We knew from basically five minutes after the Serie A schedule was released a couple of months ago that the stretch after the first international break would be one in which we discovered a whole hell of a lot about Juventus. Considering that the manager and a very large swath of the roster is the same as a season ago, we already knew a whole lot about them. But the twist had been the early-season shift to a little different tactics.
Annnnnnd ... well ... about that.
Juventus started the first post-international break weekend with a whole lot of fun with the big win over Lazio. Since then? Not a whole lot of fun! There has been winning ... sometimes. But fun? Not all that much of that happening. As September came to a close and October arrived, the overall team performances have, let’s just say, been resembling a lot of what we’ve seen the last two years under Max Allegri. The simple results haven’t been a disaster in the same kind of way that the loss to Sassuolo was, but the simple fact that Allegri’s game plan is looking more like the previous two years ago rather than the first few weeks of the 2023-24 season.
It’s that kind of development that has folks who watch Juventus a good amount of the time (yet have no rooting interest in the club unlike all of us here) asking some questions.
How can Juventus go from looking so good against Lazio to so painfully boring in every other match?— Matteo Bonetti (@Bonetti) October 1, 2023
It’s a good question to ponder, my friends! Something tells me it won’t take that long to answer, though ...
We sit here on the cusp of the first full weekend of October with one last game before the second international break of the season. And it just so happens that said game isn’t just so random, nondescript kind of opponent. Instead, it’s the first Derby della Mole of the season, with both Juventus and Torino coming into Saturday evening’s matchup at the Allianz Stadium far from their best kind of form or coming off extremely positive results.
Yes, as we know, this derby can be an unpredictable one even though Juventus has won much more than they’ve lost. They’re the kind of ultra-intense matchup that you only get a handful of times domestically each season. And, no pun intended here, with the ultras in the Curva Sud expected to come back to the Allianz Stadium as they continue to pick and choose when they show up to games, Allianz Stadium will hopefully sound a little more like it used to rather than the so-so atmosphere over the last couple of years.
But as much as the ultras being back in their usual spot, Juventus heading into Saturday night’s matchup with the granata side of Turin without arguably their two best players in Federico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic, who are both out with muscle and back injuries, respectively. That means a team that is already struggling to score goals coming out of the 3-1 win over Napoli — they’ve scored just three goals in their last three games combined and had just five shots total against Atalanta last weekend — will now try and beat a pretty solid defensively Torino side without their two big names in attack.
Does that mean Allegri will continue to run with the much more familiar tactical setup he’s used of late (even with Chiesa and/or Vlahovic in the lineup) rather than the more expansive high press and up-tempo pace? I think I know which way a lot of us are leaning when posed with that question. And it’s one that surely will be dissected to its core no matter who ends up playing up front. (More on that in a few minutes!)
But no matter what Juve’s game plan is, let’s just state this for the record: If you think Juve’s goal scoring record the last few weeks is tough to look at, then Torino’s is even worse. They’ve scored one goal in their last three games, which came in a 1-1 draw against Roma. Like Juventus, Torino are coming off a scoreless draw, this one coming against a Hellas Verona side that’s currently in 15th place in the table. (Verona’s defensive record is good this season, but they’re still very much a mid-table team at best.) Exactly half of the goals they’ve scored this season came in a 3-0 win over the juggernaut known as Salernitana.
That’s not very good, and pretty easy to see why Torino has gotten just two points out of their last nine possible over that stretch.
So no matter what shape Juventus are currently in, Torino’s struggles have basically been from from Matchday 1 (when they played a scoreless draw) to Matchday 7 (when they played a scoreless draw). It’s been tough ... and yet they’re sitting mid-table in 11th.
It’s no secret that Juventus aren’t playing well at the moment. Same goes for Torino. Are you going to go cliché as clichés can be and throw those two respective form guides out the window for the Turin derby? That’s on you. But one thing is for damn sure: Juventus, on the brink of the second international break of the 2023-24 season, need a derby win in the worst possible way. The last thing we need for two weeks is even more discussion about things being the way they are what has come out of the last couple of games.
And let’s face it, beating Torino is always fun. It doesn’t matter what year or what circumstances. Maintaining the status quo that Torino è bianconera is never a bad thing.
- Paul Pogba ... ugh some more. With the confirmation of his failed doping test, Pogba now risks a suspension of up to four years. His status at Juventus is very much TBD and certainly dependent on how long his suspension will end up being.
- Dusan Vlahovic will miss his second straight game due to injury.
- Federico Chiesa will also miss out due to a muscle injury he picked up during Thursday’s training session. (He has, of course, still been called up for Italty’s two Euro qualifiers during the international break, so read that as you will.)
- The other players out injured are the ones you’ve known about: Mattia De Sciglio and Alex Sandro.
- Juventus enter Matchday 8 tied for the league high with 19 yellow cards. Who are they tied with? Genoa, who at this time were playing in Serie B. Not exactly a great thing to say.
- Adrien Rabiot is already one card away from being suspended for a game. Remember, we’re currently seven days into October. That’s not great.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Do we do it?
Do we? DOOOOOOOO WE?
Ah, sure. What the hell. Let’s get weird. Or, I guess in this case, let’s get ... Turkish.
Dusan Vlahovic’s availability? Out injured for the second straight game. Federico Chiesa’s availability? Out injured, too. Arek Milik is just back from his own muscle injury absence. Moise Kean worked hard but was rather isolated against Atalanta last weekend. The latter two, based simply on experience and where they are in the pecking order, could end up being the ones who start even though they don’t seem like the kind of pairing that might work well in the same way Chiesa and Vlahovic do.
Could that mean Max throws us a surprise curveball?
That is what a whole lot of people are starting to think knowing that Juve will be without both of their big guns up front. And, considering that options are limited to begin with, it feels like it’s going to be either Kean or Turkish youngster Kenan Yildiz alongside Milik.
So let’s talk about Yildiz. Let’s maybe opine to see Yildiz in the starting lineup. (The other rumor is to go with Fabio Miretti behind Milik in a 3-5-1-1, which will give you some nice and fuzzy feelings about how all of that went last season!)
With no Chiesa and a midfield struggling the last few weeks much in the same way they’ve struggled for much of the previous two seasons, there are going to be few creative outlets on the field no matter what formation Allegri goes with. While it’s been down with the Next Gen squad, Yildiz has been playing awfully well the last few weeks, with his first professional goal now out of the way after he scored against Ancona on Sept. 23.
Yildiz is the wild card of the group. We know what we’re going to get from Milik. We usually know what we’re going to get from Kean. Heck, even at this point Miretti playing as a quasi-No. 10 has happened enough to have an idea of what to expect. But Yildiz? Nah, we are heading into the unknown if he’s in the lineup against Torino. It’s an unknown that could have big, big upside, but it’s still unknown considering he has so few Serie A minutes to his name.
Maybe Max goes with the familiar hand. At this point, I have no idea. But there is a wild card — and he’s even got the haircut that Allegri asked for after the season-opening win over Udinese.
When: Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023.
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, 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: TNT Sports 2 (United Kingdom).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+, CBS Sports Golazo, 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.