Over the course of the next 15 days before the first international break of 2023 arrives, Juventus will play five very important games. In four of those games, Juventus will be facing some of the toughest competition it has left on the schedule, lending itself to a line of thinking that the next two weeks are going to be an incredibly big stretch on multiple fronts.
And as much as two of those games will be what determines Juventus’ European status after the international break, the most immediate one comes at a time in which Max Allegri’s squad look like they might indeed be turning a corner.
The only way to confirm such a notion is to go out and have a successful night at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. It is there where Juventus — which has worked its way all the way up to seventh place in the Serie A table — will met up with Roma for the first big game of this 15-day stretch going into the international break. Roma had a chance to go second in the table just a few short days ago, but instead fell victim to a Cremonese side that hadn’t won a game all season (outside of its miracle run in the Coppa Italia).
The added wrinkle in Sunday night’s matchup in the Italian capital is that Roma manager Jose Mourhino won his appeal and won’t be suspended for the match. Instead, he will be rolling up to Allegri before the match and doing his usual thing on the sidelines as only somebody like Mourinho can. (Plus, there’s no “This is Paulo Dybala’s first game against Juventus since leaving on a free over the summer” kind of storyline, so there’s that, too.)
For Allegri, things are pretty simple: just keep things going.
Juventus enters Sunday night’s clash with Roma unbeaten in its last seven games after a very successful February in which Allegri’s squad righted the ship following the 15-point penalty handed down. And even with the loss to Cremonese on Tuesday, Roma is still very much in the thick of it when it comes to a Champions League spot as Serie A’s completely unpredictability behind league leaders Napoli continues to play out right before our eyes.
If not for the 15-point penalty elephant in the room, it would be second against fifth.
Even though, in actuality, it’s fifth place against seventh place, it still very much has a big, big feel to it.
If you are one to believe what comes out of Allegri’s mouth at least some of the time, he said that his team has turned the initial shock of the 15-point penalty from a month and a half ago into anger, with the results speaking for themselves. Juve’s play over the course of the unbeaten run hasn’t always been great or even good, but they’ve been able to put together a month’s worth of results and now go into a highly important stretch with some always-important momentum.
They beat who they needed to beat. It wasn’t always pretty, but they beat them — and at times this season, that wasn’t always the case, so that is probably a good case for progress.
So now, with Roma, Freiburg (twice!) and Inter all on the schedule over the next two weeks, keeping those good times going will be crucial in the race for Europe no matter what happens in terms of sporting penalties being taken away on final appeal or new ones potentially being handed down. Let’s see if Juventus can make the beginning of March look a lot like the end of February in terms of wins and no losses.
- Juventus injury list is down to just three players: Arek Milik, Mattia De Sciglio and Kaio Jorge.
- De Sciglio finds himself on the injury list after suffering from muscle fatigue.
- Allegri said at his pre-match press conference that he expects Milik to return when play resumes after the international break.
- Fabio Miretti is back in the squad after missing the last month with an ankle injury.
- Manuel Locatelli is also back in the squad after being suspended for the Turin derby.
- Even with pretty much all of the midfield healthy, NextGen midfielder Enzo Barrenechea has been called up to make the trip to the Italian capital.
- Allegri described Paul Pogba as “fit and feeling fine” after the Frenchman made his long-awaited second debut with Juventus in Tuesday’s Derby della Mole win. Allegri admitted that Pogba is still very much building up his match fitness but is a very nice option to have off the bench right now.
- Allegri said of qualifying for the Champions League from Juve’s current position in the league table, with the 15-point penalty, as “now very difficult, almost impossible.”
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
It is a big game. Roma have two of the best attacking players in the league and are going to be more than just a little pissed off following what happened against Cremonese on Tuesday night. This has the makings of a game in which the big guy in the center of Juventus’ all-Brazilian backline is going to be under pressure time and time again.
No matter if it’s against Dybala, Tammy Abraham or potentially the always-underrated Lorenzo Pellegrini — who is reportedly questionable to face Juventus — Bremer and the rest of the Bianconeri Brazilians at the back are going to have their hands fun. As friend of the blog Bren talked about in the Rival Q&A earlier in the week, Dybala is very much surpassing the expectations anybody had for him — and that’s saying something with how heralded his arrival at the club was over the summer.
The thing about why Bremer is the one selected here is that we know what things are like when he’s going right in big games — he’s a dominant force in the air, punking dudes when they try to dribble past him and using his speed to make up the free space if need be. But, as we’ve seen more than a few times in 2023, Bremer hasn’t always been the rock at the back that he was before the World Cup break.
And I can tell you this: If those Bad Bremer mistakes happen against the likes of Dybala and Abraham, then Juve’s defense is going to be looking like it was in the first half against Torino on Tuesday night.
That’s something that won’t get the job done in Roma.
On the whole, Bremer has been pretty good this season. But the one sticking point will be the mistakes he’s made in big games, with the meltdown in Naples being the most notable of them all. You take those mistakes out and you’ve probably got somebody who is in the running for a second straight Serie A defender of the year award. Yet, those mistakes are there, and Juventus are in a position in which we can’t necessarily afford to see any more of them.
Here’s to hoping Good Bremer shows up at the Olimpico on Sunday night because it sure is fun to watch him shut the opposition down whenever he’s on his game.
When: Sunday, March 5, 2023.
Where: Stadio Olimpico, Rome, 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: 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.