently, his importance and impact has been easy to figure out.
Basically, Juventus is a much different team with Chiesa on the field as compared to when he is off of it.
At this point, that’s nothing new. But it is speak to just how well Chiesa’s first season at Juventus has gone — from a player who a good amount of folks were rather skeptical about (and maybe we should blame Federico Bernardeschi for that?) to a player viewed as a cornerstone for Juve’s future. And he’s not too shabby in the present, too.
So now Chiesa is back after missing the last three weeks due to injury. For all we know, Chiesa will pick up right where he left off and look a lot like the player who was arguably Juventus’ most in-form player at the time of his injury. His presence out there not only gives Juve another attacking threat, but it provides so much balance so that the team doesn’t just filter the ball to Juan Cuadrado 575 times a game and hope that he can put in good cross after good cross because there’s nothing happening on the other wing.
Now let’s hope that the Chiesa before the injury absence is the same one that we see after the injury absence. While Juventus has plenty of other things to worry about, having Chiesa be one of the best players for the final couple of weeks of the season would be such a boon to a team trying to ensure it plays Champions League football next season.
When: Sunday, May 9, 2021
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, 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: TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Uno, Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Sport 251 (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.