For one brief moment, let’s just pretend that Juventus’ 15-point penalty isn’t a thing. We know that sometimes that’s hard to imagine considering the context in which the penalty was handed down and who is responsible for it being a thing to begin with.
If it wasn’t for the 15-point penalty, Juventus’ Sunday matchup between two very important Europa League Thursdays would be second-place against dead last rather than mid-table against bottom-of-the-table.
During this big two-week stretch for Juventus in which there’s two very big domestic fixtures as well as the Europa League Round of 16 against Freiburg, there’s also what’s arriving at Allianz Stadium on Sunday night — rock-bottom Sampdoria with all of two wins and 12 points to its name through its first 25 games this season. Juventus, coming off a loss to Roma in its last Serie A fixture, can get as close as four points to a European spot with a win over Sampdoria thanks to Atalanta’s loss to league-leading Napoli on Saturday night.
Yes, that’s with a 15-point penalty and everything that has happened over these last couple of months.
There’s also this: Sampdoria coming to Turin has the chance to be the classic slip up kind of game that can happen once or twice (or more) a season when you’ve got this kind of fixture against a relegation battler sandwiched in between both legs of a big European fixture. (And, sure, it’s not the Champions League, but the Europa is where it’s at right now for Juventus, so we’ll go with it.)
Juve manager Max Allegri is likely to rotate his squad at least a little bit knowing that there is a very big 90-minute stretch — and hopefully no more than that — coming up on the schedule Thursday night in Germany.
On paper, there is only one path in which Juventus can afford to take. Points penalty or no points penalty, these are the games that Allegri and Juve can’t afford to drop any points in. Samp are not good — or anything close to it. Allegri can talk about recent results that Sampdoria have registered — and, sure, three draws in the last five games isn’t totally terrible — but on the whole this is a team very much sitting at the very bottom of the Serie A table for a reason. (And let’s face it, the only reason why Allegri said Samp’s results are getting better is because they really couldn’t get much worse after losing nine times over an 11-game stretch.)
It will be totally understandable if Allegri chooses to put more focus on the second leg against Freiburg when it comes his lineup choices. That’s probably what every single person here would choose to do, too. Maybe some more than others, but you’ve got to rotate your squad when you have the chance to do — especially knowing that the schedule hasn’t slowed down much at all since the beginning of January and you’ve got important games to come before the international break.
There are three games left before said international break arrives. Two of them are very much of the upmost importance when it comes to both Eutopean competition and the chance to beat your biggest rival. Sampdoria coming to Turin is not one of them — and that’s perfectly fine. But it’s still important because Juve can’t afford any reason to suddenly drop points against a team that is sitting dead last.
Juve do what they need to do and get three points and things heading into the final 180 or so minutes before the international break will take center stage rather than having us looking back (again) at why Allegri’s team couldn’t get it done against one of Serie A’s worst.
- Federico Chiesa and Angel Di Maria both underwent scans Friday morning and were both cleared of any muscle injuries. The attacking duo will be rested against Sampdoria with the second leg against Freiburg in mind, according to Max Allegri.
- Paul Pogba is back in the squad after being suspended against Freiburg on Thursday night for missing a team meeting the night before.
- Per Juve’s brief medical update on Friday, Alex Sandro will miss Juventus’ final three games before the international break after having to be subbed out in the first half against Freiburg.
- Mattia Perin will start in goal, per Allegri.
- Allegri said that he has to decide between Leandro Paredes and Enzo Barrenechea for the starting lineup as it is expected that new dad Manuel Locatelli is rested against Samp.
- Italian winger Mattia Compagnon will be called up from the Next Gen squad, per Allegri.
- Allegri said that he’s hoping Arek Milik will be back for next weekend’s Derby d’Italia.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
There will be squad rotation.
There will be one Argentinian, Juventus’ most in-form player at the moment, missing out on Sampdoria’s visit to Turin because there is a much more important fixture a few days later.
So, does that mean an opportunity is suddenly created for Juventus’ other Argentinian who plays an attacking position?
This is something that can definitely be thrown into the category of “Danny looks at the Gazzetta dello Sport’s predicted lineup and bases this section off of that,” so let’s just go ahead and roll with it, OK?
With all of the attacking options that are not available for Allegri, Matias Soulé seems like one that we definitely want to see play. Could Dusan Vlahovic fall into that category as well under normal circumstances? Sure, but he’s also looking like a player who needs a game off to try and reset ... and unfortunately this probably won’t be that with so many others out injured.
Since the beginning of February, Soulé has played more minutes for the Juventus Next Gen squad than he has with the senior team — a sign that folks are healthy again as well as the fact that there really hasn’t been a ton of rotating going on outside of Allegri managing Di Maria’s and Chiesa’s minutes a good portion of 2023.
I, for one, hope that Sunday against Sampdoria is a change for the better when it comes to Soulé playing time.
Understandably, when you’ve got a player that plays the same kind of role as the likes of Di Maria and Chiesa, the chance to get minutes is pretty dang tough to come by on a regular basis. Much to his credit, Soulé has been relatively solid in his playing time this season, with his last start on Jan. 19 (!!) against Monza showing some glimpses of what the young Argentine can do with some extended minutes on the field rather than just cameos off the bench.
Is that same kind of hour-long run available again two months later? For the sake of Soulé actually getting some playing time, I sure hope so. But considering who is available to play and who isn’t, it’s not like Allegri has many other options to begin with.
When: Sunday, March 12, 2023.
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy and around Europe, 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 3:45 p.m. Eastern time, 12:45 p.m. Pacific time. (Remember, depending on where you live, this could start an hour later than usual because of Daylight Saving Time.)
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TLN (Canada); BT Sport 1 (United Kingdom).
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.