For the second consecutive second leg away from home in the Europa League, Juventus’ situation is very much as simple as simple gets: you don’t lose, you’re in the next round.
Of course, the main difference in the round of 16 compared to the playoff round is that Juve head out away from home with a lead in their back pocket compared to a few weeks ago in France. That, in all honesty, makes things even more straightforward and easy to understand than it did a couple of weeks ago.
Against Nantes, Juventus needed to win and that’s it — which, thankfully, was done with plenty of room to spare.
Against Freiburg, a win isn’t the only thing that will see Juventus go through to the quarterfinals. Basically, Juve doesn’t need to win — they just can’t lose.
Win or draw, Juventus’ Europa League hopes are very much holding onto the slim 1-0 lead over Freiburg that the Bianconeri hold heading into the second leg of the round of 16 on Thursday night at the stadium otherwise known as the Mooswaldstadion (Come on, that’s too good not to mention at the beginning of this thing.) Juventus comes into the second leg very much a team that can be considered shorthanded, with the man who scored the only goal over the course of the first 90 minutes, Angel Di Maria, part of the traveling squad but very much a big question mark due availability-wise due to an injury he picked up at the end of last Thursday’s first leg.
Some of Juventus’ other big-name players are either not close to 100 percent (Federico Chiesa) or ruled out completely (Paul Pogba). But no matter how you slice it, Juve’s 90 minutes away from advancing to the Europa League quarterfinals. That is, if they don’t see that 1-0 aggregate lead go up in smoke like they saw their 2-0 lead over Sampdoria disappear just a couple of days ago.
With Juventus up 1-0 on aggregate, we don’t really know how Max Allegri is going to play it. This could be the same kind of mindset that Juve had against Nantes in the playoff round where they come out and take control in the first half. Or, Allegri could have his team sit back and hit on the counter — which, in a way, would be a stark contrast from the first leg in which Juventus dominated the possession and the amount of scoring chances but just couldn’t find their ability to finish much of anything.
Freiburg didn’t exactly surprise us or surpass any sort of expectations. Freiburg is far from an offensive juggernaut or a team that is going to be winning games 4-3 or anything close to that. Add onto that the fact that Freiburg, which didn’t record a shot on target in the first leg, was able to get back on track over the weekend with a win over bottom-of-the-table Hoffenheim. (Interesting that both Juve and Freiburg fast the last-place clubs in their respective leagues, right? I thought it was.)
Juventus know that Freiburg need to score at least two goals to advance in regular time — which, for a team that is middle of the road in terms of goals scored this season in the Bundesliga, might be quite the tough task if Juve’s defense is as solid as it was last week.
No matter what, though, we know this: Juventus has an advance thanks to the win in the first leg. That’s more than they could say the last time they entered the second leg of a Europa League tie. So now, it’s all about using the lead to their advance — and if they do that, then they’ll be one of the last eight teams remaining.
- Paul Pogba didn’t make the trip due to injury.
- Leonardo Bonucci didn’t make the trip due to injury.
- Also missing out due to injury: Arek Milik and Alex Sandro. Both players are expected back after the international break.
- Max Allegri said at his pre-match press conference that having either Angel Di Maria or Federico Chiesa available from the first minute Thursday night “will be difficult.” He did add that he thinks both will be able to contribute off the bench.
- Allegri said starting both Dusan Vlahovic and Moise Kean up front is a possibility.
- With Bonucci out, it will either be Daniele Rugani or Federico Gatti starting alongside Bremer and Danilo in defense.
- Enzo Barrenechea and Mattia Compagnon have been called up from the Next Gen squad to provide some extra depth.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
With likelihood of Di Maria and Chiesa being a part of the starting lineup looking rather slim based solely on what Allegri said during his press conference on Wednesday. So, let’s just go ahead and pick the young man who has been playing in the No. 10 role most of the time when neither of those guys have been available.
We focus on one youngster a few days ago. Now, we will focus on a youngster who is even younger. That’s just what happens when some of your most talented players are those who are both young and the more interesting ones to keep track of this season.
For Fabio Miretti, playing in big games despite not even being 20 years old yet is something that he’s experienced a few times already this season. His relative age isn’t necessarily the issue, and the fact that he’s already faced some of the most talented teams on Juventus’ schedule this season already on adds to the fact that playing in a decisive Europa League Round of 16 matchup shouldn’t make being 19 years old an issue.
What will be the most important thing, obviously, is just what kind of impact he can make.
While the team he played over the weekend is far, far, far worse off than the one he’s likely to face Thursday night, how Miretti played in that win over Sampdoria was a positive sign that he can be a productive player in a role that he hasn’t really played much in during his short time as a professional at the senior level.
Now, we know the midfield trio that Allegri has used a lot recently — Manuel Locatelli, Nicolo Fagioli and Adrien Rabiot — has been performing better and played well as a unit in the first leg last week. The difference is that Miretti is obviously not going to bring the same kind of characteristics or playmaking ability to the table as Di Maria because that just can’t really be replicated by just about anybody else on the Juventus roster.
But what Miretti can try and do is what he did this past weekend against Sampdoria — be a player who is able to drive the ball forward on the counter as well as be somebody who can set things up for his teammates. He’s not exactly a goal scoring threat these days, but if he’s able to be another creative outlet, then maybe the 1-0 aggregate lead won’t be stuck in neutral for some of the night.
When: Thursday, March 16, 2023.
Where: Europa-Park Stadion, Freiburg, Germany.
Official kickoff time: 6:45 p.m. local time in Germany and around Europe, 5:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 1:45 p.m. Eastern time, 10:45 a.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: BT Sport 4 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Uno, Sky Sport 252, Sky Sport 4K (Italy).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); BTSport.com, BT Sport App (United Kingdom); DAZN, NOW TV, 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.