Even when Juventus’ midfield is at full strength these days, it’s not actually at full strength. That’s because, as we know, two of their most talented midfielders aren’t going to see the field of play for the next few months (and maybe even longer than that), thus leaving the squad shorthanded even when those capable of being available are jus that.
Depth has been an issue ever since Paul Pogba became a non-factor this season (and then go popped for a failed doping test) and Nicolo Fagioli’s gambling addiction became public.
And it’s not like the November international break has been all that much when it comes to players being available for the next big game that awaits Juventus right after two weeks off.
They may not involve players getting suspended (thankfully), but a numbers crunch in midfield has moved into crisis mode over the course of the work week. First, we heard that Manuel Locatelli suffered a broken rib in last weekend’s win over Cagliari and was forced to leave the Italian national team’s camp ahead of a pair of Euro 2024 qualifiers. Before the week was over, it was Fabio Miretti’s turn to return from international duty early, leaving the Italian Under-21 team’s camp with a reported back injury.
Add that up and you’ve got a situation developing where only three midfielders are likely to be healthy enough to play against Inter next Sunday night: Adrien Rabiot, Weston McKennie and Hans Nicolussi Cavliglia, who could get his first-ever senior team start simply out of necessity.
Throw in 18-year-old Joseph Nonge, who has been called up from the Next Gen squad for the foreseeable future, and you’ve technically got at least a little bit of a backup plan if something goes wrong. Or, just any sort of backup at all if the other three names are able to stay healthy over the next eight days before kickoff on Sunday night. But, much like Nicolussi Caviglia getting serious minutes because no other senior team midfielders are healthy enough to play, seeing Nonge make an appearance in the Derby d’Italia seems like something that would be out of total necessity rather than a tactical choice from Max Allegri.
There is, of course, another way Allegri could go, but it is also one that is to be determined by another injury. That is using Andrea Cambiaso as a mezzala if Timothy Weah is healthy enough to play from the start against Inter. Weah has been out injured the last couple of weeks after suffering a thigh injury against Hellas Verona and has stayed back in Turin to rehab rather than go on international duty with the U.S. men’s national team. (McKennie should be back in training on Wednesday or Thursday after traveling back from USMNT duty, with the Americans playing in Trinidad & Tobago on Monday night.)
No matter what, though, Allegri will be heading into the first Derby d’Italia of the 2023-24 season without at least half of his regular midfield options. That’s very much something that is far from ideal, and something considering Inter’s strength in the midfield that could truly turn things into the league leaders’ favor next Sunday night in Turin.