The wait is almost over.
Juventus is almost back. Max Allegri in fresh suit on the Juventus sideline is almost back again. Matthijs de Ligt and his massive quads delivering crunching tackles is almost back. Paulo Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo and Federico Chiesa bombing forward is almost back.
Offseason, it’s a thing of the past.
Come Sunday night, the 2021-22 Serie A season is here for Juventus.
Allegri 2.0 takes the field for a game that matters for the first time this season at the Dacia Arena in Udine, with fans in the stands and the colorful seating pattern not as prevalent as it was the last time Juventus made its way to the artist formerly known as the Friuli. It is the first step in a project that has one goal — to get Juventus back to the top in Serie A as well as back to being competitive in Europe and end the streak of early exits in the knockout rounds. But to get to that point, some of the ills of last season will have to go by the wayside even though this squad looks so much like the one Andrea Pirlo had outside of a few players who have come and a couple others who have left.
Now, it goes without saying that this is the kind of game that gave Juve fits last season. Not because the opposition is very good — and to expect Udinese to be anywhere close to good this season might be a stretch considering they just sold their best player (Rodrigo De Paul) and their very talented starting goalkeeper (Juan Muso) this summer — but due to the fact that this is the kind of match where Juve dropped so many damn points last season. Chalk it up to the first-year manager or just simple ineffectiveness from the players that were on the field, but
I don’t need to go any further on that. We all know what happened.
But part of the reason why Allegri is back is because he is so adept at getting this club through these kinds of matches where Juve are the clear favorite regardless of the fact that they’re playing away from home.
The only thing that makes this bigger than some of those games is the fact that it’s the season opener and it’s Allegri’s official return to the Juventus bench. Other than that, you look at Juventus and you look at Udinese, and it’s one team that wants to challenge for the Serie A title and the other one looking to not get relegated after seeing more talent leave than arrive this summer.
No matter what we’ve seen from this Juventus team over the last couple of weeks in friendlies — and it’s been encouraging ever since the 3-0 loss to Barcelona in Spain — we’re about to find out the first step in Allegri 2.0 and what it all means. Juventus’ transfer business is likely done, so this is the squad that Allegri has to work with for the 2021-22 season. Just how far he can take them won’t be determined during the first weekend of the season, but a good start has never hurt anybody.
And especially knowing just what kind of season Juve’s coming off, a win over a mid- or lower-table team would definitely be a nice way to begin the second stint with Max.
- Juventus will be wearing a new suit provider this season. Welcome, Loro Piana.
- MANUEL LOCATELLI!!!!!!!!
- Locatelli has been called up despite only having a couple of training sessions with his new Juventus teammates.
- Same goes for Kaio Jorge, who also has a limited number of training sessions with the first team after coming out of quarantine earlier this week.
- Adrien Rabiot is unavailable due to injury.
- Arthur is unavailable due to injury.
- Weston McKennie is unavailable to suspension due to his yellow card accumulation carrying over from the end of last season. (He picked up a yellow in Juve’s 2020-21 season finale, therefore will serve his suspension during Sunday’s 2021-22 season opener.)
- Everybody else should be available for selection come Sunday night.
- Yes, even Daniele Rugani and Mattia De Sciglio. They are here to stay in all likelihood and we should get used to that with less than two weeks to go before the summer transfer window officially closes.
- Here is the full squad list called up for the trip to Udine:
⚪️⚫️ ⚪️⚫️#UdineseJuve #FinoAllaFine #ForzaJuve pic.twitter.com/tLfzJ5cqT0— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) August 21, 2021
- A sign that Max Allegri is in midseason form with his pre-match press conference quotes: “Dybala will be the captain tomorrow, if he plays.” IF, MAX? I think we both know Dybala is going to be playing from the opening whistle. You sneaky devil.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Let’s start things out with a bang, shall we?
NO, DAMMIT, NO. WHO DID THAT? WHO ALLOWED THIS TO HAPPEN?
/looks at self/
Well, crap. This isn’t good, is it?
Here we are in the first weekend of the 2021-22 Serie A season. There are so many ways we can go with this pick. We could take Juve’s big Dutch baby boy and his fancy new buzz cut. We could go with the extremely-in-shape and Akita-loving Paulo Dybala. Or maybe Danilo and his new jersey number.
But, no. With injuries in the midfield, Weston McKennie suspended and Manuel Locatelli still just a couple of days into his new Juventus adventure, there’s really only one option to play as a makeshift regista. And it just so happens to be the guy that Max Allegri has been experimenting with over the last couple of friendlies this summer.
So, Aaron Ramsey. As a regista. On the first day of the new season. You know you wanted it.
(And when I say “wanted it,” I probably mean the exact opposite of that.)
Can’t say I had that in the thought process when Allegri started preseason training a few weeks back. But, then again, so much of this midfield has made little to no sense over the last couple of years that Ramsey playing as the holding midfielder in front of the defense rather than, say, being on the roster of some random mid-table Premier League club like the one he left to come to Juventus is just another chapter in this strange, strange book.
Yet here we are.
Allegri’s midfield options are rather limited right now, so you can’t exactly find fault in him going with Ramsey in the starting lineup simply because there’s not really much out there to choose from. And if he’s intent on having Ramsey be an option behind Locatelli as the deep-lying playmaker, then there’s only one way for him to become familiar with it.
It’s not ideal or anything close to it. But with so many other midfielders unavailable and Locatelli just now joining up with his new team, Allegri has to adjust a little bit. And that first major adjustment is to continue the Ramsey regista experiment.
Exciting, isn’t it? (Don’t answer that.)
When: Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021
Where: Dacia Arena, Udine, Italy
Official kickoff time: 6:30 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 5:30 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time; 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: CBS Sports Network (United States); CBS Sports Network, TLN (Canada); BT Sport 1 (United Kingdom)
Online/mobile: Paramount+ (United States); BTSport.com, BT Sport app (United Kingdom); 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.