In classic Allegri 2.0 fashion, we sit here a few days removed from a terrible performance wondering where exactly this team is going. The thing is, though, that’s not necessarily normal for this time of the season considering Juventus has only played about 180 minutes of football so far. We’re not supposed to be totally worried about a bad performance so early in the season, yet here we are after the first two rounds of football with a giant question mark hanging over Juventus.
So, of course, what’s next up for Juve?
An early-season test of just where this team is at the moment.
Not only is Juventus going to be welcoming one of its biggest names over the last decade back to Allianz Stadium for the first time Saturday evening, Max Allegri’s squad is going to have to put out quite an improved performance over a Roma side that hasn’t exactly impressed so far this season but is definitely thinking big things. Paulo Dybala’s return to Turin since his high-profile breakup with the Old Lady will get a lot of the headlines — and was certainly a topic of discussion for both managers during their respective pre-match press conferences — but it’s Juventus’ showing to begin the work week that reminded so many people of what the biggest issues on this team really are and continue to be.
Will a big-game atmosphere at the Allianz be what snaps this team into focus?
Or will Allegri and the rest of his team — one that he says has “a great spirit” even with Monday night’s disappointing draw — watch their former No. 10 and his new club hand them their first loss of the season and only extend the frustration from those outside?
For Juventus, it’s very much a rebound opportunity. But it’s also a case of not knowing what kind of Juve is going to show up — especially knowing that they’re without their most important midfielder (Paul Pogba) and the guy who made so much good happen in the season opener against Sampdoria (Angel Di Maria).
Oh, and now there’s also this: With Lazio’s second-half thumping of Inter Milan to secure a 3-1 win at the Olimpico, Roma’s visit to Turin just became that much more important for Juventus. When one of the other top clubs in Serie A drop points, you know everybody else is thinking the same thing — things just got a little more important in terms of the next time you step onto the field.
Allegri, as one would expect, has been on the front foot when it comes to defending his team’s performance last time out. As much as he said that his team needs to be better than its opening 45 minutes at the Luigi Ferraris, Allegri didn’t hesitate in saying that the one thing missing from Monday’s performance was the goal that never arrived, and that a “good” performance only means so much if they don’t get the three points.
I think it’s safe to say that Juventus won’t be getting three points — or one — if they play anything close to the way the did against Sampdoria. While it’s true that Roma haven’t exactly been winning in impressive fashion, there’s still a much better feeling about their prospects at the moment as compared to Juventus.
And if Paulo Dybala ends up being a difference maker that paves the way for a Roma win over his former side, then Juve are going to head into the first busy portion of the schedule with a much different feeling around them compared to after the season opener.
- Federico Chiesa is still out injured.
- Kaio Jorge is still out injured.
- Paul Pogba is still out injured.
- Angel Di Maria is still out injured. Allegri said at his pre-match press conference that the hope is to have Di Maria back for Juventus’ trip to Florence to face Fiorentina next weekend.
- Leonardo Bonucci was expected to return for Roma’s trip to Turin, but reported an issue during Friday’s training session and will miss his second straight game as a result.
- Wojciech Szczesny is back to 100% and will be available, according to Allegri at his pre-match press conference. However, some of the Italian press is still predicting that Mattia Perin will get the start in goal.
- Just to establish it for the record: Allegri seems very excited about the arrival of new signing Arek Milik and said at his pre-match presser that he believes Milik and Dusan Vlahovic can play alongside each other. That still very much is something that is to be determined.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
I could select the well-known player who goes by “The Whole Team” after the performance that we saw just a few short days ago against Sampdoria. But we won’t just pick the entirety of the squad because that would be a little bit of a copout (even though it would also be totally understandable).
So, who’s up this week? Well, somebody who’s been getting a lot of heat over the last week.
Manuel Locatelli has been getting a whole of gruff over the last few days simply because of how he’s being viewed as the person to not get Juventus’ midfield going in Monday’s scoreless draw with Sampdoria. And while some of that might be valid, it’s not like the other two guys in said midfield — Weston McKennie and Adrien Rabiot — were a whole lot better and made any sort of difference before Allegri decided to change things up and bring on the kids.
So now, after a midfield performance that everybody wants to forget yet fears will again be the norm going forward, Juventus needs Locatelli — and whoever else is starting in the midfield Saturday night — to actually make some sort of positive impact.
You know, basically the opposite of what we saw against Sampdoria.
Depending on where you read, Locatelli is going to be playing as a regista or, like La Gazzetta dello Sport has done in its predicted lineup as of this writing, playing off the right shoulder of Nicolo Rovella, who would obviously be a surprise starter if Allegri does in fact choose to go that way. No matter where Locatelli plays, he’s going to be looked at as the main source of creativity in the midfield even if it’s from the deep-lying spot.
(We’re not going to go into his playing as a regista because that’s just repeating what a lot of us have said over and over again over the last five days.)
With Rabiot looking like he will stay — insert your wonderfully thrilled emojis here — and McKennie very much out of form since coming back from his shoulder injury at the beginning of the month, it’s just magnifying how Juve need Locatelli to be more like the player he was at the beginning of last season rather than the player we’ve seen the first two games this year. (Trsnslation: Locatelli being last year’s version would be nice.)
Let’s just hope that Allegri does take a risk and throws Rovella into the starting lineup because the best thing to get Locatelli going and playing well would be to actually play him where he’s at his best. And as we know, that’s not dropping so deep you think he might be a central defender.
When: Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022.
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 6:30 p.m. local time in Italy and around Europe, 5:30 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 12:30 p.m. Eastern time, 9:30 a.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: BT Sport 2 (United Kingdom).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+ (United States); fuboTV Canada (Canada); BTSport.com, BT Sport App (United Kingdom); DAZN, Sky GO Italia (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.