When it comes to the last three league fixtures in the month of January — the final two coming after the 15-point penalty was handed down — this is how Juventus fared:
- 5-1 loss to Napoli
- 3-3 draw to Atalanta
- 2-0 loss to Monza
That is ... not very good no matter which context they arrived in. When you were a Juventus team that was within striking distance of the now-runaway league leaders and then suddenly shot down into a mid-table malaise, it’s even tougher to see one point out of a possible nine be collected immediately after winning eight straight games.
It’s a good thing that Juventus’ next league opponent had a pretty forgettable visit to Turin in the andata fixtur, right?
Ah ... right, never mind. Yeah, that wasn’t good.
Before said 15-point penalty was a thing, before Juventus’ entire board of directors stepping down was also a thing, the refereeing decisions — especially those that prevented the Bianconeri to get the win just after they thought they had done just that — the last time Max Allegri’s squad faced Salernitana was arguably the biggest of gripes and grudges to hold this season. It was bad. It was really, really bad. And the fact that points are about as precious as they’ve ever been for Juventus during the 2022-23 season just adds a delayed insult to injury of sorts.
The 15-point penalty is the No. 1 reason why Allegri has suddenly changed his tune when talking about the biggest thing his team needs to accomplish the rest of this season. He’s smart and can do the match — Juve is nine points above the relegation zone and 15 points away from any sort of European spot entering Tuesday night’s matchup in Salerno.
We didn’t expect Allegri to be talking about relegation at all this season — especially not in first few days of February when Juve would be in contention for a top four spot, if not more. Relegation was more of a joke than a worry when Juve were actually in the relegation zone after picking up just two wins in their first six games of the season. But this is what the 15-point penalty has done to this team and now they’re suddenly fighting for their lives as a collective unit while also trying not to let the potential of another points penalty as a result of further financial investigations jump into their minds.
Salernitana is in 16th place after its first 20 games of the season. They’ve won just one out of their last six with their win over fellow relegation battler Lecce giving them a bit of breathing room. Being where they are in the table, that’s no surprise. They’re a club that just barely avoided the drop last season and are now looking to do just that again 12 months later. Juventus being where it is, however, and down in 1113th place is the biggest deal of them all. That’s why Allegri can openly talk about trying to avoid relegation like he did during his pre-match press conference on Monday.
From finishing top four to a maybe being in the Scudetto race to now talking about a relegation fight. Things sure have changed.
But will the overall product of things change?
That, ultimately, will be what helps Juventus stave off any sort of relegation battle that Allegri thinks his team will be in. Will they continue to play down to the level of their competition? Will they force themselves to grind out wins? Will they beat a team in the bottom third of the table by more than a goal? These are the things that will determine just how many points Juve can accumulate over the course of the next four months.
As the old notion goes, you can win or lose a title depending on how you do against the provincial sides. At this point, how Juventus does against those same provincial teams will determine just how close to the relegation zone Allegri’s squad will truly get.
- Something we’ve typed too many times already this season: Paul Pogba is out injured and his return to the squad isn’t totally known at this point. He is most certainly out for the trip to Salerno, with the possible latest return date that the Juve medical staff is shooting for is the first league of the Europa League playoff against Nantes.
- Leonardo Bonucci is still out injured. Max Allegri also said the veteran Italian defender has been battling the flu the last few days.
- Arek Milik is still out injured.
- Leandro Paredes has not been called up due to a new muscle injury.
- Kaio Jorge is still out injured. When he does return, he is expected to work exclusively with the Juventus NextGen squad.
- Salernitana midfielder Hans Nicolussi Caviglia, who joined the club on loan from Juventus during the January transfer window, is expected to start against his parent club. He has started three out of a possible four games and scored a goal since making the jump from Serie B side Südtirol where he spent the first half of the season on loan.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
We’ve talked about talked a decent amount about Juventus’ midfield over the weekend, so why not bring it into the new work week? Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s make things happen.
Ah, maybe not the midfielder that you thought I might go with. But, with what we talked about a couple of days ago thanks to our cohort Hunter, I think it’s only right to put the microscope on Manuel Locatelli for very obvious reasons.
For Locatelli, the win over Lazio this past Thursday was the 25-year-old Italian at his best. He was making this picturesque long-range passes that makes you nod your head in approval. He was contributing defensively and was one of the bigger reasons why Juventus kept a clean sheet on a night when Mattia Perin was barely called into service. It was the kind of two-way performance that was anything if not encouraging that Locatelli can be that kind of midfielder.
He just needs to now make it a consistent thing.
Is bossing the midfield against Salernitana some great achievement? Not really. You’re not going to look back on the season and recount a time in which Locatelli was potentially great against 16th-place Salernitana at the Arechi. But if this is one of the first games of a really good run of form, then you’ll remember that part of the equation.
The Locatelli from his first couple of months of Juventus has been seen in flashes ever since those early games of the former Milan man wearing the black and white stripes he has wanted to adorn as a child. The only way back there is to perform on a consistent level that resembles the early days of his Juve career, from there creating the sense that he can be somebody Allegri (or whoever will be the manager in the 2023-24 season) can count on.
With rumors being thrown out there that Juventus wants its midfield (and squad as a whole) to have more of an Italian theme to it, having Locatelli replicate that performance from the Coppa Italia win over Lazio will be a big deal and hopefully start to turn the tide for the better.
Tuesday night won’t be the be-all end-all, but it will be nice to stack another strong performance on the back of one just like it will be nice for Juve to start racking up wins again.
When: Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023.
Where: Stadio Arechi, Salerno, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy and around Europe, 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 2:45 p.m. Eastern time, 11:45 a.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: BT Sport 1 (United Kingdom); 214 DAZN Zona (Italy).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+ (United States); fuboTV Canada (Canada); BTSport.com, BT Sport 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.