The return from the World Cup break is now officially a thing of the past. It’s out of the way, no longer to be a discussion point again because after 52 days, there is only so many times you can go back to the well time and time again no matter how much you dislike it.
Juventus beat Cremonese. That is the most important thing to come out of Wednesday night’s trip to Cremona. Nothing more, nothing less.
So, what’s next?
Well ... that’s where things always seem a little murky with this Juventus team, don’t they?
Following the less-than-stellar showing to begin 2023, Juventus has hopefully shaken off a good portion of the rust that came with not playing a competitive game at the club level for nearly two months. Knowing that the league leaders are waiting in the weeds in less than a week, Saturday night’s game Udinese is the last possible tuneup for Max Allegri’s squad before things get really real later this month.
Juventus will go from facing a relegation battler to facing a mid-table team that enters the weekend sitting in eighth place and not exactly in the best of form results-wise before they face the league leaders who didn’t exactly start 2023 in the best of ways midweek.
For Juventus, it’s rather simple at this point knowing that Inter lent a helping hand in picking up the win over Napoli on Wednesday: just stacking up the wins on top of one another.
Juve’s winning streak reached seven games with the victory over Cremonese. Combine that with Inter’s win over Napoli and the distance between the club atop the Serie A table and the one sitting in third place is now down to seven points. Considering that Juventus and Napoli play each other in the round of fixtures after the one that takes place this weekend, then you’ve got (at minimum) the chance for Juve to cut the deficit to four points is very much real if they take care of business against Udinese.
That’s the question we’re all wondering about, right?
Juve looked fair decent in small pockets of Wednesday’s win but very much not in totality against Cremonese. Does that mean it’s suddenly all doom and gloom again? No, probably not, because there’s gotta be at least a little bit of context thrown Juve’s way considering they hadn’t played a Serie A match in so long.
But is that same leeway going to be present at a sold-out Allianz Stadium on Saturday night? That’s where it gets tricky. And that’s where Juventus will have to avoid any funny business knowing full well this winning streak has clearly recharged those who are able to pay to watch games as well as the fact that there’s going to be some emotion in the building to begin with following the passing of Gianluca Vialli on Friday.
Maybe Juve gives us the kind of performance in front of the home crowd that get us flowing with some optimism again like they did the last time they took the field at the Allianz. Or maybe it looks like what we saw a few days earlier to begin the post-World Cup world.
Either way, Juventus can’t afford to slip up now. Not with the talk of the Serie A title being opened up just that much more with what happened a few days ago.
- Paul Pogba is still out injured.
- Leonardo Bonucci is still out injured.
- Dusan Vlahovic is still out injured.
- Juan Cuadrado is still out injured. Max Allegri said at his pre-match press conference on Friday that he hopes to get Cuadrado back in the next week or so.
- Also out injured: Mattia De Sciglio (of course) and long-term absentee Kaio Jorge.
- Angel Di Maria, who missed the first game of 2023 due to a slight injury, has recovered and will be available, per Allegri. Some in the Italian media are predicting Di Maria to start.
- Gleison Bremer could get the night off after Allegri said Friday that the hulking Brazilian center back is “a little tired.” Allegri hinted at Daniele Rugani stepping into the starting lineup if Bremer does start on the bench.
- Allegri said Alex Sandro should be back in the squad — and potentially the starting lineup — against Udinese.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
I am most certainly going to become a victim of the moment.
Or, at the very least become a victim to predicted lineups that I’ve been seeing on the internet throughout the day.
Let’s go with a guy who hasn’t started a Serie A matchup in a year, shall we?
Yes, yes, yes. Give me all of the predicted lineups that have Federico Chiesa starting in some shape or form on the right wing. Give them to me. Give them to me now! I will eat them all up like they’re grandma’s homemade gravy that has been cooking for hours as it smothers short ribs and sausage and some ziti. Yes, give them to me.
I’ve already talked within the past week about what it’s been like waiting for the joy that is watching Chiesa play to become a regular thing in our lives again. We’ve gotten it in glimpses since he made his official comeback, the longest one coming just a few short days ago when Chiesa played most of the second half in Wednesday’s win over Cremonese.
So is Udinese’s trip to Turin the day in which Chiesa stretches his legs out even further and plays from the start?
It’s not like we got any sort of direct hints from Max Allegri during Friday’s pre-match press conference. But if there was thing kind of game in which you could see Chiesa playing 50-60 minutes and getting a good run, it’s this kind of situation. Not only is Udinese the kind of opponent that probably going to give Chiesa the kind of chance to attack (and counterattack), he will also have close to a week to recover before Juve’s clash against Napoli next Friday.
Plus, let’s face it, having Chiesa potentially make his first start in 12 months is always going to be better at home rather than on the road somewhere.
So maybe this proves to be the game in which Chiesa makes his return to the starting lineup. And I can tell you this — for a team coming off a pretty tame performance to begin their 2023 slate of games, getting the sold-out crowd at your home stadium all jacked up before kickoff because your best player is back in the starting lineup is a pretty good idea.
When: Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023.
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 6 p.m. local time in Italy and around Europe, 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 12 p.m. Eastern time, 9 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.