Ah, the Derby della Mole.
It’s always an interesting time when Juventus meet their cousins from across town. The run-up to the game with Torino is always hyped to high heaven, like you do for local derbies. But over the last half decade or so, the games themselves have always followed one of two patterns:
- Juve run train on Torino and the game is over by the 55th minute, or ...
- The game devolves into an intense and physical stalemate, sometimes with Torino nicking a goal, only for Juve to pull a goal or two of their own out of absolutely within the game’s dying minutes to preserve some kind of result.
The latter of those two scenarios has produced some of the club’s most memorable moments of the last decade. The first in the line came in 2014, with Andrea Pirlo’s screamer in the rain with four seconds left in stoppage time (which spawned one of Juve’s best social media videos ever). The very next year saw Juan Cuadrado score what I will forever refer to as the Miracle Ass Goal, which triggered the epic 2015-16 comeback.
And those were just the first two. Since Torino were promoted back to Serie A in 2012, Juve have scored a goal to either beat or tie Torino in the 84th minute or later — and more often than not has been much, much later — six times, the most recent coming this past October when Manuel Locatelli announced his presence in the team with a goal in the 86th minute to give Juve a 1-0 victory.
If one were to hazard a guess as to how Friday’s edition of the Derby della Mole would turn out, I’d probably say that Option 2 was the more likely. Apart from the fact that Juventus haven’t been playing the kind of football that would make think a demolition Derby is likely, Torino have gradually begun to morph into the kind of team Hellas Verona was under manager Ivan Juric — nasty, physical, and a real pain in the rear to play against.
That’s not to say they haven’t had their lapses. Apart from Locatelli’s late strike to win the Derby, Torino have lost in stoppages twice this year, including two weeks ago when they completely melted down and gave up two goals in added time against Udinese. They’ve also contrived ways to lose to Spezia and Venezia this year.
But Juric has managed to make this team into a compact, well disciplined unit in a relatively short amount of time. They’re a team that can give any of the big teams fits, and they’ll get a huge boost on Friday with the return of Andrea Belotti, who played his first game since October on Saturday after dealing with multiple muscle injuries. Juric has confirmed that he’ll start, but just how long he’ll last is hard to tell.
Winning this game is important on a number of levels. For one thing, it’s never a bad thing to go into a Champions League tie, as Juve will on Tuesday, with a head of steam. Then there’s Atalanta, who are coming off a hard-fought 2-1 comeback win against Olympiakos in the Europa League on Thursday and staring at a potentially tricky game against Fiorentina on Sunday. If they stumble, Juve could begin to pull away in the standings. With the race for the top four incredibly tight, every game is magnified, and every result is necessary.
Hopefully, if it comes, we won’t have to wait quite so long for it.
- Massimiliano Allegri announced in his pre-match press conference that Leonardo Bonucci will miss the game after suffering a relapse of the muscle injury that kept him out before the international break. With Giorgio Chiellini also still out until at least March, it leaves Matthijs De Ligt and Daniele Rugani as the only two healthy center-backs on the team.
- The option of inserting Danilo into the middle isn’t available in this one. He crossed the suspension threshold when he was booked on Sunday, so he’ll be in the stands for this one. Allegri confirmed that Juan Cuadrado would play at right-back.
- The wait for Federico Bernardeschi’s return continues, as Allegri confirmed that he is still dealing with his adductor strain.
- Allegri intimated that Moise Kean could get a start in place of one of the attacking trio of Alvaro Morata, Paulo Dybala, and Dusan Vlahovic.
- Allegri also mentioned facing a pair of choices in midfield, the first between Weston McKennie and Denis Zakaria and the second between Manuel Locatelli and Arthur.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
This might be cheating. If it is, sue me.
Dusan Vlahovic will obviously be under scrutiny for the rest of the year whenever he steps on the pitch, given how much money Juventus paid for him and how his departure from Fiorentina played out. But going into his first Derby della Mole, Vlahovic has the opportunity to join in something of a team tradition.
Juve’s last two big-money forward signings, Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo, both scored on their debuts in the Derby della Mole. Higuain scored a brace in a 3-1 win in 2016, while in 2018 Ronaldo buried a penalty for the game’s only score.
After everything that’s revolved around him the last three weeks, Vlahovic now needs to turn into Juve’s big game guy, especially considering the fact that the incumbent big game guy, Federico Chiesa, won’t be playing again until August or September. A Derby always qualifies as a big game, and Vlahovic will now attempt to stamp his mark on one of the team’s biggest fixtures, as well as keep them fighting for the Champions League spot they so desperately need.
When: Friday, Feb. 18, 2022.
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe, 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 2:45p.m. Eastern time, 11:45 a.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: CBS Sports Network (United States); BT Sport 2 (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.