Juventus played its first game out of the World Cup break on Jan. 4. By my math, that’s 2 1⁄2 months ago. Between Jan. 4 and now, there hasn’t been a break for Juve — at all. So much so that when you realize how many games they’ve played, you can’t help but wonder how some of these guys aren’t falling over with all of the minutes they’ve played since early January.
From Jan. 4 to this final preview before the first international break of 2023, Juventus has played 17 games. Let me repeat that: Seventeen games in about 2 1⁄2 months. Do the math and that’s one game every 4.2 days — which is another way of saying these dudes have been playing non-stop ever since Serie A resumed play the first week of January.
The 18th and final game before Juventus’ players go off to their respective national teams to play even more games is most certainly one of the biggest and most important of them all.
This Sunday night marks the second Derby d’Italia of the 2022-23 season. And because Juventus and Inter meet in the Coppa Italia semifinals, it won’t be the last that these two bitter rivals will be taking part in this season, with the two legs of the Coppa set for the first couple of weeks back following the international break. And based on how both teams are playing right now, having both advanced in their respective European competitions and in need of points as much as anybody in the top part of the table, Juventus’ trip to San Siro has plenty of storylines on the table no matter where you’re sitting.
For Juventus, it’s another chance to set itself up to be within striking distance of the top six come the resumption of games after the international break. No matter what the status of the 15-point penalty is come the decision of Juve’s appeal, Max Allegri’s squad has to remain steadfast in knowing they don’t have any control over it — which means things on the field have to remain priority No. 1.
We also know this: Juventus will enter Sunday night’s Derby d’Italia seven points behind sixth-place Atalanta after its win over Empoli 48 hours earlier.
But if you think it’s been hard to predict what version of Juventus is going to show up the last few weeks, just look at what Inter has done over its last five games:
- 1-0 win over Porto in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16.
- 1-0 loss to Bologna
- 2-0 win over Lecce
- 2-1 loss to Spezia
- 0-0 draw with Porto to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals.
I think we file this under “all over the place,” but that’s just one guy’s opinion. Feel free to share yours because we all know that certain things are viewed differently by different people.
No matter how you slice it, though, Inter’s form is a total mixed bag and it’s up to Allegri and Juventus to try and extend that inconsistent play for at least one more game and pick up its second win over its arch-rival in nerazzurro in as many tries this season.
Sure, Inter aren’t coming off a big blowout loss in the Champions League as compared to the first time these two teams met. And when it comes to rest, Inter have a full two days of rest more than Juventus coming into this one having played the second leg against Porto on Tuesday while Allegri’s squad was doing the usual Europa League on a Thursday deal.
Even with the loss to Roma thrown in there, Juve has continued to pick up results on a consistent basis ever since the start of February. They’ve lost just once in their last 11 games heading into the Derby d’Italia, with nine of those games being wins. That’s allowed Juve to quickly go from 13th at the time of the points penalty being handed down to now on the cusp of giving Atalanta (and others) a serious run for their money.
A win over Inter on Sunday night would certainly continue that. And as we await the appeal decision to see whether Juve’s going to be fighting for a European spot next season or suddenly back up in the top four, that is all Allegri’s squad can do — it’s just the only thing they can do right now.
No matter how tired they may be as the first international break of the calendar year arrives.
- Paul Pogba is out due to (another) injury.
- Arek Milik is out due to injury, putting to rest any sort of speculation that the Polish striker might make it back in time from his lengthy absence to be available against Inter.
- Fabio Miretti is also out injured after picking up a knock in the build-up to Juve’s Europa League Round of 16 tie against Freiburg earlier this week.
- The other two injured players come from Juve’s Brazilian contingent: Alex Sandro and Kaio Jorge.
- Moise Kean will be serving the second game of his two-game suspension as a result of his red card against Roma.
- Regarding the status of Angel Di Maria, who was called up to face Freiburg but didn’t actually play, Max Allegri said the 35-year-old Argentine “seems to me to be OK.” What that means regarding Di Maria’s availability on Sunday remains to be seen.
- After missing Thursday’s trip to Freiburg due to injury, Leonardo Bonucci is back in the squad. He is, however, not expected to start against Inter.
- Allegri said he’s happy that Federico Chiesa scored against Freiburg. (So are we!)
- Enzo Barrenechea and Nikola Sekulov have both been called up from the Next Gen squad.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
You want a guy who got a rare start in one of the biggest games of the season to date and played in the kind of way that almost certainly guaranteed him another start?
Yeah, let’s go ahead and talk about that guy.
Federico Gatti was, without a doubt, one of the best players on the field against Freiburg this past Thursday night. He was arguably the biggest surprise in that same game considering he was no certain lock to get the start in Juve’s decisive Europa League tie.
Just a few days later, Gatti’s spot in the starting lineup for Juventus’ next game seems quite a bit more secure.
Of course, the “big game” label is still very much alive considering who the opponent is going to be, where it is being played and what the atmosphere is going to be like at San Siro. It’s a little different than where he was 12 months ago as springtime began when he was technically a Juventus player but still on loan in Serie B with Frosinone.
It’s safe to say that Sunday night’s atmosphere is going to be nothing like he saw in Italy’s second division, that’s for sure.
If the big and bruising 24-year-old plays anything close to like he did in Germany when Juve step onto the field against Inter, then that’s going to be a pretty good thing for his defensive-minded manager.
It would also be quite the development for a guy who simply hasn’t played all that much this season. Gatti has shown potential in flashes, but hasn’t found any kind of consistency — either with his playing time or his play in general — to really merit becoming somebody who deserves to play a whole lot more than he has. Maybe that was part of the plan for a guy who hadn’t played a second of Serie A football before this season — that’s something only Max Allegri can answer.
So after a standout performance against Freiburg, Gatti will turn his attention toward Inter and the attacking options that Simone Inzaghi has at his disposal. Let’s just hope it goes as well this next time as it did this last time Gatti was in the starting lineup.
When: Sunday, March 19, 2023.
Where: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan, 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 in the U.S., this could start an hour later than usual because of Daylight Saving Time.)
HOW TO WATCH
Television: 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.