Going into last Monday night’s season opener, I spent a lot of my time discussing just how important it was for Juventus to start the new campaign in about as opposite of fashion as it they did a year ago. No self-inflicted errors that led to dropped points, no uninspiring play that allowed a mid-table team at best the chance to score an upset win — that type of stuff.
Based on Juve’s 3-0 win over Sassuolo at Allianz Stadium, we’ve at least reached the point where the start of the season won’t be a total failure no matter what happens the next couple of weeks.
Of course, when your team wins 3-0 right out of the chute, you want to see more of it. But since this is Juventus and the manager is a man named Max Allegri, what you get one week won’t necessarily be what you get the next. There were good signs coming out of the season-opening win over Sassuolo, but it was also against a Sassuolo side that very much a different team than it was when they beat Juventus at Allianz Stadium last season.
So what’s next?
Juventus, for the second time in as many games to begin the 2022-23 season, will play a very winnable game against a not-very-good opponent on a Monday night. This time, the opponent is Sampdoria, a team that managed all of one shot on target in its 2-0 season-opening loss to Atalanta last weekend at the Luigi Ferraris. That might not necessarily be the same kind of way that Sassuolo went into its matchup against Juventus after its embarrassing exit in the first round of the Coppa Italia just days before the trip to Turin, but it’s far from much of a positive way to open the 2022-23 campaign.
Thankfully, unlike last season, we’re not talking about Juventus the same way.
The problem is that Juventus is going to be without another key player or two in the second week of the season, which is more than we said entering the first week of the season.
Angel Di Maria is most definitely out due to the groin injury he aggravated against Sassuolo. That is already on top of Paul Pogba being out injured due to his ongoing meniscus issue that still has a few weeks to go of recovery. Leonardo Bonucci is also set to miss the trip to the Ferraris because of an injury he picked up coming out of the season-opening win.
So, to say Juve’s at full strength or anything close to it is pretty much just an extension from what the squad dealt with last week. Although, now with Di Maria out, arguably Juve’s best player from the season-opening win is going to be watching from back in Turin, too.
This is where Allegri will be tested once again to come up with something that has Juventus in position to try and beat a team everybody expects them to beat. With Sampdoria coming off a very poor showing in its season opener, it’s a case of Juve again getting their opponent at a good time. And that will hopefully translate into the chance to secure three more points.
Getting two wins out of the first two fixtures of the new season would be quite the opposite start of the 2021-22 campaign, one that didn’t see Juve surpass six points until the sixth match of the season. (Ironically, against this same Sampdoria side that they will face Monday night.)
I don’t need to explain what kind of situation that would create since we know what last season was like and how the poor start pretty much set the stage for everything else that happened.
But I do know this: Juventus sitting at the top of the table after two games is a whole lot better than seeing them hanging out around the relegation zone no matter how long it lasted.
Let’s run down the Juventus injury list, shall we?
- Federico Chiesa is out.
- Kaio Jorge, like Chiesa, is Juve’s other long-term injury.
- Paul Pogba is out with his meniscus injury, although there’s growing optimism that he could return to training at some point within the next week.
- Wojciech Szczesny is still out with a muscle injury. Good thing Mattia Perin is around.
- Angel Di Maria is likely out for the next couple of weeks after he had to be subbed off in the second half of Monday night’s season opener with a groin injury.
- Leonardo Bonucci will not play against Sampdoria because of muscle fatigue he suffered during the season opener against Sassuolo. He will, however, travel with the team to Genoa.
Here are some other nuggets from Allegri’s pre-match press conference:
- Adrien Rabiot, fresh of his proposed move to Manchester United collapsing, will play, according to Allegri.
- With Bonucci out, Allegri said one of Daniele Rugani or Federico Gatti will get the start in the center of Juventus’ defense alongside Bremer.
- Summer signing Filip Kostic “should play from the beginning,” according to Allegri. Kostic’s ability to pass the ball — and the way in which he does it — has given Allegri memories of when he was coaching Douglas Costa during his first stint at Juve.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Because of injuries, this suddenly becomes a place where we can take things in multiple different directions. I guess I could say that about pretty much every time I take to this section and decide who I want to spotlight. But with some of Juve’s most important players not called up due to injury, it’s only natural to pick one of the guys who will be standing in.
Because of the little bit of uncertainty as to who is going to be starting alongside Bremer in the center of defense — La Gazzetta dello Sport says it’s 60/40 in favor of Federico Gatti, while others think Daniele Rugani will start — we’re going to go with somebody who seems a little more certain to start.
Hello, Filip Kostic.
Kostic got his feet wet and got his Juventus debut out of the way during the second half against Sassuolo. Now, with Di Maria out injured for the next week or two, things are pretty easy to figure out in attack if Allegri is to keep the 4-3-3 that he used after the 4-4-2’s ineffectiveness prior to the cooling break last Monday night.
Kostic on the left. Juan Cuadrado on the right. Dusan Vlahovic in the middle.
The obvious thing that gets you excited about Kostic playing is the fact that he is going to be sending cross after cross into his fellow Serbian in Vlahovic. We got a little piece of that in Kostic’s second-half appearance against Sassuolo, with the 29-year-old winger quickly racking up a team-high total in crosses and wasting little time in showing what he’s all about.
Now we get to see Kostic from the start. So if you think he did a lot of crossing in about half an hour of game time in his first Juve appearance, I’m guessing it will be more of the same — and then some — in his first Juve start.
This is why Kostic was signed — because he can provide so much service and be such a threat on the left wing. As much as Allegri might ask him to defense, his No. 1 priority is always going to attack because that’s simply how he thinks. He was to push forward, he wants to create scoring opportunities for himself and, maybe more importantly, his teammates.
And you know the first time that a Kostic cross finds Vlahovic and results in a goal, the feels are gonna be massive. Hopefully they don’t take long to make that happen.
When: Monday, Aug. 22, 2022.
Where: Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa, 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).
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.