In the two games since Juventus was handed a 15-point penalty and dropped down into the depths of mid-table life in Serie A, the Bianconeri have done the following:
- Played out a 3-3 draw with Atalanta in which the defense was an absolute mess.
- Lost 2-0 to Monza, which gave the Serie A newbies its second win over Juventus this season and dropped Max Allegri’s squad all the way down to 13th place.
So, to say Juve’s response to the biggest sporting sanctions Italy has seen since the summer of 2006 has been mixed is a pretty decent direction to go. But for Juventus, the reality is something that tells us if there is still one legitimate chance at winning a trophy, then it will come in the Coppa Italia.
And while there have been upsets aplenty in this year’s tournament — as I type this out Roma has just lost to Cremonese, a team that is winless in Serie A this season, at the Stadio Olimpico — Juventus heads into one of the quarterfinal matchups that has two of the bigger clubs remaining facing one another.
While it may feel like it’s been a lot longer than 2 1⁄2 months ago, but the last time these two teams faced one another just so happened to produce one of Juventus’ best results of the 2022-23 season. And not just that, it came with a significantly shorthanded Juve squad beating a Maurizio Sarri side that is very much doing what you expect to do in Year 2 of Sarriball. Back then in mid-November, Juve were flying high as they went into the World Cup break, extending their winning (and shutout) streak to six games with arguably their best win of the season.
Things aren’t the same as they were then.
And not for the better. Not by any means.
Coming out of the loss to Monza this past weekend, Juventus players (or those that represent them) have spoken about how hard it has been to fully focus on the on-field matters simply because of what is happening off the field. And you can totally understand why — just a couple of weeks ago they were sitting in a decently comfortable spot in the top four, albeit just coming off an ass kicking at the hands of league-leading Napoli. Now, as the calendar flips to February, they’re sitting in 13th place and getting into Europe seems like a major task on top of the unknown of more sporting penalties coming their way.
This is a very uncertain time for Juventus and the players are not shying away from telling us all that they are feeling the effects of it. And you know what? That’s totally fair. They’re humans and sometimes we can forget that considering they paid to entertain us and we don’t see them in their regular lives off the field.
That’s why Max Allegri has been hammering home the concentration aspect of Juventus’ game because of everything going on around the club in recent weeks (and months). He was on that point again during his pre-match press conference on Wednesday, saying “Tomorrow we have to put our league issues aside.”
He’s right, but that’s obviously a whole lot easier said than done. But I feel safe in saying this: If Juventus plays like it did against Monza or defends like it did against Atalanta, then the Coppa Italia run and the chance to win a trophy this season (Europa League excluded) is going to be a thing of the past just like the Champions League this season.
- Paul Pogba is back on the injury list after suffering a setback in his comeback from knee surgery and his subsequent hamstring problem. Allegri said Pogba “is suffering from some tightness in his flexors” and that the Frenchman’s latest recovery process will “take a little patience, he needs to reset the motor, it’ll take time.”
- Leonardo Bonucci is still out injured. He will likely be out until at least next weekend.
- Arek Milik is the newest name on the injury list, with the Polish striker picking up a muscle injury against Monza this past weekend. It is widely believed that Milik will be out at least a month.
- Federico Chiesa will be available for selection again and is expected to start after missing Sunday’s loss against Monza with a minor muscle injury.
- Regarding Juan Cuadrado’s health status, Allegri said “he’s fine.”
- According to Allegri, Dusan Vlahovic “should start.”
- Allegri described the loss to Monza as “the whole team put on a bad performance.” (Agreed, Max, agreed!)
JUVENTUS PLAYER tO WATCH
When Max Allegri says you’re going to start and you haven’t started a game since October, I think it’s pretty safe to say that you’re going to have some attention thrown your way.
So let’s talk about a dude who is actually back from a lengthy injury absence and isn’t named Paul Pogba.
It’s Dusan! Everybody say hello to Dusan again! I know it’s been a while, but say hello!
As noted above, Thursday night will mark Vlahovic’s return to the starting lineup. We know this because Max Allegri told us so — which is a good thing considering that it’s much more enjoyable to talk about Vlahovic’s on-field impact rather than see random English news outlets think Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester United will swoop in and sign him on the cheap because of Juve’s current financial state.
Yes, there is definitely one choice and it’s not Door No. 2 that involves Vlahovic bolting after 12 months.
But now that it’s February 2023, we’ve officially passed the one-year mark of Vlahovic being a member of a Juventus side that is, at least in part, supposed to be built around him. Based on the predicted lineups from folks in Italy late Wednesday night, Vlahovic is going to be starting alongside another one of those foundational players in Federico Chiesa, who himself has been waiting a full year to play next to his former Fiorentina teammate again.
That has the potential for some fun, doesn’t it?
At the very least, Allegri now has two of its best attacking players back in the fold and about to start alongside one another for the first time as Juventus players. Maybe there will be some rust for Vlahovic, but the only way to get that to disappear is for him to actually play.
And hey, maybe he starts off February 2023 like he did February 2022. That would be nice.
When: Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023.
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Italy and around Europe, 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 3 p.m. Eastern time, 12 p.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: Canale 5 (Italy).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+ (United States); fuboTV Canada (Canada); Viaplay Sports 2 (United Kingdom); Mediaset Infinity (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.