When the January international break arrived, I feel safe in saying that we expected Juventus’ roster to look a lot like it did coming out of the break two weeks later. That’s because the January transfer window was still open at the start of the break, but has since closed with the start of February earlier this week.
That is what we thought.
That is not what we got.
For all of the silence from the first 20 or so days of January, the last week of 2022’s first month turned out to be quite a drastic shift from the norm when it comes to how Juventus operates during the winter transfer window. Because of the script being flipped, Juve returns to the field after the first international break of the calendar year with a very different kind of tone surrounding the squad.
For a lack of a better way to put it, things are looking up — at least on paper.
Now it’s time to see what this team can do on the field, with Juventus returning to action Sunday night when they host Hellas Verona at the Allianz Stadium. Dusan Vlahovic, the €80 million man who has arrived from Fiorentina, is expected to play from the opening whistle. Same goes for Denis Zakaria, the midfield engine that is hopefully another step in the process of remaking what has been a clear weakness of the club over the last three or four years. Those two gents, two of the most notable January signings in quite a few years, are being looked upon as the jolt that Juventus’ squad desperately needed as they try to get back into the top four.
The man tasked with working Vlahovic and Zakaria into the squad, Juve manager Max Allegri, definitely did not hide his excitement for the new arrivals.
“The arrival of Vlahovic and Zakaria has us fired up ...”
YEAH! WE’RE ALL FIRED UP!
But in typical Allegri fashion, he didn’t want to hype things too, too much.
“... which is fine as long as we don’t go over the top.”
Ah, Max. Never change. OK, maybe change a little bit now that you’ve got one of the best young strikers in Europe on your roster. That would probably be a welcome sight for a lot of us around here.
No matter how Allegri actually approaches this, it’s pretty clear that the club has given him the resources he needs to try and make up the ground on Atalanta and others and ensure that Champions League football is a guarantee for next season. With how much they’ve spent this January, finishing in the top four seems like the bare minimum. The Champions League Round of 16 is still to come later this month, as is a Coppa Italia quarterfinal date with Sassuolo in just a few days.
But first, it’s all about Hellas Verona.
Let us not forget that Juventus’ early-season struggles involved a disappointing-as-all-hell to Hellas Verona and former assistant coach Igor Tudor. It was that game where Juve fell behind 2-0 within the first 15 minutes to a Hellas squad that was one of the most in-form teams in all of Serie A, which came right as Gio Simeone was on the form of his life and scoring world-class goal after world-class goal. Hellas has come back down to earth a little bit over the last couple of months, but sit comfortably in ninth place and still have one of the highest-scoring squads in the league. (For the record, Hellas Verona has scored nine more goals than Juventus has this season, so there’s that.)
With the arrivals of Vlahovic and Zakaria, the hope is that situations like those don’t happen much at all over the next, say, four or five years at the very minimum. But because of things that took place earlier this season like the first time Juventus and Hellas Verona played one another, this is the deal right now.
Juventus, new signings and all, still has at least one more team to catch to be in the top four for more than just a few hours or a day or two.
A new era will start Sunday night. Just what happens next is anybody’s guess.
- Federico Chiesa is out for a long time and that makes all of us sad.
- Federico Bernardeschi is out injured after reporting muscle fatigue earlier in the week.
- Alex Sandro has tested negative for COVID-19 after his positive test while on international duty, according to Allegri. He will return to the squad next Monday.
- Manuel Locatelli is out due to yellow card accumulation.
- Leonardo Bonucci has just returned to training after suffering from a muscle injury that has kept him sidelined for the better part of 2022. He will not be called up to face Hellas Verona, according to Allegri.
- Mattia Perin has returned from COVID-19 quarantine after testing positive during the international break. Perin tested negative on Friday.
- Weston McKennie will start on the bench but be available despite just getting back to Turin on Saturday morning after travel issues back from the United States.
- Same goes for Juan Cuadrado, who also just got back to Italy from South America after international duty with Colombia.
- Allegri hinted at Danilo and Mattia De Sciglio being his two starting fullbacks against Hellas Verona during his pre-match press conference.
- “Arthur will play,” Allegri declared at his pre-match press conference.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
He’s one of the new guys.
And he’s here to score goals.
Sunday will be Dusan Vlahovic’s Juventus debut. I think it’s pretty certain at this point — no matter who coy Max Allegri tries to be his usual coy self about it — that the big Serbian striker will be the man to lead the line and try to begin his Juventus career on a high note.
It’s exciting, it really is.
This is a big-time debut for a big-time player, and it should be treated as such.
Juventus hasn’t had this much anticipation for a debut since Cristiano Ronaldo came to Turin 3 1⁄2 years ago. (Ironically, Ronaldo’s debut also came against a team from Verona, although one that currently doesn’t field a senior team.) And I think it’s safe to say that we’re all hoping that Vlahovic, who is still a baby at 22 years old, will be staying at Juventus a whole lot longer than Ronaldo did.
As much as Vlahovic himself is the player to watch against Hellas Verona, just what Allegri does with his big new Serbian toy and the rest of the Juve attack is just as intriguing. There’s so many different ways in which Allegri can go with the attack now that’s he’s got a genuine and consistent prima punta, and the match with Hellas Verona will give us the first clue.
If the reports are true that Allegri is thinking of an attacking trident of Vlahovic, Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata is some sort of 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2, then that right there makes you sit up in your seat a little bit more than when we knew Allegri would try to grind out 1-0 wins week after week.
I, personally, am looking forward to seeing what Juve’s new No. 7 will do. Maybe we’ll even get a goal from him on Sunday. That sure would be cool considering he’s scored so many goals already this season and what a goal right off the bat would do for his ability to settle in quickly.
When: Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022.
When: 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; 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time; 11:45 a.m. Pacific Time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TLN (Canada); BT Sport 1 (United Kingdom).
Online/mobile: Paramount+ (United States); fuboTV (Canada); 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.