Something we’ve talked about before but haven’t mentioned in what feels like quite a while just so happens the quirks that has come with the Serie A schedule not being a mirror image of itself between the andata and ritorno. Because of that, Juve’s second half of the season is very much different than what we’ve seen in previous years and the second matchup with teams coming at different times that they normally would.
Take somebody like Sassuolo, who Juventus played the opening weekend of the season on Aug. 15.
Now, a whopping seven months later and with just nine games to go in the 2022-23 season, the two teams are set to meet again.
That’s right, folks — 28 match days and seven months have passed since Juventus last faced the team that they beat 3-0 to open the season. To say that a lot has happened between then and now is a vast understatement. There’s been drama on the field. There’s been plenty of drama off the field. There’s been good things on the field. There’s been bad things taking place on the field both domestically and in Europe. It’s been a roller coaster ride, that’s for sure, and there is still plenty of potential for the good, the bad and the ugly to take place before this season comes to an end.
But here’s something that we also know: Juventus’ season-opening win against Sassuolo at the Allianz Stadium is still one of the best performances from Max Allegri’s squad this season. Angel Di Maria was going Angel Di Maria things, Dusan Vlahovic scored a brace and things were looking rather positive for the opening 90 minutes of the season.
If only things had stayed that way, right?
Now Juventus heads into the final nine games of the season both a few days away from a verdict on the 15-point penalty appeal and the two roads that come with it. Juve will either be trying to break into a European spot this time next week or suddenly back into the top four and on course to clinch a Champions League berth for next season.
Come Sunday, Juve won’t only be trying to get back on track in the league after beating Sporting 1-0 on Thursday night in the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinals, they will also be facing a Sassuolo squad that won’t have their best player, Domenico Berardi, available due to injury. That means Juve will enter the Mapei Stadium more of a favorite than they were to begin with.
There’s also this, though: Over the course of the last six league games, Sassuolo — which currently sits in 13th in the Serie A table — had earned more points (13) than Juventus (12).
That’s not nothing, and a sign that even without Berardi — who picked up a muscle injury against Hellas Verona last weekend — they’re not going to be an easy out.
But if Juventus wants to ensure that either road they find themselves going down in a matter of days is a potentially entertaining one, then taking advantage of those in front of them dropping points — again — has to happen. A repeat of last weekend would be an even tougher pill to swallow knowing that Sassuolo is far from the team that Lazio is.
- Moise Kean has not made the trip to Emilia-Romagna after picking up a flexor injury during training on Friday, announced Allegri at his pre-match press conference.
- Also unavailable to face Sassuolo due to injury are Mattia De Sciglio and Kaio Jorge.
- Alex Sandro is suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
- Wojciech Szczesny has been called up by Allegri after his brief heart rhythm scare against Sporting on Thursday night. Allegri said that Szczesny will be on the bench, with Mattia Perin stepping in to start in goal against Sassuolo (and potentially in the second leg against Sporting).
- Allegri said Paul Pogba is still not ready to get his first start of the season due to a lack of match fitness. “I do believe that between now and the end of the season, his contribution will be fundamental,” Allegri added.
- Allegri suggested that Bremer could get the game off against Sassuolo, meaning Leonardo Bonucci or Daniele Rugani will be in the starting lineup if Juve stick with a three-man defense.
- Allegri said Dusan Vlahovic, who came off the bench in the second half against Sporting, “could start” against Sassuolo.
- Enzo Barrenechea, who was recently promoted to the first team, was not called up because he will be playing in Juventus Next Gen’s penultimate game ahead of the Serie C promotion playoffs against Arzignano.
- Tommaso Barbieri was called up from the Next Gen squad to actually give Allegri another option out wide wide De Sciglio injured and Sandro suspended.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
I am writing this section for a second time mostly because I am a sucker when it comes to the predicted lineups that the Italian press throws out there. When I first started this section, two of my go-to spots had Leonardo Bonucci stepping into the starting lineup for Bremer.
Right as I finished said section and took a phone call from my dad, things had changed: Bremer was back in, and that meant a few hundred words about Bonucci potentially playing were looking like a waste of time.
So let’s go with somebody new who the Italian press is now suddenly tipping to get a start.
Yes, that’s Tommaso Barbieri. The same Tommaso Barbieri who has not played a game with the Juventus senior squad since getting a couple of minutes late against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League back in the fall. He’s been called up a handful of times between then and now, but he’s only got a couple of minutes to his name at the senior level.
So, because the likes of Giovanni Albanese of La Gazzetta dello Sport and Sky Italia’s Gianluca Di Marzio are tipping Barbieri to get his debut start with the Juve senior squad, we’re going to go with a fullback that we obviously haven’t seen much of since the preseason friendlies (unless you’ve been grinding tape on the Next Gen team).
The 20-year-old Barbieri is one of the handful of Juve youngsters at the Next Gen level who have seen their contract extended throughout the course of the season, having signed a new deal through 2026.
With Juve’s lone natural fullback available a dead lock to start as one of the three central defenders at the back and Juan Cuadrado probably set to start from the bench, that leaves Barbieri as the only other option for Allegri to start out wide on the right. And considering a much more important game is on the schedule come Thursday night in Portugal, everything is pointing toward Barbieri being the guy.
Considering this wouldn’t be the first time this season Allegri has handed a Next Gen regular his first competitive start at the Serie A level, seeing Barbieri play knowing that he’s been called up wouldn’t be the biggest surprise, but very much a pleasant one.
In nearly 2,000 minutes in all competitions this season, Barbieri has yet to score a goal and has provided an assist. Those aren’t numbers that will make you say wow or anything close to it, but Barbieri showed during his run with the senior team this past summer that there’s some talent there.
And now he will get to show in a game that actually means something with points for the taking. Let it rip, kid, because you only get to make your official Serie A debut once.
When: Sunday, April 16, 2023.
Where: Mapei Stadium, Sassuolo, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 6 p.m. local time in Italy and around Europe, 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 12 p.m. Eastern time, 9 a.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TLN (Canada); BT Sport 3 (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.