On this week’s episode of the podcast, we talked a whole lot about the month of April that lies in front of Juventus. You’ve got big games in the Coppa Italia with both legs of the two-legged semifinal against Inter. You’ve got both legs of the Europa League quarterfinals against Sporting. You’ve got nine games in less than a month’s time — which, no matter how you look at it, is a whole lot of minutes to play in not a large amount of time.
The first game of the month, however, is not the big headliner like those in the coming days and weeks.
No, facing a team currently in the relegation zone like Hellas Verona currently are, that’s not going to have the Allianz cranked up to 12 on a scale of 1-10 as compared to facing a team like Inter or having a big European night on tap. But, what Juventus does in front of its manager and players is the first game in a month that will go a long way in determining if this season will have a chance for silverware or if the best they will do is celebrating a points penalty being potentially overturned. (And that would be good!)
Considering Juve has a game every three or four days for the next four weeks, starting this stretch on a positive note — much like they went into the international break on — would be awfully, awfully nice.
Especially when you consider the fact that Hellas Verona sits in 18th place entering the weekend.
Hellas has all of three wins dating all the way back to the early days of — wait for it! — September. Those three wins since early September, which have all come since January, have come against heavy hitters in the form of Salernitana, Lecce and Cremonese. Sure, while it is quite handy to have head-to-head wins over your closest relegation competitors, the simple fact that Hellas Verona — which finished ninth last season! — is third from the bottom can be boiled down to two very simple facts:
- They’ve allowed the fifth-most goals this season (41)
- They’ve scored the second-fewest goals this season (22)
This is the long way of saying that Juventus has to beat Hellas Verona. They have to. Maybe by a little more than the slim and ugly 1-0 scoreline in which we saw back in November, but any sort of slip-up is not exactly carrying the momentum over from before the international break.
And it sure was quite the way to go into the international break nearly two weeks ago with the emotional and quite sold 1-0 win over Inter at the San Siro. It was Juventus’ fourth straight win after losing to Roma on March 5, and the 10th win in 12 games since the start of February on the whole for Max Allegri’s squad.
So you’ve got one of the most in-form teams in Italy not named Napoli facing one of the worst teams in all of Serie A. That has the combination for something that could allow Juventus to start the month of April on the right foot. Or, something that is pretty much the opposite of that — which, you would think, would mean some eyes were looking ahead to the Coppa Italia semifinals on Tuesday night.
- The injury list coming out of the first international break of 2023 is not all too lengthy, with Paul Pogba, Leonardo Bonucci and Kaio Jorge all sidelined.
- When asked at his pre-match press conference about Pogba’s potential return date, Allegri responded: “I don’t know.”
- Allegri announced that Federico Chiesa will not be called up to face Hellas Verona is he tries to shake off the latest minor knee ailment. The hope is to have Chiesa available for the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals against Inter on Tuesday night, according to Allegri.
- Allegri said Angel Di Maria will be available to face Hellas Verona, but likely won’t start seeing as the Argentine has just returned to Turin from international duty on Thursday.
- Arek Milik is expected to be called up for the first time since late January.
- Same goes for Filip Kostic, according to Allegri. Kostic was forced to leave Serbia camp early due to worries of an Achilles injury that thankfully turned out to be a non-issue.
- Allegri spent a lot of time during his press conference praising the work of Moise Kean, who scored the lone goal the first time these two teams met this season. “Kean has improved a lot, both mentally and technically,” Allegri said. “I am very happy with him. I think his performances don’t receive the credit they deserve.”
- With Chiesa out, Di Maria just back in Italy and Milik just back in the squad, that kind of talk from Allegri about Kean makes it look rather likely he will start alongside Dusan Vlahovic on Saturday night.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Max Allegri talked him up. So let’s talk about him some more.
This is a very pivotal time for Moise Kean for the simple fact that he could be fighting for a place on next season’s Juventus squad over the course of the next two months.
There’s also the simple fact that Juve play nine games over the course of the next month and that means Allegri is going to have to rely on a whole lot of his roster if he wants to try and keep folks fresh despite there seemingly being a big game with every turn.
In that regard, you can understand why Allegri spent some time trying to talk up Kean. As much as Vlahovic had a very positive international break, the veteran manager knows that Milik is probably a couple of weeks away from handling starter’s minutes, so Kean is going to get some run no matter what. That’s just the reality of the situation and the need for Allegri to not run a consistent starting XI into the ground over the next three or four weeks.
The fact is, though, things have not been great for Kean ever since he went into the World Cup break having scored five goals in his last five games. While not all of his 16 appearances in the 2023 calendar year have been starts (or all that long) — I mean, he “technically” played against Roma... — the goal production has seriously dropped off again.
How much? Try two goals in 2023.
No matter if you’re a starter or somebody coming off the bench, if you’re a striker and you’ve scored two goals in your last 16 appearances, that just ain’t going to cut it.
So while we wait for Vlahovic to truly get things going at the club level and for Milik to try and find the same kind of groove he had before he missed the last two months due to injury, there’s also a matter of seeing if Kean can find something positive again. He’s going to play, and he very much needs to start contributing goals again.
When: Saturday, April 1, 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, 2:45 p.m. Eastern time, 11:45 a.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: BT Sport 1 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Uno, Sky Sport 251, NOW TV, Sky Sport 4K, Sky Sport Calcio (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.