In case you didn’t know or haven’t thought that far ahead, the Europa League final is scheduled for Wednesday, May 31, in Budapest.
All things considered, Juventus might as well treat Thursday night’s second leg of the Europa League semifinal against Sevilla as a final to get to the actual final.
That’s because Juve face the same kind of situation as they did when they faced Nantes in their first two-legged Europa League matchup of the season. Because the aggregate scoreline is level at 1-apiece after last Thursday’s first leg in Turin, there is just one result in which Juventus can advance to the actual Europa League final — an outright win. (OK, they can technically see things end even after extra time and then win on penalty kicks, but just go with me on this one, folks.) It is the same situation in which Juve faced when they went to France to face Nantes in the first two-legged tie of this Europa League adventure. And now, with a potential all-Serie A final for the taking, Juve needs to win to keep this current European run going.
And they will try to do it at an opposing stadium that has the kind of atmosphere that only a handful of others from Juve’s fixture list this season can match.
What Juventus are going to encounter at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium is going to be very different than what we saw at the Allianz Stadium last week. Rather than a sometimes-subdued atmosphere, Juve will hear the fans in Seville from the time warmups begin until the final whistle. It will be a completely sold out stadium Thursday night. It’s a place where, just one round ago, Sevilla curb-stomped Manchester United with a 3-0 win to advance to the semifinal round and meet Juventus.
That is just the folks who will be watching the game.
But it’s clear that Sevilla, the masters of the Europa League who have won the competition four times in the 21st century alone, feed off said crowd and has used it to their advantage.
So, that means Juventus will have to deal with a crowd that, outside of the traveling tifosi and those in tribuna, want to see them lose just in the same fashion that United did. But they will also be dealing with a Sevilla side that showed to be a threat in the first leg back in Turin.
A tale of two halves, sure, but it was the opening 45 minutes last Thursday in which Sevilla showed to be more than just a side that is going to sit back and counterattack. They used their speed, they used their athleticism and they used the kind of approach in which Juventus had few answers to try and combat the sometimes-overwhelming nature of how the first leg was playing out.
One has to imagine that Sevilla will try and jump on Juventus in the same kind of fashion in which they did with United, taking a 1-0 lead after just eight minutes and rolling from there.
There’s also this to give Sevilla a boost: While we don’t know their exact condition, Sevilla manager José Luis Mendilibar got a boost for Thursday night’s second leg when he was able to include Lucas Ocampos — who had to be subbed out due to a muscle injury in the first half last week _ and former Milan man Suso in the matchday squad. Both were rather big question marks coming out of the weekend after Sevilla claimed a 3-0 away win over Real Valladolid on Sunday.
There is no doubting that Juventus will have to be on top of their game to get things done in Spain and advance to the Europa League final. For a team that has struggled all season away from home, that might seem like quite the tall task. And it could very well could end up being just that.
But there’s been something about these second legs in the Europa League in which Juventus has just gotten the job done no matter who they’ve faced. Maybe they’ll channel that second-leg magic again and Max Allegri will actually put his team in position to pay for silverware in what has been a rollercoaster of a season.
No matter what, though, for (at least) 90 minutes on Thursday night, Juventus are about to face one of their toughest on-field tests of the 2022-23 season.
- Paul Pogba did not make the trip to Sevilla after picking up his latest muscle injury in this past weekend’s win over Cremonese. Although it was deemed “minor,” it is an injury that could very well keep him out the rest of the season.
- Same goes for captain Leonardo Bonucci, who was forced out due to a muscle injury in the first leg against Sevilla last week. There is no exact timetable for his return.
- Mattia De Sciglio is the only other player from the Europa League squad list out injured.
- Tommaso Barbieri was called up from the Next Gen squad to provide some depth at the fullback/wingback position.
- Allegri confirmed at his pre-match press conference that Enzo Barrenechea is dealing with a tendon injury and that is why we haven’t seen him in recent weeks. Barrenechea was officially promoted to Juve’s senior squad at the beginning of April.
- Allegri said his team is in good shape and is aware that Thursday’s game could go well past 90 minutes in length with extra time. “Both those who take to the field from the start and those who come off the bench will be important,” he added.
- When it comes to his starting lineup, Allegri played it rather coy, saying: “I have some doubts about the defence, one in midfield and one in attack. I’ll decide (Thursday) morning.”
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
While there is a little bit of uncertainty in terms of who is starting up front with Angel Di Maria on Thursday night, there doesn’t seem to be much doubt when it comes to who will be trying to serve them up crosses from the left wing.
Did you know that Filip Kostic has gone 15 appearances in all competitions without recording an assist? I didn’t either until I decided to look it up.
That’s a lot of games for a dude whose calling card is very much setting up teammates for goal-scoring opportunities and all that. (Of course, you need your teammates to score said goal-scoring opportunities — something that Juve forwards certainly have struggled with for the vast majority of the 2022-23 season.)
That’s over two months worth of games since Kostic last recorded his ninth assist of the Serie A season, one that came in Juventus’ 4-2 win over now-relegated Sampdoria on March 12.
But the fact is that Kostic, the guy who has done a lot of good things this season, has not exactly been the same electric kind of threat down the left wing in recent weeks as compared to other points in the year. That’s why the playing time that somebody like Samuel Iling-Junior has received of late hasn’t been the worst thing in the world, and you can see that Allegri has shaken things up for a different threat down the left because of Kostic’s quiet performances.
For a guy who is gunning for his second Europa League final (and title) in as many seasons, showing the old Kostic on Thursday night sure would help Juventus in overcoming one of their biggest issue that has been there all year long — scoring away from home.
When: Thursday, May 18, 2023.
Where: Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium, Seville, Spain.
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Spain, 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, UniMás (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, Univision NOW (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.