It’s been over half a decade since Juventus found themselves in this kind of position at the European level. Sure, it’s not in the European competition that they had hoped for or even started the 2022-23 season competing in, but this very fact remains 100 percent true:
Juventus stands 180 minutes away from a European final.
Just like in the previous three Europa League rounds, the proceedings will start in Turin as Juventus tries to build some sort of advantage in front of the hometown crowd. This time, though, it comes against the team that has won the Europa League more than anybody else and very much the specialists of the competition in Sevlla. And knowing how Sevilla was able to play in the second leg of its quarterfinal tie against Manchester United in Spain, trying to get some sort of advantage on the scoreboard has to be the biggest thing on Juve manager Max Allegri’s mind.
Because thinking of Juventus trying to fight from behind to flip the semifinal tie in its favor in Seville is something that is very much a potential daunting task to lay out there.
Firstly, though, let’s just go ahead and compare the two clubs’ somewhat recent European success for a moment:
- Juventus hasn’t won a European trophy in 27 years.
- Sevilla has won six European trophies — including the Europa League four times — in the 21st century.
This is why Sevilla has gotten the label as the Europa League specialists. This is their competition. And as much as winning the Europa League has meant you get into the Champions League the next season, they have still worked their way into Europa League finals ... and won them.
Being a this point of the competition might not have been in Sevilla’s thought process earlier this season when they were looking down a potential relegation battle. However, a managerial change has proved to be just about everything the Sevilla front office hoped it would be, with José Luis Mendilibar not only getting the club out of danger in La Liga but also ripped off a run of just one loss in nine games in all competitions.
So, to say Sevilla’s form under Mendilibar — build as a total fixer for these kinds of situations — is completely different than Jorge Sampaoli is pretty much the right line of thinking.
For Juventus, the hope is that the struggles from the entire month of April are now a total thing of the past with two straight wins over Lecce and Atalanta to begin May. The win over Atalanta was especially encouraging knowing just how much Juve had struggled to consistently pick up wins over Serie A sides that are also in the top six.
Now the question is: Can Juventus keep it going?
Now with a healthy squad and a second-place standing (for now) in Serie A, Allegri has the chance to truly put his attention toward the next eight days that have a whole lot of Sevilla attached to them. With Cremonese set for the weekend, there’s no reason to think that Allegri shouldn’t be all in on the two Europa League ties that are in front of his team.
And with back-to-back wins under their belt and some wind in their sails, according to Allegri, trying to get a much-needed lead at home before heading to Spain next weekend is something that they need to see happen just like what took place against Sporting in the quarterfinals last month.
If Juve can do that, then they’re that much closer to playing for a European trophy this season.
- Allegri announced at his pre-match press conference that Bremer will miss Thursday night’s game due to a muscle strain.
- “The rest of the players are fine,” Allegri added.
- That means the only other players who are out injured are Mattia De Sciglio and Kaio Jorge.
- Allegri didn’t provide many hints when it comes to who’s playing from the start and who’s coming off the bench against Sevilla. Instead, Allegri decided to be rather coy and insisted that the entire squad is going to be important on Thursday night.
- Allegri described recent training sessions as “a real pleasure.”
- Allegri described the current around the team as “we head into the tie with a buzz about us.”
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
He has been the man who has scored the most goals out of any Juventus player in the Europa League this season. He has also been a man who has kinda-sorta cooled off from the form that saw him taking the souls of opposing defenders from earlier in 2023.
So now, again, Juventus needs one of its World Cup winners to come up big again.
Angel Di Maria has scored four goals in 22 appearances in Serie A this season.
In four Europa League appearances, Angel Di Maria has scored — you might have guessed it — four goals.
Now, I know, a lot of that has to do with the fact that he scored a hat trick in Juventus’ second-leg win over Nantes that wrapped things up against the mid-table French side.
But there’s also this: Di Maria, for as good as he was to start the calendar year after winning the World Cup in Qatar, has now gone over two months without a goal, last finding the back of the net in the first leg against Freiburg in Turin back in early March.
Nobody expected him to be the kind of goal scorer that can carry a club for long stretches of time, but the two months without a goal is noticeable at the very least. For any player who has played a heavy amount of minutes, this time of year is always going to be tough and when you’re trying to push through the fatigue of a long season. That’s even more of the case when you’re like Di Maria and you’re 35 years old and played as much football as he has these last few years.
During the pre-match press conference Wednesday, Di Maria said that he’s “reached a good level” and that one of the biggest adjustments he’s had to make was to speed up his game because of how difficult Serie A can be. It’s good that such a veteran can recognize those sorts of things and be open to changing how he plays if it means it might improve his play.
You know what would also be good to see? Di Maria playing like he did in previous Europa League rounds — which, as you might guess, could go a long way in how Juventus is feeling after the first 90 minutes of this two-legged semifinal.
When: Thursday, May 11, 2023.
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Italy and around Europe, 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 3 p.m. Eastern time, 12 p.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TUDN USA (United States); BT Sport 2 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Uno, Sky Sport 251, Sky Sport Calcio, Sky Sport 4K, RAI Uno (Italy).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+, TUDN.com, TUDN app (United States); DAZN (Canada); BTSport.com, BT Sport app (United Kingdom); DAZN, Sky Go Italia, RAI Play, NOW TV (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.