No matter how long Juventus remains in the Europa League, there will be one very unique twist that will be ever-present. It’s that Thursday and Sunday grind, something that Juventus hasn’t had to experience in a decade because of the fact that the club has been a constant in the Champions League knockout rounds.
But this scheduling quirk is nothing new to any of us since we know Tuesdays and Wednesdays are reserved for the European competition in which Juve went crashing out of this past fall.
That means all of three days after another disappointing European result, Juve must get back on the horse and now try to avert further grumpy feelings in the first backend of said Thursday-Sunday schedule.
Juventus heads to Spezia for some Sunday evening football after entering the weekend in the top half of the Serie A table. While the reality of the situation tells us that qualifying for European football next season is still very much a long shot unless the current 15-point penalty is rescinded. But until that point, it was very much a case of just trying to take care of the business that is right in front of you — which, for Juventus, means trying to get as many points as possible no matter what the status of the points penalty might be.
And in terms of a landing spot and quality of opposition to have after a tough European result, playing a team just outside the relegation zone that has not won in over a month seems like a pretty solid situation.
But that’s on paper.
We know “on paper” advantages hasn’t always worked well for Juventus this season.
Since the middle of October — and there’s obviously a World Cup break to throw off these things now — Spezia has won just three times. They’ve lost four of their last five. They are all of two points outside of the relegation zone, with the possibility of dropping into the drop zone if Hellas Verona beats Roma on Sunday. All of this has played into why Spezia will enter Sunday night’s game against Juventus without a manager after sacking Luca Gotti earlier in the week.
What’s also been not very good at all?
That would be Juventus’ form away from home this season.
As Max Allegri rightfully noted during his pre-match press conference, Juventus’ 3-0 win over Salernitana in his team’s last away fixture pushed the Bianconeri’s total of away goals this season to ... nine. In nine games! That meant before Juve’s win in Salerno nine days ago, they had scored all of six goals in their first eight away games of the 2022-23 season.
Upon noting the nine goals in line league games, Allegri said: “It’s something we must improve upon.”
Yeah, I want to feel like that is a pretty safe assumption from the veteran manager. If anything, this guy is observant. Or maybe some of the time seeing as he’s now on a crusade about not trying to win every game 1-0 when Juve’s results when the final scoreline isn’t a 1-0 win (or they don’t record a shutout) are far from something good ol’ Max would want to boast about.
In their last five games (four losses and a draw against Empoli last weekend), Spezia has allowed a total of 11 goals. Now, two of those losses came against two of the best and most in-form attacks in Serie A in the form of Napoli and Atalanta, but the fact still remains that Juve’s attack — no matter how it looks and how it lines up personnel-wise — will be facing a Spezia defense that is both very much struggling at the moment and one of the statistically worst sides in the league.
This is the chance to get right and try and get some good vibes going again before the next Thursday-Sunday grind that has even bigger European implications arrives next week.
- Paul Pogba is still out injured.
- Arek Milik is still out injured.
- Fabio Miretti is still out injured.
- Kaio Jorge is still out injured.
- Bremer will miss out on the trip to Spezia due to yellow card accumulation.
- Federico Chiesa has not called up “because he’s very tired after his recent efforts,” according to Allegri.
- Mattia Perin is back in the squad and will start in goal, according to Allegri.
- Two other players who Allegri said will play from the start against Spezia: Moise Kean and Daniele Rugani.
- Leonardo Bonucci was tipped to potentially start over the last couple of days, but Allegri said the veteran Italian defender “is not yet in the condition to start.” Allegri added that Bonucci “is fine” but not yet ready minutes-wise to play from the opening kickoff.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
We’ve been going with attackers and midfielders a lot lately. That’s kinda what happens when your better players are attacking players or you’ve got a midfield like Juventus that can either be something that makes you grumpy or gives you optimism depending on how you spin it.
So, no midfielders or attackers on this day. Let’s switch it up a little bit.
Ah ha! Wingback time, baby! You know you missed it. You know you love it.
With no Chiesa available for selection, things seem a little more easy to figure out when it comes to what Juve’s formation is going to look like. The likelihood of a 3-4-2-1 or 4-3-3 has pretty much been thrown out the door, therefore creating a day for a triumphant return of the 3-5-2 that has been a consistent ever since Juve first went on their eight-game winning streak.
And with no Chiesa in the lineup, that also means one less creative force on the field.
Which brings us to Juan Cuadrado, the guy who Max Allegri was certainly counting on getting more from this season but is certainly more of a fit for the wingback spot than the guy who has played there the last couple of games.
Sure, Cuadrado is not the player he once was and it seems pretty widely assumed that he is entering his final months as a Juventus player. But, if the 3-5-2 or some form of a three-man backline is going to be a thing the rest of the season, Allegri and Juventus need somebody who can play regularly on the wing opposite of Filip Kostic.
Cuadrado can be that guy — at least in part if he’s able to remain healthy. I don’t think he’s going to be a week-in, week-out starter like he showed he could handle two or three years ago, but there’s still something there to give the team no matter how washed you might think he is.
At the very least, if you are to try have opposing teams think who the greater threat going forward from the wingback position is, I’d still go with Cuadrado rather than Mattia De Sciglio. And while neither of those options blow you away, one seems to be better than the other, so let’s just hope said option starts to find some sort of stride again.
When: Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023.
Where: Stadio Alberto Picco, Spezia, 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: BT Sport 3 (United Kingdom).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); BTSport.com, BT Sport App (United Kingdom); DAZN, SKY Go Italia, NOW TV (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.