Call me a victim of the moment, but this is not exactly going to be the most optimistic of match previews that I have written in the decade-plus of doing these types of things for this website. Considering what we just watched a few days ago and who is lying in wait, it’s hard to be overly enthusiastic about Juventus taking the field again.
Sure, maybe Juventus surprises us all and walks into the Parc des Princes on Tuesday night and surprises us all in their Champions League group stage opener against Paris Saint-Germain. Maybe PSG’s three-headed monster of forwards has an off night and it allows Juventus to somehow keep pace with the Ligue 1 juggernaut.
It’s a lot ifs, it’s a lot of maybes, but these kind of things can happen no matter how low your expectations are for a matchup like this in the circumstances in which it is happening.
But I can’t help but think about what I wrote while previewing Juventus’ first matchup against Chelsea in last season’s group stage:
Juventus, at the moment, is nothing special. That might even be a description that is somewhat flattering even though they’re coming into this game on the back of their first two Serie A wins of the season.
So what’s the 2022 version?
Juventus, at the moment, is far from anything special. That is most definitely a description that can be flattering even though they’re coming into this game on the back of what is technically an unbeaten run through the first five Serie A fixtures of the season. These two teams, no matter what the history and the brand recognition of the two clubs suggest, enter the beginning of the Champions League group stage.
How so? Let’s have some “fun” with some numbers.
- Juventus has scored seven goals through its first five Serie A games.
- Paris Saint-Germain scored seven goals alone in its win over Lille on Aug. 21. Through their first six Ligue 1 games of the season, PSG already has a plus-20 goal differential.
No matter what you think about Ligue 1 and the difficulty that league presents, there is one in-form squad entering Tuesday night’s group stage opener and it most certainly is not the one that Max Allegri currently manages.
Allegri is most definitely under the gun with how Juve has performed so far this season. Or at least that’s what’s being perceived is the case from the outside looking in. Juventus has come far from impressing on the whole this season, and outside of a half against both Sassuolo and then Roma, the overall performance level has been both ultra-conservative and disappointing to say the least. That’s not the kind of form you want to see Juve have at any point of the season, let alone at a time in which they’re going to face a team that has one of the most talented attacking trios in the game.
Juve enters this game shorthanded. There’s no Federico Chiesa, there’s no Paul Pogba and there’s no Angel Di Maria. There’s only so many options for Allegri to use in attack, and it’s not exactly all that inspiring outside of Dusan Vlahovic. This is a Juventus team, in a way like what we saw going into the first matchup against Chelsea last season, that has pretty much all of the odds going against them.
Sometimes, that’s when Juventus is at its underdog kind of best.
That might be the thing that gets some sort of result in this game. But if it doesn’t, it’s very clear who the top team in this Champions League group is — and it’s the one that pretty much everybody thought was the top team going out of the draw. (And who Allegri has said is the No. 1 team in the group, too.)
It feels like there’s two true outcomes with this Juve-PSG matchup:
- Allegri’s squad surprises us and gets some sort of result in Paris.
- PSG’s stars take over and show us just how far apart these two teams are.
Based on the form Juventus is on, the second probably seems a whole lot more likely than the first. But even the most pessimistic person wouldn’t be opposed to the first one happening. In other games this season, a draw seems like a letdown. But on Tuesday night, a draw to begin Champions League group stage play seems like a pretty OK occurrence.
- Federico Chiesa is on the Champions League group stage roster, but he is still out injured.
- Paul Pogba is also out injured. He has also now undergone surgery on his injured knee. The conversion therapy that he decided to try and go with last month didn’t work all that well.
- Angel Di Maria will miss out on the trip to Paris to face his former club after suffering what appeared to be a reaggravation of his groin injury from the first week of the season.
- Allegri announced the following players will get the start against PSG: Leonardo Bonucci, Adrien Rabiot, Dušan Vlahović and Mattia Perin. You probably could have figured that out.
- Allegri has done the math and says “10 points are needed to qualify for the next stage.”
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Unfortunately, this isn’t the “Juventus manager to watch” section, so I can’t very much go with the dude who every single Juventino is going to be putting under the microscope going into this big Champions League opener.
But, I will keep this to the “player” section no matter how much I don’t really want to this time around.
So, who we got? How about somebody who had a terrible game against Fiorentina?
Ah, Johnny Square. I love ya, I really do. But man oh man, do we need a good performance out of you — and a whole lot of other guys in the starting lineup — against PSG.
Much like pretty much everybody not named Mattia Perin on Saturday, Juan Cuadrado had an absolute stinker against Fiorentina. And unlike some of his teammates, it was the latest in a string of pretty poor performances dating back to the final few months of last season.
Translation: The time in which it felt like Cuadrado was a fulcrum of the attack and seemingly recording an assist in just about every game he played in seems so far away from current-day Juan.
With Angel Di Maria out, Juve’s attack seems pretty easy to figure out if Allegri goes with the 4-3-3 pretty much everybody in the Italian press was reporting he was going with on Monday. (For the record, some of the Italian press has changed its tune, saying Allegri will use a 3-5-2 against PSG’s vaunted attack.) That means it’s Cuadrado on the right, Filip Kostic on the left and Dusan Vlahovic hopefully being not too, too deprived of service in the middle of the two wingers. Simple is as simple does.
No matter if it’s going to be as a winger or a wingback, Cuadrado’s going to be hugely important to a whole lot of what Juve does going forward. And if Cuadrado plays anything like he did against Fiorentina over the weekend (or basically the entire 2022-23 season), then it’s going to be even more of a long day than some think it might be.
When: Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.
Where: Parc des Princes, Paris, France.
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in France and around Europe; 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 3 p.m. Eastern time; 12 p.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TUDN USA, Univision (United States); BT Sport 5 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Uno, Sky Sport 252, Sky Sport 4K (Italy).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+, TUDN.com, TUDN app, Univision NOW (United States); DAZN (Canada); BTSport.com, BT Sport app (United Kingdom); Sky GO Italia, NOW TV, Mediaset Infinity (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.