We’re just about to hit the middle of December. That means the midway point of the 2023-24 season is fast approaching, and with it a winter champion of Serie A — basically hyped up bragging rights at this point — is just a few weeks away from being crowned on the front pages of every major sporting newspaper in Italy.
Juventus are, to the surprise of many, one of the two teams that have broken away from the rest of the pack and looking like the only potential challenger to league leaders Inter.
For the third straight Friday, the situation is very much right in front of Max Allegri’s squad — you win, you provisionally move into first place as you await what Inter will do over the weekend. The first two times have followed a very common pattern — Juve wins via corto muso, jumps over Inter into first place for a day or two, then goes back down to second as the Nerazzurri win their game with room to spare. So now, as Juventus heads to Genoa to face one of the many 2006 World Cup heroes who are now in the managerial game, Alberto Gilardino, the situation could very well be the same as it has been the last couple of weeks.
That is, of course, if Juventus can keep the good times going and make it 11 games unbeaten.
It comes at a place in which things haven’t always been as routine as they seem no matter what shape either of the two Genoa-based teams are in when Juve comes rolling in to the Marassi. Max Allegri needs to look no further than the last time these two teams played — which, as is pure coincidence, came on rare Friday night fixture in early May ahead of the last legitimate chance Juve had to play for a trophy. (And, I know, the last couple of weeks have made Friday night football seem not so rare at all.) That was the last time these two teams played before Genoa made the drop a couple of weeks later and spent last season in Serie B, only to have Gilardino lead them back to Italy’s top flight in just one year.
With Juventus’ win over Napoli now in the rear view, the schedule seems to be letting up to the point where there’s not the trend of a big game coming up on the schedule every other week. Instead, starting with the trip to Genoa, Juve has a stretch of seven games leading into the second Derby d’Italia of the season on Feb. 4 in which Roma — who Juve play in the first game after every celebrates Christmas — are the only opponent who are currently competing for a European spot. Considering that Juve are still pumping up the fact they want to finish in the top four and that’s the big goal for the 2023-24, the next six weeks are a huge opportunity to bank three points after three points and maintain, at bare minimum, their second-place standing in the table.
As much as Genoa got early-season headlines with a win over Lazio and a draw against defending champion Napoli, things haven’t exactly been all good since then. They’re five points above the relegation zone as we quickly approach the midway point of the season later this month. They’ve won just once in their last six games in all competitions, including Lazio getting a bit of revenge and bouncing Gilardino’s side from the Coppa Italia.
That all sounds like one of those matchups where you’re thinking “Yeah, three points. Bank it.”
Well, maybe. For the most part this season, Juve haven’t been consistently dropping points in these kinds of games. The overall product might not look great and they’re not blowing away the competition like other teams — like, say, the current league leaders! — and yet ... here we are. Juventus, just like the last two Fridays, can go back into first place until things play out Sunday night when Inter face Lazio in the Italian capital.
Just as long as no more Marassi craziness happens before the weekend officially arrives.
- The two suspended players, Paul Pogba and Nicolo Fagioli, are — you guessed it — still suspended. As we learned earlier this week, the beginning of Pogba’s anti-doping trial will begin on Jan. 18, with prosecutors seeking a four-year ban for the 30-year-old midfielder.
- The injury list has one long-term name and one new one: Mattia De Sciglio and Moise Kean, the latter who has been dealing with a “long-standing leg problem” and has been playing through the pain, according to Allegri. Kean will be out until the new year.
- A name that has been on the injury list since October, Timothy Weah, has fully recovered and has been called up for the trip to Genoa.
- Fabio Miretti — who had to come back early from international duty with the Italy U-21 squad last month due to a back injury — has not played in the last few games due to a “technical decision,” according to Allegri. “He’s working hard in the right way,” Allegri added.
- Amid a stretch where his forwards aren’t scoring, Allegri said that he’s “really pleased with his forwards” and “what matters is having the right approach, running hard and applying pressure to help out defensively.”
- Just in case you’re wondering, Allegri let us know: “I’m not tired.”
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
If you’re a starting striker and one of the best players on your team but you’re without a goal at the club level since late-September, what kind of face do you think you’d make? Probably something along the lines of, say, this, right?
Yep! That’s the one. That’s the kind of face that I would make. With the accompanying hand gestures as well. Because that’s just the only thing that you can do.
As our boy Hunter discussed earlier this week, Juventus’ attack is ... lacking in the kind of punch you would expect from talented players like Dusan Vlahovic and the pictured above Federico Chiesa. Blame it on tactics, player performance, whatever, you’ve got two players who have been viewed as vitally important players both for the present and future combining for all of one goal in bianconero since the start of October.
That just ain’t gonna fly no matter how much Chiesa’s funny faces, expressions and hand gestures make you laugh.
That’s not to say that Chiesa has been terrible for the last 2 1⁄2 months. But, again, there is just the general feeling no matter what he does is that there needs to be more involvement and overall impact being made. We know Chiesa can do it — just look at him the last time he wore an Italy jersey. (Yeah, I know, it was as a winger, but let’s not act that Chiesa is in some huge slump in form or something like that.)
Genoa have been, somewhat surprisingly, not a total mess defensively like a lot of newly-promoted sides tend to be, allowing 20 goals in their first 15 games of the season. That’s not great, but it’s nothing like we’ve seen from other sides that were in Italy’s second division this time last year who are basically seeing two or three goals be allowed every single time out.
No matter if Genoa’s a good defensive squad or far from it, getting Chiesa going again is going to be vital for Juventus’ hopes of simply keeping pace with Inter for much longer.
I’ll just leave you with this: If the other Federico on Juve’s roster, Federico Gatti, somehow scores for a third straight matchday and Chiesa’s scoreless streak rolls on, then Fred Cats and Fred Church will be level on goals for the 2023-24 season. Considering one is a forward and the other is a defender, that’s at least one half of the equation that you might not want to be part of at the moment.
When: Friday, Dec. 15, 2023.
Where: Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. in Italy and the Central European time zone, 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 2:45 p.m. Eastern time, 11:45 a.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TNT Sports 3 (United Kingdom).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+, CBS Sports Golazo (United States); fuboTV Canada (Canada); discovery+, discovery+ app (United Kingdom); DAZN Italia, 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.