As big match after big match came and went in the first month of 2022, there was always one that we knew we had to wait on. Juventus played Napoli, played Roma, played AC Milan and even played Inter Milan in the Supercoppa, but it was the return Serie A fixture against that same Nerazzurri side that wasn’t going to be next up on the schedule for months.
No matter if it was for a Champions League place or something bigger, the reigning champions coming to Turin to face the former champions nine times over was always going to have a little extra bite knowing what time of the year it was going to take place.
There are eight Serie A rounds left to play. (Unless you’re like Inter and have a game in hand, of course.) The first of those final eight rounds is arguably the biggest game Juventus has left on the schedule — Sunday night’s Derby d’Italia against arch-rival Inter. Juve still has yet to lose in Serie A since the new year started, but it’s been just about the opposite kind of situation for Inter as they’ve tumbled from hanging out at the top of the table to now being all of one point front of Juventus.
That’s right, folks.
If Juventus gets a win in front of a sold-out crowd at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday night, they will be two points clear of Inter and all alone in third place.
Not exactly something we thought about when Juventus was tripping over themselves over and over again during the first month of the season or dropping points right and left through October and November.
The on-field product may not be anything to brag about, but Juventus’ unbeaten streak in Serie A is nothing to scoff at. Juve’s won four straight while seeing their unbeaten run reach 16 games — something that has allowed them to both get closer to Inter as well as solidified their standing in fourth place as Atalanta has also dropped points lately. (Something about teams who wear black and black, I guess.)
Inter’s 2022 has been just about the opposite of Juventus’ in terms of wins and losses. Of the 10 league fixtures that Inter has played, they’ve failed to win seven of them. They haven’t just tumbled out of the lead, but one or two more losses and they can kiss their hopes of winning back-to-back Scudetti completely goodbye. Their title hopes, whatever they may be at this point with how they’ve played the first three months of 2022, are growing smaller and smaller with every loss or draw. And because of it, the heat has suddenly been turned up on first-year manager Simone Inzaghi to get things turned around and turned around in a hurry.
As you might expect, Max Allegri has continued to say that Juventus aren’t in any kind of title race despite just being one point behind Inter entering Sunday night’s game. That might be the right play considering fourth place has always been the main objective since the start of the season, but there’s still the chance to make it at least a little interesting with a win over Inter this weekend.
The overall matchup of one team struggling and another team not playing all that well yet continuing to get points is quite the challenging one to try and predict. But if there ever was a time for Inter to get got, it’s this one while they’re very much a wobbling squad that has not played well at all for a large portion of their season.
And now that Juve is as healthy as they’ve been in weeks, maybe this is the time to try and put something together for the final stretch of the 2021-22 season.
- Paulo Dybala will start, Max Allegri announced at his pre-match press conference on Saturday.
- Juventus still has its three long-term injury absences: Federico Chiesa, Weston McKennie and Kaio Jorge. While Kaio Jorge is sporting a giant knee brace as he hangs with horses in Brazil, we learned Friday that McKennie is shooting for a return to action — be it actually in games or full-time training with the squad — at some point in late April.
- Luca Pellegrini is suspended after picking up a yellow card against Salernitana before the international break.
- That’s it for Juventus players who are out. That’s, what, the first time in what feels like two or three months that you can count the number of Juve players who are out on one hand.
- Back in the fold again: Denis Zakaria. This is a good thing.
- Also back is Leonardo Bonucci, who has missed the last few weeks due to a muscle injury. Allegri said at his pre-match press conference that Bonucci will be on the bench, which means it will likely be Giorgio Chiellini and Matthijs de Ligt starting in the center of defense Sunday night.
- Former Juve striker Carlos Tevez will be in the stands for Sunday night’s match.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
I mean, it’s pretty obvious, right?
Yeah, it’s pretty obvious.
We are now into the final two months of seeing that wonderful smiling face in a Juventus jersey. This will be the first game since it all went down and it officially became known that Dybala was not going to have his contract extended by the Juventus front office, thus clearing the way for him to leave as a free agent. And it just so happens that this first game since the contract dispute reached the end of the road is against the club that Dybala has been linked to the most over the last two weeks (and months).
This was obvious.
So freakin’ obvious.
As of this writing, the scuttlebutt in the Italian press is that Allegri will roll out a 4-2-3-1 with Dybala playing in the hole while being flanked by Alvaro Morata and Juan Cuadrado. It would be the first time in months that Allegri will have used a 4-2-3-1 from the start, and it will take on a different dynamic with Dusan Vlahovic leading the line. That has plenty of potential, but it’s an attacking trio that we haven’t seen much of — especially in this 4-2-3-1 formation — since Vlahovic arrived at the end of January.
It’s quite the interesting twist to Dybala’s final two months as a Juventus player that he will potentially be playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation again. And knowing that Juve won’t be playing those stretches of three games in eight or nine days very often from here on out, it will be interesting to see if he can stay healthy for a large portion of the final stretch of the season and try to go out on a high note.
That’s obviously something we’re all interested to see. You know, just how Dybala will play knowing full well he’s not going to be around in a couple of months and could very well be playing for Juventus’ biggest rival next season. Not that he’s not a professional, but he’s been known to wear his emotions on his sleeve — something we saw earlier this season when things truly started to turn for the worse on the contract extension front.
We’re about to find out what kind of mood an actual decision regarding his future will mean for the present. And it will happen in one of the biggest games of the domestic season.
When: Sunday, April 3, 2022.
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy and around 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: CBS Sports Network (United States); BT Sport 1 (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.