More than a few times I’ve thought to myself over the course of the World Cup break about just how I think Juventus will come out of having 50-something days in between games.
Each time, I come back to the same question.
“What the heck is this team going to look like after such a long time in between games?”
And each time essentially respond to myself with the same answer.
“I have no freakin’ idea.”
The thing is, we’ve never seen a situation like this take place in any of our lives. Usually breaks of nearly two months come during the summertime in which one season ends and then preseason training for a new season begins. They come at a time where players are trickling back in from international duty and at different fitness levels, sure, but they never come in the middle of a season like we just experienced.
For 52 days, Juventus hasn’t played a game.
On Wednesday night, that comes to an end.
While there is very much a big game awaiting Juventus in a week-and-a-half’s time, Juventus has gotten on a train and ventured over to Cremona to face one of the three teams that went into the World Cup break sitting in the relegation zone, Cremonese. Although not to the same level as Juventus, Cremonese went into the break with improved results and picked up nearly half its amount of points that it has on the season. But even with that, you combine this and a mid-table Udinese side that has come back to earth from its early-season surge and Juventus has two very winnable games coming out of the World Cup break.
And when you’re a team like Juventus that went into the break on a nice winning streak, extending that even further sounds like a nice thing to have happen.
But the problem is, we don’t know how Juventus will come out of this break. We don’t know how Napoli, AC Milan and Inter will come out of the break, either. This is a giant guessing game because this is uncharted territory that is a little different than when things were shutdown in March of 2020 simply because everything was shelved and everybody was on the same playing field. (Ironically not playing, but you know what I’m getting at here.)
There are still injuries to important players. While it seems like Max Allegri is going to stick with this 3-5-2 formation with a backline full of Brazilians (and a Polish dude yelling at them), there’s still some questions about how Juve’s veteran manager is going to make it all work.
A good performance against Cremonese will definitely add some good vibes for a club that has certainly dealt with a lot even while everybody’s focus was on the World Cup. Throw in the fact that two direct rivals for the top four are playing a few hours after Juve kicks off and there’s the making of a pretty good return to the field.
We just don’t know what’s coming our way because having over 50 days off in the middle of the season is just something that is so rare in this sport.
- Paul Pogba is still out injured. Max Allegri said he hopes Pogba can return to the team in 15-20 days. (He didn’t necessarily clarify if that was training with the rest of the squad or actually called up for a game, but it’s at least some kind of timetable that we haven’t gotten much of during Pogba’s injury absence(s).
- Dusan Vlahovic is still out injured. Allegri said Vlahovic is “better,” but didn’t expand on that.
- Juan Cuadrado is still out injured.
- Leonardo Bonucci, who was injured at training before the World Cup break, is still out.
- Federico Chiesa, who has returned to training after his slight muscle fatigue issue during the World Cup break, is back in the squad and is expected to be an option off the bench.
- Wojciech Szczesny, who dealt with a neck issues during Juve’s final friendly of the World Cup break, has been called up for the Cremona.
- Also not called up for the trip to Cremona: Angel Di Maria, Mattia De Sciglio, Marley Aké and Kaio Jorge.
- When it comes to the injured players, Allegri said he hopes to have “everyone available by the end of the month.”
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
He was one of Juve’s best players before the World Cup break. And it just so happens that in Juve’s first game back from said World Cup break he’s going to be facing the team that he helped get promoted to Serie A last season.
That’s right — we’re talking Beans, everybody.
Nicky Beans went into the World Cup break playing as well as just about any other Juventus player outside of maybe Moise Kean and Adrien Rabiot. He became a starter out of necessity due to so many injuries at once more than Max Allegri pulling the trigger and trying to shake things up as his team is struggling to win consistently.
So that alone means that he should be in the starting lineup against Cremonese.
But seeing Nicolo Fagioli’s name in the starting lineup against Cremonese has the interesting twist of this is where Mr. Beans got his first major professional experience outside of Juventus.
Since coming back to Juventus, Fagioli had to bide his time before getting into the starting lineup a couple of weeks before the international break. Once he got into the lineup, though, Fagioli’s skillset brought some much-needed creativity and just overall energy to a team that desperately needed it. It made Manuel Locatelli better. It made Rabiot better. It made Juventus better as a whole.
Fagioli has shown that he can help Juventus right now and the simple fact of Allegri’s squad getting healthy shouldn’t change that. As of right now, Pogba’s comeback into the squad — which, I remind you, is at least a few weeks away — should be the only thing that even has Allegri considering taking Fagioli out of the starting lineup. Until then, Nicky Beans deserves to play just as much as anybody and certainly more than a few names amongst the midfield group.
Now it’s just about Allegri showing the same faith in Fagioli as he did in the few weeks before the World Cup break. Because you know damn well Fagioli is going to be pretty amped up to play against the team that he helped get promoted to Serie A.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023.
Where: Stadio Giovanni Zini, Cremona, 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: CBS Sports Network (United States); BT Sport 1 (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.