In a weird kind of way, it almost makes sense that Napoli is coming to Turin this weekend.
Now, now, now ... just hear me out.
On Jan. 14, 2023, Juventus went to Naples and got it handed to them by Napoli, 5-1.
Less than a week later, Juve saw the FIGC hand down a 15-point penalty as a result of the plusvalenza investigation that saw them tumble back down into the mid-table and drastically changing the scope of the season just after it was made crystal clear a Scudetto wasn’t happening.
Now, all of three days after Juventus saw the appeal of that same points penalty at least temporarily revoked, here comes Napoli and their 16-point lead in Serie A to the Allianz Stadium. And instead of there being a partial stadium ban in the Curva Sud after that appeal was also successful, the Allianz is expected to be at full voice for what is suddenly first place against third place. The Scudetto may not be at stake Sunday night in Turin, but with the points penalty at least partially out of our minds for the time being, there is now suddenly a fight to secure a spot in the top four rather than trying to simply get back into a Champions League spot for Max Allegri’s squad.
This isn’t being viewed as a matchup for the Scudetto like the first time these two teams met back in January. That very reason is obvious — and all you need to do is look at the Serie A table real quick to figure all of that out.
But when it comes to Juventus, it’s simple: You’re not suddenly back in the top four, so the task for these final eight Serie A fixtures is to stay there.
While both teams are coming off emotional European results — one good, one the opposite of good — Napoli has the advantage of two extra days rest on Juventus, with the Bianconeri playing in Portugal all of 96 hours before kickoff Sunday night. We don’t know how much Juve has in the tank following Thursday night’s roller coaster ride against Sporting. We also don’t know what state of mind Napoli will be in after a disappointing end to their Champions League campaign at the hands of AC Milan.
And it’s not like either team has been all that great in league play as of late. They’ve both recorded just three wins in their last six, which is a tough pill to swallow knowing how even more unpredictable the other top teams in Italy have been with their form over that same period of time.
Then you have this little wrinkle as well: Lazio, currently in second place, went out and lost to Torino on Saturday night, thus opening the door for Juventus to potentially jump over Maurizio Sarri’s squad with a victory over Napoli at the Allianz.
Now, getting said victory over Napoli is no sure thing or anything close to it. They’re the runaway, soon-to-be champions for a reason. If it wasn’t for their recent struggles in the league then the Scudetto might already be in Naples knowing how the rest of the teams behind them not named Lazio have been coughing up points left and right.
No matter what, though, Allegri has made it clear and it’s hard to disagree with him on this point: “We need to put as many points as possible on the board because our aim is to play the Champions League football next year.” That’s the goal. Juve’s back in the top four because they rightfully got their 15 points back. Now it’s time to make sure that a top four spot doesn’t slip away.
Basically, don’t screw up. The road is not easy, but maintaining a spot in the top four is the biggest priority for this team when it comes to the final stretch of the Serie A season.
- Juventus’ injury is as short as it’s been all season, with just Moise Kean and Kaio Jorge out.
- One player expected to be added to the injury list, Bremer, was given the OK from Juventus’ training staff, Allegri said at his pre-match press conference. While the Italian media is tipping Bremer to get the night off ahead of the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals on Wednesday, Allegri said he will decide Sunday morning about the big Brazilian’s status.
- Going off that, Allegri said Leonardo Bonucci and Daniele Rugani — one of which would step in for Bremer in defense — have both “been doing well in training.”
- To get you even more excited about who might be playing in Juventus’ defense against the most explosive team in the league, Allegri said Mattia De Sciglio is “completely available.”
- Allegri said that he is undecided as to whether or not Federico Chiesa will start against Napoli after the Italian winger played the full 90 minutes on Thursday night. That’s another decision that will come Sunday morning.
- Allegri wrapped up his press conference by declaring “I’m not worried about Dusan Vlahovic.”
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
We haven’t seen this guy in the starting lineup much at all the last six months for very obvious reasons. But because of an injury to Bremer, it looks as though the former man in the middle of Juventus’ back three during those glory days a decade ago is set to make his return to the starting lineup in quite a big matchup.
Bonucci was the pick to click here before everything went abuzz about Tomasso Barbieri getting his first senior level start last weekend against Sassuolo. And since he ended up actually starting and doing fairly well on his Serie A debut, it made things look good after talking about him.
But no we circle back around to Bonucci, who has been seen more on the sidelines this season than actually in the starting lineup — especially in 2023.
The last time Bonucci actually started a game: March 23 against Sampdoria.
So ... not exactly close that first notion.
But let’s just add this, too: Since the games restarted after the World Cup break, Bonucci has played in just six games total, with a couple of those appearances being short second-half cameos either close to or in stoppage time. And it’s not like we’re sitting here just a week or two into February. We’re not in mid-April, which means Bonucci barely playing over the last 3 1⁄2 months — and we all know how many games Juve’s had over that span — just tells you how much he’s struggled to even be an option for Allegri much of the time.
Tt’s not like Bonucci was all that great in any of those appearances, either.
So if Allegri really does go through with giving Bremer the night off — something he most definitely deserves with how many minutes he’s been logging of late — and goes with Bonucci, the worry suddenly becomes just how up to the task he is. So much of this season for Bonucci has been about not being able to play because of physical issues and looking a step or two slow when he’s actually been on the field, so who knows just how much rust there is on a guy who turns 36 years old in a couple of weeks.
If there is, let’s just hope there isn’t that much because it’s safe to say there would be a very different kind of player in the center of Juve’s back three than the one he’d be replacing.
When: Sunday, April 23, 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: 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.