As I sat down to write this post Thursday night, there was a very different tone attached to it than what is about to be mentioned time and time again on this site over the next few days (at minimum). It was one that involved Juventus trying to bounce back and get back on track domestically following a potentially demoralizing loss to a title rival.
Two days later, Juve’s season has been flipped on its head.
It has nothing to do with what is going on with the on-field product at the moment no matter how frustrating that might be to many of us. Instead, it has everything to do with the punishment that was handed down a little over 24 hours ago — the one that saw Juventus docked 15 points and suddenly tumble from a not-so comfortable third-place standing all the way down to a three-way tie on 22 points with Bologna and Empoli. Juve are no longer in a race for the Champions League or maybe even Europe as a whole. The scope of the 2022-23 campaign has changed drastically because of what happened on Friday.
Sunday night’s matchup against Atalanta at the Allianz Stadium in Turin is now, out of nowhere, the beginning of this new, never-wanted reality for Juventus in which points are even more important than they were a week ago. Juve is, barring any sort of reduction of the deduction of points over the coming weeks, now stuck in the mid-table mixer that makes getting into Europe even that much tougher no matter how much of the season is left on the schedule.
And, even before Friday’s happenings, we knew this: Atalanta is probably playing some of its best ball of the season. They’ve scored so many goals in so few games over the last week or two.
And now, Atalanta (in all likelihood) has one fewer competitor for a European spot.
The simple fact is we don’t know what state Juventus will be in for what has proven to be a very difficult matchup for the better part of the last decade no matter if it’s in Turin or Bergamo. They are posting on social media and talking about how united they are and how much they are supporting the club in this latest difficult moment, but we just don’t know for sure until they step onto the field and actually try to kick the ball against Atalanta (and the other opponents on the schedule the next week or two).
Max Allegri has taken the approach that probably every manager would take when facing something like this — trying to spin it into something that can be used as motivation. “After yesterday’s events we have to regroup and think only of matters on the pitch,” Allegri said Saturday. “We don’t have to think about starting again.”
No, Max, but we can.
Because that is just where you mind goes when something like this happens. Everybody else is thinking about how they can strike while Juve is down and swoop in to take some of the best players in bianconero to “help” the sudden financial difficulties that are facing the club and how any chance of European football seems like such a tough ask now.
But I keep coming back to this: We didn’t even have the chance to enjoy Federico Chiesa’s goal against Monza, something that will end up being one of the single best individual efforts of the 2022-23 season, for more than 24 hours before the next shoe dropped.
That’s on top of the disastrous start to the season that saw Juve have to run off an eight-game winning streak just to get into the top four. That’s on top of how Allegri has this team playing for much of the season. That’s on top of all the injuries. That’s on top of the World Cup break turning into a sudden mess with the entire board of directors resigning.
It’s been a season full of drama, full of frustration, full of something different from week to week. And now, with a sudden 15-point penalty slapped onto Juve’s record, Allegri has the task of trying to keep this team afloat if they want any sniff of a Europa Conference League spot.
For the highest-paid manager in the league, safe to say his biggest task is now ahead of him.
- Paul Pogba is back in full training but is still out of the squad.
- Dusan Vlahovic is back in full training but is still out of the squad.
- Both Pogba and Vlahovic are expected to return to the matchday squad around the end of the month of January or early February.
- Juan Cuadrado, Mattia De Sciglio and Leonardo Bonucci have all returned to at least partial training, but Cuadrado is the only one who has been called up to face Atalanta.
- After not being called up midweek due to rest, Adrien Rabiot is expected to return to the squad for Sunday night’s game. “Rabiot is doing differentiated training, but should be ready,” Allegri said.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
A lot of Juve players had a bad game against Napoli. But there is one that had the worst game of anybody wearing bianconero last Friday night.
Ah, yes. Our big Brazilian boy who had a rough go of things in Naples. That’s the guy we need to talk about right now.
If Juve was playing one of the mid- or lower-table teams that don’t exactly light up the scoreboard or even have the potential to do so, then Bremer probably wouldn’t be the focus of my attention in this here section. But because Atalanta went out and dropped about 100 goals on Salernitana this past weekend and then followed that up with five more goals in the Coppa Italia Round of 16 midweek, you’ve got a Gian Piero Gasperini team coming in with all the offensive momentum in the world.
So, yeah, Bremer bouncing back and trying to slow this red-hot Atalanta attack down is pretty dang important if Juve want any chance of coming away with a point or three.
Juve’s all-Brazilian backline showed its cracks for the first time in a long time last week against Napoli, with the eight-game shutout streak going right out the window with the eight-game winning streak. The defense was a mess in Naples, and Bremer was the guy who was leading the way in the kind of way you never want to see happen from one of your best players.
If Juve want any chance of beating a team that has scored 13 (!!!) goals in its last two games, then it’s pretty easy to see that another off night from Bremer simply can’t happen. It doesn’t matter who’s in the Atalanta lineup, you’re going to be looking at Bremer and Danilo as the two main guys to try and slow them down. (If that’s even possible at the moment.)
Bremer is the reigning Serie A defender of the year for a reason. He’s good — damn good at what he does for a living. Juventus need that guy to show up at the Allianz, not the one that was a total mess in Naples and basically gift-wrapped Napoli a pair of goals. Because if’s Bad Bremer again this weekend ... yikes, I don’t even want to go there.
When: Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023
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: CBS Sports Network (United States); TLN (Canada); BT Sport 1, BT Sport Ultimate (United Kingdom).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+ (United States); fuboTV Canada (Canada); BT Sport app, BTSport.com (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.