Under “normal” circumstances, Juventus’ first Champions League group stage game which just so happens to be against a team from Pot 4 would come with a decent amount of attention simply because of the competition it is taking part in.
These aren’t “normal” circumstances.
Or anything close to it — which is not fun to think about.
The Serie A standings don’t matter when it comes to the competition Juventus is about to play in, but the team’s form most definitely does. And as Juventus heads over to Sweden to face a Malmö club they have faced in the Champions League before when Max Allegri was manager — and, as you might remember, in those bright green Nike kits that we all loved so dearly — his squad is very much the walking wounded. Not so much because they’ve got a ton of injuries, though. It’s more due to the fact with just how this season has started for Juventus and how much of a mess they continue to be no matter who the opposition.
The good news:
- Juventus’ five South Americans are back.
- Federico Chiesa is back training and will be available.
The bad news:
- Everything else.
Yeah, things aren’t great. And it’s not like the Champions League is going to suddenly cure all of Juventus’ ills. It doesn’t matter if it’s Malmö or Chelsea first up on the schedule, Juve’s in an absolute funk to begin the season and these first three games that have actually counted in the Serie A standings haven’t exactly inspired a lot of confidence in where this club is heading in the immediate future.
Yes, it’s still early in the 2021-22 season — extremely early, in fact. But a new manager hasn’t solved the issues that this squad has — at least for now. Neither could Maurizio Sarri or Andrea Pirlo or else they might still be here. And because of the fact that Juve’s ills of the last couple of weeks (and months and years) have yet to be cured by Allegri, we’re seeing a Juventus that just continues to have the same problems, continues to drop points in the same kinds of ways and, most importantly, just doesn’t seem to have the same killer instinct that previous Juve teams when things were going very well have had.
So now, with the club that my think is going to finish bottom of Group H next up on the schedule, Juventus is going to attempt to do what they haven’t been able to do so far this season — win a damn game.
That certainly feels weird to be typing knowing that this game is being played on Sept. 14 and we’ve already seen one international break come and go this season. And as much as Napoli has started this season well, it’s not like Juve’s had a challenging strength of schedule during much of this opening stretch even though it’s not a long one.
But in Malmö, Juventus not only has the chance to actually win a game against a club they should beat far more often than not to begin with, but hopefully try and right some of the wrongs from the first few games of the 2021-22 season. Of course, that was the line of thinking after throwing away the win against Udinese — and it didn’t happen. That was then the thought process this past weekend even though Juve were so shorthanded — and that didn’t happen, either.
So now as Juventus heads to this lovely part of Sweden for the first time since Nike rolled out those highlighter green kits, just trying to do something right and getting a win for the first time this season is the main objective. Max Allegri said in his pre-match press conference on Monday that it’s a must-win game, so we will treat it as such.
Juventus need a win to start the Champions League off on a positive note. They need a win to end this winless run to start the season. And, maybe most important of all, Juve needs a win just to get some confidence going again because surely the first three games of the season has not done anything to help this team out at all.
- Federico Chiesa trained separate from the group and was subsequently not called up for the trip to Sweden. Clearly this injury is a little more troublesome than we first thought.
- Federico Bernardeschi also wasn’t called up for the trip to Sweden after picking up a knee injury in Juventus’ loss to Napoli over the weekend.
- As mentioned earlier, the one good news when it comes to the traveling squad list for Tuesday night’s game is that the five South Americans — Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado, Danilo, Alex Sandro and Rodrigo Bentancur — are all back in the squad.
- Max Allegri on Wojciech Szczesny: “He will play.”
- Leonardo Bonucci on Wojciech Szczesny: “Szczesny must stay calm and not give weight to criticism.”
- Allegri, at least at his pre-match press conference, was undecided as to whether Dejan Kulusevski will start against Malmö. That has caused the Italian media to speculate as to whether Allegri will use a 4-4-2 formation with Adrien Rabiot as a makeshift left winger.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
I really didn’t want to do this again so soon after the Udinese debacle.
And yet, here we are because it’s not just about the Udinese debacle anymore.
Max Allegri says Wojciech Szczesny is going to play Tuesday night, so here we go again.
As a Juventus fan for the last 20 years, goalkeeper controversies aren’t exactly what we do here. Because of who was the starter for much of those 20 years, your level of worry for 98 percent of the time Gigi Buffon was in goal was about the same level of worry when it comes to me ever running a quality time in the mile. You had the best in the world in between the sticks and that was the least of your problems.
Unfortunately, the goalkeeping GOAT is now playing in Serie B — and, by all accounts, absolutely loving it — and that backup plan from the last two seasons is a lot less reliable than it has been.
So as Allegri keeps the faith in Wojciech Szczesny, the obvious hope is that the mistakes we’ve seen from him in the 2021 calendar year — and especially to begin the 2021-22 season — don’t continue on a regular basis. The problem is, they’re becoming more and more prevalent and more and more of the game-changing nature — and they’re literally the biggest reason why Juventus didn’t win its season opener and then allowed Napoli to eventually win this past weekend.
The confidence in Szczesny, at least from the outside, is about as low as its been since he took over for Buffon three years ago. The thing was, his form did the talking back then and he was one of the reasons why Juve was winning games, not losing them. This time around, he has been one of the biggest reasons why Juve’s in the position that they are to begin the new season. And if those struggles continue, then I don’t even want to imagine what’s going to happen to a goalkeeper who’s clearly struggling with confidence and, as a result, his decision making and simple execution.
This is the long way in saying what La Gazzetta dello Sport said about Szczesny in Tuesday morning’s edition of their publication: “Basta errori!”
That would be nice. I like not worrying about Juventus’ goalkeeper and pretty much anything to do with it. I would sure like to go back to it — and I’m guessing I’m not the only one.
When: Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021
Where: Eleda Stadium, Malmö, Sweden
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Sweden and across Europe; 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 3 p.m. Eastern Time; 12 p.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: BT Sport ESPN (United Kingdom); Canale 5, Sky Sport Uno, Sky Sport 252 (Italy)
Online/mobile: Paramount+, TUDN.com, TUDN App, TUDNxtra (United States); DAZN (Canada); BTSport.com, BT Sport app (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia, NOW TV, Mediaset Infinity (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.