We don’t have to look very far into the past to know just how important the start to a season is. As much as you try to tell yourself there’s 37, 36, 35 games to go and that things will straighten out with due time, there’s only so much you can do at the end of a season because of what you did at the beginning of the season.
Twelve months ago, Juventus started the 2021-22 season terribly. They were a mess. They made massive, game-altering mistakes and dropped points in games they shouldn’t have dropped points. Because of it, there was only so much they could shoot for in the final couple of months of said campaign, with a second straight fourth-place finish the end result.
Now as we sit here with the first weekend of Serie A being back in our lives nearly completed, there’s still one thing to see take place: Juventus trying not to repeat history — and recent history at that.
In about as rare of a day of the week as we’ve seen a team begin their season, Juve opens up their 2022-23 campaign on Monday night. It just so happens to come against an old bugaboo opponent in Sassuolo, which has had its own eventful summer but for very different reasons than that of Juventus. But for those for just about everybody outside of those amongst the traveling fans at Allianz Stadium, there is one very clear desire they will want to see take place: Juventus not do what it did when the season began with dropping of points against a team that finished the previous campaign comfortably mid-table.
This year it’s at home against Sassuolo, which finished 11th a year ago.
Last year’s season opener was against Udinese, which finished 13th the previous year.
Of course, this Sassuolo team will look a little different than the one that Juventus picked up a very bland 2-1 win against in Round 34 of last season at the Mapei Stadium.
Sassuolo — a squad that beat Juventus at the Allianz Stadium last season — has already sold its big prima punta, Gianluca Scamacca, to West Ham. Sassuolo’s other prized young asset in its forward line, Giacomo Raspadori, has been in advanced talks with Napoli over a move to Naples over the last week or two as Sassuolo continues to hold firm on how much money it wants for the talented 22-year-old striker. Even Domenico Berardi, who just took over the No. 10 jersey, doesn’t seem like a total lock to remain at the Mapei even though the list of clubs he could go to seems to be shrinking.
And then you have the simple fact that Sassuolo was just bounced from the opening round of the Coppa Italia earlier in the week.
So even with Sassuolo historically being one of those annoying-as-all-hell mid-table opponents that gives Juve fits, if there ever was a good time to get them when things aren’t exactly stable and filled with good vibes entering a new season.
Juventus, on top of a whole lot of other reasons, found out just how a rough start to the new campaign can impact things going forward last season, with five points through the first five fixtures making the chase to win back the Serie A title in Max Allegri’s first season back in Turin. Things were rough — both in terms of the clear transition the squad was in and just the overall product being put out there. With a new season brings new hope, but for this Juventus team it’s very much about not going into an early-season showdown with Roma in a couple of weeks in all kinds of flux.
Juventus aren’t full strength going into its season opener because injuries are just the ongoing reality that we have to deal with as we hit every turn of this long and winding road we go down every year. Juve’s best midfielder is out. Juve’s starting goalkeeper is out. Juve’s star winger is out and has been for the last seven months. There’s other issues within this squad as well, even as there appears to be some helping coming in the transfer market once some dominoes start to fall.
Juventus only gets one shot this season to begin things on the right foot. The Old Lady didn’t do that last season, and it proved to be the precursor to some not-great things. What’s in store for this season? Well, who knows what it will be like come February or March, but hopefully Juve’s start looks a lot different than it did in Udine a year ago.
- Federico Chiesa is out injured as he still works his way back from his ACL tear. As Allegri said before Juve’s U.S. tour, Chiesa is expected back in mid-September.
- Kaio Jorge is also a long-term injury carryover from last season. He’s not expected back until October at the earliest, but has been in Turin in recent weeks continuing his rehab.
- Paul Pogba is out injured with his much-talked about meniscus injury that he has chosen not to get surgery on.
- Wojciech Szczesny is, as you already know, also out injured and will miss the first two or three games of the 2022-23 season due to a thigh injury.
- Moise Kean and Adrien Rabiot are suspended. Yes, suspended for the season opener because of stuff that happened last season. Gotta love it.
- Weston McKennie was supposed to be out injured for the first couple of games of the season due to the shoulder injury he suffered right before Juve’s final friendly of the U.S. tour, but he has been back in training for much of the past week and is available for Monday night’s game, according to Allegri at his pre-match press conference.
- Only two of three between McKennie, Juan Cuadrado and newbie Filip Kostic will be in the starting lineup, according to Allegri.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Juventus has a couple of very noticeable absences because of injury.
But one of the big-name summer additions is still very much healthy. And he is the guy who, while we’re not totally sure where he’s going to play (most due to Allegri’s formation choice), is very much going to be looked upon to help get the Bianconeri’s attack back on track.
At the end of the season preview episode of The Old Lady Speaks, I called my shot: I think Angel Di Maria is going to lead Serie A in assists this season. Maybe that’s too wild of a prediction knowing what we know about the guy who manages Juventus and his desire to keep the clamps on his team most of the time. But my gut tells me Di Maria is going to have a damn good season and show us that he’s still got something left in the tank at age 34.
The thing that makes this certain game interesting is that what formation Allegri chooses to use seems to be depending on Juve’s most recent signing who would play on the opposite wing, Filip Kostic. If Allegri does decide to play Kostic, then there’s a chance we see a 3-5-2/3-5-1-1 or a 4-3-3. But if Kostic is on the bench, then it really is a guessing game in terms of where Di Maria will pop up.
That could be a good thing. That could be something that makes you nervous.
Either way, I am ready to see Di Maria officially start his Juventus career and go create scoring chances for himself, for Dusan Vlahovic and anybody else who would benefit from his crosses or getting inside from the wing.
Di Maria still very much has the class to make an impact at Juventus. This is his first step in showing just that.
When: Monday, Aug. 15, 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: BT Sport 1, BT Sport Ultimate (United Kingdom).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+ (United States); fuboTV Canada (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.