Juventus has not lost a game in regular time in 2022. On the face of it all, that’s a good thing and we should be happy that they’ve done more winning than losing. The problem is, of course, that things are not anywhere close to good right now even though Juve’s last Serie A loss came back in November.
So it’s a good thing that a team that hasn’t won since the middle of December is coming up next on the schedule, right?
Ah, crap. It’s a team that’s already beaten Juventus this season.
Not to say Juve’s currently in the same state as it was when Empoli rolled into Allianz Stadium and delivered a massive body blow to Max Allegri’s tough season-opening stretch back in late August. Now, at the end of February, Juve faces a struggling Empoli side, but do it with injured players up and down the roster and an overall product that is far from something that is inspiring confidence no matter how long Juve’s unbeaten run in Serie A may be. (Just for the record, it’s at 12 games and hopefully still counting after this weekend.)
But as we watch the three teams in front of Juventus in the standings as well as the team immediately behind them in fifth place all suddenly drop points at the same time, the fact that Allegri’s squad has also done that in recent weeks has made things all the more frustrating. Juventus could have, at the very least, extended the advantage over Atalanta in the race for fourth place, which currently stands at three points.
Empoli is, form-wise, one of Serie A’s least in-form sides. Technically, if you want to go by points earned over the last six games, they’re the worst team in Italy’s top flight. They’ve earned just three points in their last six games, and Empoli’s last win in Serie A came in a 1-0 upset win over Napoli on Dec. 12. Since a wild 4-3 win over Hellas Verona in the Coppa Italia a couple of days later, it’s been nothing but bad news for Empoli, which has slid all the way down to 12th place because of its struggles over the last 2 1⁄2 months.
During his pre-match press conference, Allegri again declared that Juve’s trip to Tuscany — the first of two they will make in the span of five days — is very much the must-win kind of situation that we clearly know it is. It would be that way if Juventus was looking at any other opponent in Serie A. That’s just what the current situation dictates — win and you can say that your lead over Atalanta stays the same at the very minimum. And now there’s the added bonus of knowing that both AC Milan and Inter Milan both dropped points on Friday night, which could make the Scudetto race even the more interesting if Juve, meh overall product and all, can get within seven points of the league leaders.
Fact is, Juventus’ matchup against Empoli this weekend begins a season-closing stretch where the schedule is rather friendly. and there’s certainly a chance to begin to strengthen the hold on fourth place that they currently have. That’s the bare minimum these days, right? I don’t really know what else there is because the last few weeks have seen us go from relatively optimistic to watch Juve try and grind through 89-plus minutes after scoring in just 33 seconds.
- Juventus has so many injuries right now, you guys.
- Remember when I wrote earlier in the week that Juventus could very well be without as many as eight players due to injury when they face Empoli this weekend? Well, all eight of those players are out against Empoli. Good times.
- Those players are: Paulo Dybala, Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele Rugani, Alex Sandro, Weston McKennie, Federico Bernardeschi, Federico Chiesa and Kaio Jorge. That’s all eight of ‘em.
- Because of all of the absences, Fabio Miretti, Matias Soulé and Marley Aké have all been called up from the Under-23 team.
- The very limited options are as follows:
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- Allegri said at his pre-match press conference that Dybala “might” be available for Juventus’ Coppa Italia tie against Fiorentina midweek. Let me repeat the caveat: “might” be available. That is far from a guarantee.
- Allegri also said that Moise Kean “could start” against Empoli, which would mean one of Dusan Vlahovic or Alvaro Morata would get a much-needed day of rest after logging some heavy amounts of minutes over the last couple of weeks.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Max Allegri says Moise Kean might start against Empoli.
That’s the crack in a potential open door that I need, folks.
Even with Dybala out injured again, Kean is clearly not a first-choice player right now. That may or may not be a good thing depending on how you look at it considering Juventus are tied to Kean for at least one more season of his two-year loan deal.
And it’s pretty safe to say that his return season to Juventus has been a rather disappointing one considering what he did while on loan at Paris Saint-Germain last year.
What these injuries to key players has done is create a potential opportunity for Kean. Like, actually give him a chance to get some sort of consistent playing time and try to close out his 2021-22 season on something resembling a high note. What that entails remains to be seen, but the very fact that Allegri has publicly stated that Kean could play is something we haven’t heard a lot of this season.
If it comes in this 4-3-3 formation that Allegri has used in recent weeks since Vlahovic’s arrival, then it would potentially put him in the same kind of role that Kean played during his time in Paris last season. While a small sample size, it’s been that left winger-ish type of position that has seen the best of Kean this season.
That would be nice considering Juventus’ attack still very much is not anything close to firing on something we would consider full cylinders. Or even scoring more than a goal or two a game. Just score goals, please, Juventus.
When: Sunday, Feb. 26, 2022.
Where: Stadio Carlo Castellani, Empoli, 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).
Streaming: 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.