Gone is the Serie A unbeaten run that spanned over the first three months of 2022. Gone is the slimmest of hopes that Juventus could make the Serie A title race a four-team run to the finish line. Gone is the chance to sit in third place ahead of Inter Milan (despite their game in hand) heading into this final stretch where the schedule is somewhat forgiving until the last couple of fixtures.
Now, with that gone, things become simple — don’t screw up fourth place.
Who knows, maybe Inter does screw up again and the chance to jump into third becomes a reality again rather than what it is right now. The way they have played for much of 2022 does give you some kind of hope that more fumbling of results is in the cards. But getting in contention for a third-place finish won’t be possible unless Juventus can finish the season’s seven remaining games on a strong note. The first one, a Saturday night trip to Sardinia to face a Cagliari side that is just three points outside of the relegation zone, comes after Juve did some good things — scoring a goal or two against Inter not being one of them — last weekend before ultimately seeing their 16-game Serie A unbeaten run come to an end.
Maybe it’s time for a new unbeaten run, I don’t know.
But what I do know is this: Juventus can’t afford to let the Inter loss linger because what now feels like a somewhat comfortable five-point lead over a suddenly resurgent Roma side can become anything but that if results don’t pick back up in a hurry.
Max Allegri emphasized two main points during his pre-match press conference: Juventus must be more efficient in front of goal (because duh), and Juventus must keep its focus knowing both what’s at stake now and just how little of the season is left. Those are two valid things to hone in on, especially when you consider that there’s a parallel between the two. We know that Juve’s inability to finish has cost them in some of the biggest games this season, with the most recent example of that coming less than a week ago.
Basically, this the soft kind of landing that Juventus suddenly needs after a tough loss like last Sunday night was. And, because it comes against a Cagliari team that is sitting in 17th place, hasn’t won since late February and is coming off a 5-1 loss to known Italian powerhouse Udinese. So, yeah, Juve’s next opponent is very much in a bad state on top of being in a relegation battle that will almost certainly go down to the last weekend of the 2021-22 season.
Which means, as you might have guessed, this is not the time to be dropping points.
Or, as Allegri put it: “We don’t want to go from being outsiders for the league title to having only a two-point advantage for the Champions League next season.”
For Juventus, there’s 21 points still out for the taking. If Allegri’s squad goes out and gets the vast majority of those, then a fourth-place finish will be the bare minimum of what happens come season’s end.
- The same long-term injuries are the same as they’ve been for weeks now: Federico Chiesa, Weston McKennie and Kaio Jorge.
- However, there is this: After McKennie mentioned that he is aiming for a late-April or early-May return to the field, Max Allegri essentially confirmed that during his pre-match press conference Friday. “It would be useful to have Weston McKennie back available before the end of the season,” said Allegri. “We’ll see how his recovery goes in a month or so.”
- Manuel Locatelli is also out injured after picking up a knee injury in the Derby d’Italia. He is expected to be out about a month.
- Alvaro Morata and Mattia De Sciglio are both suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
- Allegri said Leonardo Bonucci “is feeling a lot better,” but he has yet to decide if the veteran Italian defender will be in the starting lineup or start on the bench against Cagliari.
- With another lack of options in the center of the midfield, Fabio Miretti has been called up from the Under-23 team to provide some depth.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
No Locatelli for the next month means that the man how spins out of tackles with the ball at his feet with oh-so-tiny circles is set to be the creative source in Juve’s midfield.
What? You were expecting somebody else?
For much of the week, the predicted lineups from members of the Italian were thinking the 4-2-3-1 was going to stay and that would be that, with Denis Zakaria and Adrien Rabiot manning the double pivot. But there’s been a switch, with those same folks now thinking it will either be a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 used Saturday night.
The guy who’s come into those predicted lineups? Yep, it’s Arthur.
No matter if it’s a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 it will be a Talls & Smalls midfield. You can thank all three central midfielders and there height (or lack of it in Arthur’s case) for that visual gag.
But Arthur’s importance over the next month is very real. Whether it’s spectacular or not remains to be seen, but the diminutive Brazilian midfielder is now going to be expected to be the provider and main creative source in a midfield that, with Zakaria now back in the fold after being out injured, actually has some logical function to it. Juve now has the destroyer it’s been missing for weeks with Zakaria back, Rabiot can fill the box-to-box role quite well if he plays anything like he did against Inter last weekend and that leaves Arthur to do what a regista-y midfielder is supposed to do.
That’s not always gone well. He certainly hasn’t come close to impressing all that much in his two seasons with Juventus. And that might mean his fate is already sealed when it comes to what happens this summer.
For the immediate future, though, Juve need Arthur to be more good than bad because their best midfielder isn’t going to be back in the fold until the beginning of May.
When: Saturday, April 9, 2022.
Where: Sardegna Arena, Cagliari, 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: 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.