The last time Sassuolo came to the Allianz Stadium, it wasn’t great.
The Neroverdi looked like the better team for much of the game, took the lead right before halftime, and, after Juve had managed to claw their way back thanks to a Weston McKennie equalizer, completely broke down deep into stoppages, allowing midfielder Maxime Lopez to bury them after a quick counterattack with the last kick of the game. It was the first of two games that Juventus should have won (on paper anyway) that ended in ignominious 2-1 defeats and triggered all sorts of talk about a team in crisis (which, at the time, they were).
Of course, things are a LOT different now as Juve heads into a rematch in the quarterfinal of the Coppa Italia. After the end of the January transfer window, Juve head into the game with a ton more firepower in attack and a more balanced midfield. They haven’t lost a league match since falling to Atalanta on November 27, and there’s an air of optimism about the team that hasn’t been there in quite some time.
Sassuolo is a different side as well. They’ve only won once in the league since December began, and their last match was a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Sampdoria—the team Juve destroyed in the last round of the Coppa even without the reinforcements of Dusan Vlahovic and Denis Zakaria. While still relatively safe from the drop zone, this is a side that is struggling.
The Coppa is always thought of as something of an afterthought, but wins are wins, trophies are trophies, and, perhaps most critical, momentum is momentum. Juve certainly shouldn’t be looking past this game to Sunday’s immense clash with Atalanta, but winning this one will keep the ball that started rolling last weekend against Hellas Verona rolling, and with Atalanta reeling and wounded, it just might be enough to push Juve over the top and firmly establish themselves in the top four.
The focus of this game should be all about taking control early and not letting Sassuolo hang around. With players like Gianluca Scamacca and Giacomo Raspadori in their forward line, keeping them in it can be a dangerous proposition. On Sunday, Hellas Verona weren’t able to take the chances they got before Juve finally put the game away after an hour, but they were also missing their top two strikers. Sassuolo will have both of theirs available, and at this stage of the competition may decide to go for broke and see if they can sneak into the semifinals. The very last thing Juve need going into the weekend is to have dealt with extra time before the trip to Bergamo. They need to be aggressive and put this game away early so they can indeed focus on what’s to come.
- Giorgio Chiellini is out until at least March with another calf problem.
- Federico Bernardeschi is out with an injury, but will return to the team Friday.
- Leonardo Bonucci will start, his first game back since injuring himself in training three weeks ago.
- As is customary, No. 2 keeper Mattia Perin will start in goal instead of Wojciech Szczesny.
- Massimiliano Allegri said in his pregame press conference that one of the attacking trio of Paulo Dybala, Dusan Vlahovic, and Alvaro Morata would rest at the beginning of this game. Given his track record when it comes to health this year, my money would be on Dybala getting the rest day, at least at the beginning.
- It’s likely one will actually get that rest, because Moise Kean is suspended, leaving Kaio Jorge as the only striker available to spell one of them.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Speaking of Kaio Jorge, Kean’s suspension will likely provide him with a major opportunity on Thursday.
Not a lot of people expected the young Brazilian to play a huge role this year. Even after gazzumping AC Milan to his signature over the summer, he was always considered more of a prospect than a true contributor this year. But just how little time he’s gotten has been a bit of a surprise. His debut was delayed until October 2 because of a muscle injury, but he’s only played more than 11 minutes twice. Once was in that loss to Sassuolo, when he played 27 minutes, and the other was when he came on for an injured Paulo Dybala in Juve’s 1-1 draw against Venezia. In the latter match he proved to be ineffective, and was eventually withdrawn again before the game was over.
The success or failure of Jorge as an investment certainly doesn’t hinge on this game, but if he manages to take a step forward with a good performance in this game it will go a long way toward making him a true piece of this team. Given Allegri’s comments about rotating the front players, it’s highly likely he starts, and if there’s ever a time for a player in his position to have a breakout game, this is it.
When: Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe, 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 3 p.m. Eastern Time, 12 p.m. Pacific Time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: Premier Sports 2 (United Kingdom); Canale 5 (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.