With the Champions League now something we talk about in the past tense when it comes to the 2022-23 season, all attention — at least until the Europa League gets going — has turned toward the domestic part of Juventus’ schedule.
Between this weekend and the World Cup break, there are four Serie A fixtures that remain for Max Allegri and company, with two of those being very important matchups against two clubs that are currently ahead of Juve in the standings.
One of those teams very much not ahead of Juve in the standings is the team they will be facing this Saturday.
Juventus head to Southern Italy to face a Lecce side that is very much not having anything close to the amount of success they had when they won the Serie B title a year ago. However, it’s not like Juve are firing on all cylinders — or anything close to it — as we head into the final stretch before everybody either goes to Qatar for the World Cup or a sunny beach for a vacation and then back to Turin for training. The elimination from the Champions League is still very much hanging over Juventus — and will likely be the case for the coming weeks as we wonder just what direction this season will go prior to the World Cup break next month.
During his pre-match press conference on Friday, Allegri made things pretty clear that the focus goes to Serie A now — which, considering how things have gone in Europe this season, is pretty much the only thing left to have any sort of serious competition riding on it. (Let’s be honest, are you getting excited about the Europa League or the Coppa Italia? Is it something you’re going to live and die with like you did when it came to the Champions League?)
It’s a total guess as to what kind of shape Juventus will be in when they step onto the field of the Stadio Comunale Via del Mare on Saturday. They might be the team that shows they’re about to take some anger out on a Lecce side that enters the weekend all of two points out of the relegation zone. Or, just as we saw against Monza and others, they might be a team that is just as flat, just as out of sorts as they’ve been for much of the 2022-23 season.
Plus, you know, there’s so many players out injured. SO, SO MANY.
For much of this season we’ve seen a Juventus side that has disappointed and played about as poorly as we’ve seen them play in years. It’s not been pretty, it’s not been enjoyable and it’s most certainly not been something that you would want to see much more of regardless of what Juventus’ front office says about the manager’s future at the club.
But, the worst thing of it all is that some of Juve’s worst performances have come against those kinds of opponents like they’re about to face on Saturday. You don’t have to take long to figure out how many wins Lecce has to its name this season. Same was the case with Monza, same is the case with Sampdoria, Fiorentina and Salernitana, too.
Basically, playing against provincial sides has been a chore this season — and a lot of it is basically up to Juventus’ own doing, which doesn’t exactly bode well for this weekend.
- The four long-term injuries remain the four long-term injuries: Federico Chiesa, Paul Pogba, Marley Aké and Kaio Jorge.
- Max Allegri was very honest about when we won’t be seeing Chiesa and Pogba over the next few weeks. “Chiesa and Pogba are not in (Saturday’s) squad. They will not be present against PSG and most likely not even against Inter. We will evaluate thereafter for our subsequent games,” he said.
- Angel Di Maria is out injured.
- Bremer is out injured.
- Leandro Paredes is out injured.
- Mattia De Sciglio is out injured.
- Dusan Vlahovic has also not been called up due to an adductor injury.
- Manuel Locatelli has not been called up due to personal reasons, according to Allegri.
- That is a grand total of 10 players (!!) not called up for their respective reasons this weekend. That is just absolutely insane that nearly half the roster is out.
- Allegri said he still has to decide “whether or not to play Nicolò Fagioli and/or Fabio Miretti tomorrow.” Yes, he said “and,” people.
- Don’t worry — Samuel Iling-Junior has been included in the traveling squad to Lecce.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Let’s talk about one of the kids. (It only makes sense with all of the injuries, right? There aren’t very many other options for Allegri to fall back on after all ...)
There are four midfielders available to Allegri for Saturday’s game. When it comes to those who you actually want to see out there, I’m guessing that Fabio Miretti (and Nicolo Fagioli) is at the top of that list. No offense to Adrien Rabiot and Weston McKennie, but Miretti getting more playing time with how the season is playing out is most certainly a thing to hope for even though it doesn’t exactly seem like the most likely scenario.
But in this game, Miretti is very much in line for his first start since the international break — which, based on how Juve’s done over this stretch, seems like months ago and not just a few short weeks.
The most interesting thing is that in the lead-up to Saturday’s game La Gazzetta dello Sport is predicting Allegri will use a 4-4-1-1 with Miretti playing as a No. 10 behind Arek Milik. Knowing Miretti’s skillset and his desire to very much push forward and get into the attack, seeing him potentially play in a more advanced role is a very interesting thought.
(So is Fagioli actually playing from the start, but that seems a little less of a certainty.)
With so many players out injured, we know Allegri is going to have to get creative with his starting lineup. He’s got two healthy natural fullbacks, he’s got two strikers, he’s got a hodgepodge of options that will look fairly different than what he rolled out against Benfica during Tuesday night’s Champions League ouster.
Miretti should (and probably has to) be one of those coming into the starting lineup. And no matter where he actually plays in the midfield, seeing him get an extended run of minutes is something that I will never complain about here.
When: Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.
Where: Stadio Comunale Via del Mare, Lecce, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 6 p.m. local time in Italy and around Europe, 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 12 p.m. Eastern time, 9 a.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: BT Sport 2 (United Kingdom).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+ (United States); fuboTV Canada (Canada); BT Sport app, BTSport.com (United Kingdom); DAZN, 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.