In the awfulness of the start to this season, Juventus’ Champions League form has been an all-time low. Until last month, Juve had never lost their first two Champions League group games. After dropping their opener at PSG before being humiliated by Benfica at home, Juve have made the kind of history that they very much don’t want, and now have their backs to the wall.
At this point, getting into the Champions League knockout stage is a fairly simple proposition for Juventus. They cannot lose any of their next three games, and the last of the three needs to be won BIG—away from home.
That’s certainly a daunting task, but as they say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And in Juve’s case, that step is a home game against Maccabi Haifa.
Maccabi is the one team in this group that Juventus has absolutely no business losing to. Of course, Juventus has seen a couple of teams so far that they’ve had no business losing to this year and managed to do just that. But we’re now at the point in the group stage where anything other than a victory leaves them completely, totally, and utterly screwed, so there has to be some sort of reaction.
Fortunately, the team comes into this game on the heels of Sunday’s 3-0 win over Bologna. While not a dominant game by any stretch of the imagination, Juve eventually won by limiting Bologna’s chances and being clinical enough with of their own. That’s not exactly what we were hoping to see after the moves the team made this year, but it’s what this squad currently has to rely on given the issues it’s had over the course of the year so far. Still, a win is a win, and after a month in which they did not experience such a sensation, the morale boost heading into this match is much-needed.
Maccabi will be far from easy pickings. They’ve shown so far in that they have no intention of just being whipping boys in this group. They played Benfica in their opener in Portugal, then actually took the lead at home against PSG before the Parisian side’s superior talent gradually ground them down. Even then, it took an 88th-minute goal by Neymar to put them away for good in a 3-1 game.
Maccabi are a team that likes to press high regardless of their opposition. High presses have been a particular problem for Juve over the last few years, so avoiding mistakes against the Israelis will be critical. If Juve can manage to avoid beating themselves, they should be strong enough to get their first points of the continental campaign and start their attempt at an improbable comeback.
- Federico Chiesa has returned to training, but is still unavailable for games. The best case scenario is that he returns to the bench in time for the game against Benfica.
- Paul Pogba and Kaio Jorge remain long-term absences.
- The biggest injury news involves Arkadiusz Milik. The Polish striker has been arguably Juve’s best player this year, but he missed training with muscle fatigue, and Massimiliano Allegri said in his pre-match press conference that he’ll be available off the bench—but that he hopes not to use him.
- Angel Di Maria will play after serving the first of his two-game league suspension over the weekend. Allegri singled him out for praise for his performance in training during the presser.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Di Maria’s presence in on Wednesday is going to present some interesting questions. Milik, of course, won’t be starting, but given the unlikely success of the striker’s partnership with Dusan Vlahovic, how to integrate the veteran Argentine into the squad is a bit of a poser.
But regardless of how he’s used, Di Maria has some making up to do. After a star turn in his competitive debut in the league opener, Di Maria has been unavailable through either injury or suspension for all but four games. The latter is particularly galling, because his boneheaded red card against Monza caused the team real harm.
After being signed to a €7 million deal in the summer, much more was expected than what he’s contributed so far. At his height, Di Maria can still dazzle. We all saw as much against Sassuolo in August. But for Juve to pull themselves out of the hole that they’ve dug themselves, Di Maria is going to have to be the contributor that the team paid for, and he’s going to have to start now.
When he’s been fit to start, Di Maria has often been given the freedom to roam the attacking third as he sees fit. This has caused a fair amount of havoc when he’s been on, although he hasn’t had enough time to fine-tune it with Vlahovic to the point where they know where each other is going. Expect him to start as the nominal right wing, with the freedom to take advantage of whatever space the Maccabi defense affords him, wherever he might find it.
After his last appearance, it’s time for Di Maria to start performing. Let’s get going.
When: Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022.
Where: Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Italy and around Europe, 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 3 p.m. Eastern time, 12 p.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: BT Sport 8 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Uno (Italy).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); BT Sport app, BTSport.com (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia, Mediaset Infinity (Italy).
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