Juventus are now two weeks and two games removed from their big win over Lazio at the Allianz Stadium. One of those games was a total disaster, the other one was nothing special at all but at least saw Max Allegri’s squad get back to their winning ways. On the whole, and this is probably putting it lightly, it hasn’t been very good ever since Juve looked oh-so-good.
So now, two weeks after seeing so much go right in the biggest win of the young season, now Juventus face another direct rival for a top-four spot.
And this one, just like the last one, has been a little all over the map to begin the 2023-24 campaign.
Tuesday night was a meeting of third and fourth place in Serie A. Now, five days later, Sunday will be the meeting of fourth and fifth place in Serie A, as Juventus makes the trip over to Bergamo to face an Atalanta side that, like their opposition, is coming off a slim win midweek. But unlike Juventus’ opponent midweek, this one is going to be against opposition that is certainly expected to be competition for the top four rather than simply a lower-table club that is starting the season well before the expected drop-off arrives some point soon. This is nothing new when it comes to facing Atalanta, but in a 2023-24 season in which getting back into the top four is so vital for Juve’s future, avoiding previous struggles in these types of matchups is imperative to actually getting back into a Champions League spot.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Max Allegri doesn’t want you or his team to be looking at the standings right now. He made that clear during his pre-match press conference ahead of the trip to Bergamo. This game will be played on the first day of October, and in Allegri’s mind that is too early to be looking at that kind of stuff no matter if it is a potential head-to-head battle for the to four.
The thing is, though, Juve suddenly enter this one more shorthanded than we thought they might be.
As Allegri revealed at that same pre-match press conference, Juventus will head to Bergamo down the guy who wears No. 9, Dusan Vlahovic, and the guy who is the direct backup to the guy who wears No. 9, Arek Milik. Vlahovic, who came off the bench late in Juve’s win over Lecce on Tuesday, has been carrying a back injury for over a week now, according to Allegri, while Milik is dealing with a calf issue.
That suddenly means the two guys who are responsible for almost half of Juventus’ goal tally this season are going to be back in Turin watching their team play against Atalanta.
That’s not exactly what you want to hear before facing an Atalanta side that while hasn’t totally hit their stride yet this season has consistently been one of the highest-scoring teams over the last handful of years.
Atalanta are, as you probably guessed considering their transfer activity from over the summer, a different looking side compared to when Vlahovic was telling the curva to hush it after scoring a late goal because he was racially abused by those same folks back in May. Rasmus Højlund now calls Manchester home after his big-money summer move to United. The man who led the line for Atalanta during a whole lot of their rise to European contention, Duvan Zapata, is now on the granata side of Turin. Two of their leading performers so far this season have been Gianluca Scamacca and ... Charles De Ketelaere. (No, seriously. the flop of last season, Charles De Ketelaere!)
Yet there’s still Marten de Roon. Teun Koopmeiners didn’t leave Bergamo during the summer transfer window even though there were plenty of rumors that said he might. Giorgio Scalvini, at the tender age of 19, is only continuing to further the notion that he’s a potential star in the making in defense. And, most important of all, Gian Piero Gasperini is still pulling the strings on the sidelines.
While we pretty much know what Atalanta are going to do because it’s how Gasperini has operated for years and years now, how Allegri will play it is still a bit of a question mark. That was even before we knew both Vlahovic and Milik were going to be out. Tuesday’s win over Lecce was far from the high-energy kind of performance that saw Juve pressing the opponent like crazy and taking advantage of mistakes like what they did against Lazio a week and a half earlier.
So will this be a continuation of corto muso or will it be a return to the new tactics that we’ve seen in some of Juve’s best performances this season? It’s a question that surely just about everybody who sees things through black and white glasses are wondering going into a pretty big test for Allegri’s squad.
No matter what it is and what tactics Allegri adopts, it’s
You got that right, Adrian. That’s exactly what Juventus need to do to try and solidify an early grasp on a spot in the top four. No matter how much Allegri doesn’t want us to look at the league table, I know.
- Still no Paul Pogba due to his provisional suspension after a failed doping test. We should hear results of his B sample at some point next week, with Thursday, Oct. 5, being the most likely day that we either get some good news or more bad news.
- Mattia De Sciglio and Alex Sandro are, again, the two long-term injuries for Juventus.
- However, there are two very big names suddenly finding themselves on the injury list that we’ve already mentioned: Vlahovic and Milik, who are back in Turin while the rest of their buddies headed to Bergamo.
- With Vlahovic and Milik out, that means it’s almost certainly time for Moise Kean — who missed out on the the midweek win over Lecce due to a minor muscle injury — to make his first start of the season.
- To add a little extra depth up front, 19-year-old striker Tommaso Mancini has been called up from the Next Gen squad.
- To the surprise of nobody, Allegri said it will be either Nicolo Fagioli or Fabio Miretti starting in the final midfield spot that’s up for grabs. This is basically going to be the norm every time, but at least Allegri kinda-sorta acknowledged it.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
No Vlahovic. No Milik. Nobody else outside of this dude is really available to start up front with Fred Church. This suddenly became a pretty easy player to figure out who to talk about.
Unless Max Allegri totally throws a curveball and YOLOs it up with Kenan Yildiz alongside Federico Chiesa in the starting lineup, it’s time for Moise Kean to step into the spotlight and keep things moving up front.
For somebody who has played all of about half an hour so far this season, what kind of form Kean is entering this game in is a complete question mark.
So kinda like how his manager might approach things tactically against Atalanta? Maybe!
The thing is, Kean was having a very good preseason with Vlahovic slowly being worked back into the squad. Then the transfer speculation arrived and he wasn’t playing when the games started to count for real. And with the schedule being what it is this season with one game a week and Vlahovic and Chiesa playing so well, it’s not like Allegri needed to rotate a whole hell of a lot. Throw in a slight muscle injury and the good Kean vibes of the preseason from late July and early August seem so far away now.
Maybe Kean is able to channel those preseason vibes and play well alongside Chiesa. But at the same time, Atalanta has been playing legitimately well defensively so far this season, allowing just five goals through their first six games, which ranks third-best in Serie A.
Knowing how Atalanta can be when things are going right, you just get the feeling that Juve will need a couple of goals if they want to win this game. Outside of Chiesa, who scores them is going to be another matter entirely. Which is the long way of saying this is a big, big opportunity for Kean to try and get back into the mix for minutes behind Vlahovic.
When: Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023.
Where: Gewiss Stadium, Bergamo, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 6 p.m. Italy and the Central European time zone, 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 12 p.m. Eastern time, 9 a.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TLN (Canada); TNT Sports 1 (United Kingdom).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+, Fox Soccer Plus (United States); fuboTV Canada (Canada); discovery+, discovery+ 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.