“Dead rubber” is one of my favorite terms in sports, up there with “duck snort,” (baseball) and “hospital pass” (various codes of football, in my case mostly American).
After the results of the last round mathematically sealed Juventus a top-four finish, their final three games fall firmly into the dead rubber category, at least for them. All three of their remaining opponents do indeed have things riding on these games, starting on Friday with Genoa.
Over the last 10 years, the Grifone have seriously flirted with relegation on a number of occasions. Indeed, over the last 10 seasons they’ve finished 17th six times. Two seasons ago they were in the drop zone as late as round 31 before pulling themselves out. The year before that they managed to arrest a late-season collapse and saved themselves on the last day of the campaign. In 2012, things got so dire that a group of ultras stopped a game at the Marassi, deeming them unworthy and demanding the team hand over their shirts.
This time, the ax may finally be coming for them. Genoa come into Friday’s match sitting in 19th place, four points away from safety with only three games to go. Ironically, the team sitting in the final place of safety at the moment, Salernitana, is currently being helmed by Davide Nicola, the man who masterminded their escape from the drop two years ago. If something doesn’t go right in the next three weeks, the club will finally be sucked into the abyss—an ignoble fate for a team that, if you can believe it, is still the fourth-winningest team in the history of the league, albeit not having won a title since 1923-24.
It is perhaps a break, then, that they will welcome a Juventus team to the Marassi that will be focused on keeping key players rested for Wednesday’s Coppa Italia final as opposed to one that needs a win to ensure their participation in the Champions League. Sure, winning this game will be nice to get into the final on a high note—and if I were Massimiliano Allegri I’d be interested in at least equaling Andrea Pirlo’s point total from last year so that that doesn’t become a Thing over the summer—but at the end of the day, for Juve this most important thing in this game is to not have any important players get hurt.
- The long-term injuries haven’t changed: Federico Chiesa, Weston McKennie and Kaio Jorge. A positive to come out of this week, though: McKennie has returned to the practice field, although not fully training with the group just yet.
- Manuel Locatelli, who himself may well be considered a long-term absentee at the moment, has also returned to partial training but it’s unknown whether he will be back for the Coppa Italia final or any of the two remaining league fixtures after Friday’s trip to Genoa.
- Max Allegri said at his pre-match press conference that Fabio Miretti will play against Genoa. When clearly frustrated with the reporters on hand asking him about Miretti, Allegri made things crystal clear: “DOMANI GIOCA!”
- Also from Allegri’s pre-match press conference:: Two of Juve’s most recent injuries, Juan Cuadrado and Mattia De Sciglio, will return to the squad for the trip to Genoa.
- Also from Allegri’s pre-match press conference: Luca Pellegrini will not travel with the team after picking up a knock in training earlier this week.
- Also from Allegri’s pre-match press conference; Danilo will be rested for Friday night’s game and will return to the squad when preparations for the Coppa italia final begin on Sunday.
- UPDATE: Juventus loanee Nicolo Rovella, who missed the first meeting between the two teams due to injury, has been called up to the Genoa squad for Friday night’s game after dealing with a muscle injury that kept him out since the beginning of April.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
You know where we’re going with this.
To be fair, the fact that Miretti was absent from the U23 team’s match against Pro Vercelli in the Serie C promotion playoffs on Wednesday (a 1-0 win, by the way!) was probably a giveaway that the plan was to use him in this match.
And he completely deserves another start after the day he had against Venezia on Sunday. He went into that match needing to help lead the midfield in a game his team needed to win so as not to let the teams chasing them for fourth get any ideas, and he 100 percent looked like he belonged. He co-led the team in key passes, had one of the better completion rates of anyone, and constantly looked to drive play forward and make things happen. Add in some excellent set piece deliveries, both of which led to Juve’s goals, and it was a banner day for the 18-year-old academy product.
Miretti’s fate beyond this season is far from certain. Max Allegri is not the kind of coach that gives a player so young a clear path into the squad—indeed, he often scrupulously avoids doing so, as exhibited by his strange insistence on playing Juan Cuadrado as a midfielder instead of letting Miretti loose a few weeks ago against Bologna—and it’s entirely possible that a loan is in the cards for him over the summer. But the future is bright for this kid, and his long-term development should be a priority for club.
When: Friday, May 6, 2022.
Where: Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Italy and around Europe, 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 3 p.m. Eastern time, 12 p.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: BT Sport 2 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Uno, Sky Sport 251, Sky Sport Calcio, Sky Sport 4K (Italy).
Streaming: Paramount+ (United States); BTSport.com, BT Sport app (United Kingdom); DAZN, SKY Go Italia, NOW TV (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.