clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What to watch for as Juventus opens its U.S. tour in earnest against Milan

Juve has made the trip down to Los Angeles after last weekend’s opener got canceled. Now, they get to begin things against a very familiar opponent.

Juventus Training Session Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

For the second straight summer, Juventus made the trip to Southern California and established Los Angeles as their main base camp for their United States tour. Instead of coming off a friendly in which they played where the Las Vegas Raiders called home, Juve were supposed to play their first game stateside at the stadium where the West Coast’s most successful NFL team has played the last decade.

(Sorry, but as a 49ers fan since I was a wee child I had to take the shot. It was there, so I went for it. I am not sorry.)

Well, that was until Barcelona’s squad got the poops.

So, after going from Santa Clara to Los Angeles, the second friendly of the summer will now act as the first, with Juventus meeting rival AC Milan on Thursday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. local time at Dignity Health Park in Carson, California, the home of the Los Angeles Galaxy. (Did you know that former Juve players Douglas Costa and Martin Caceres play for the Galaxy? Up until a couple of months ago, I did not know that! The more you know, I guess.)

Unlike Juventus, Milan have actually played a friendly in the U.S. already, falling 3-2 to Real Madrid at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena this past weekend in what was a pretty entertaining matchup for the first preseason outing of the summer. Many of Milan’s new signings took part in one way or another, and Stefano Pioli is expected to field a pretty strong starting lineup when his team lines up against their Serie A rivals Thursday night.

So what are we looking at when Juve take the field and actually play a friendly for the first time this summer? Here are a few things.

Max Allegri and his formation of the preseason

There’s going to be so much overreaction to this. So much. Just so, so much.

So let the overreaction commence once the starting lineup is announced it’s likely a 3-5-2 formation with somebody who we’re about to talk about in a position in which he is not totally best at playing.

I mean, let’s be honest: if Allegri goes with something other than a 3-5-2, then that will probably be the biggest surprise of the night outside of Juve scoring four or five goals.

Every single signal we’ve gotten from the Italian media this summer has pointed to Allegri — who, let’s remember, is entering his third year of his big and expensive four-year contract — keeping the three-man backline from much of last season intact. With Angel Di Maria having departed and subsequently returning to Benfica, we can probably expect things to be a little more of a regular 3-5-2 rather than having somebody floating around all over the place behind the point man up front.

The twist in all of this is that the continued experiment with Federico Chiesa as a seconda punta is going to be part of that two-man attack. Like it or not, if Chiesa does end up staying at the club this season, this feels like something that we are going to see a good portion of the time unless Allegri wises up and actually plays his No. 7 in the position in which he is truly meant to be playing.

We pretty much can guess what the defense will look like. We can pretty much guess what the midfield will look like considering there’s no Paul Pogba, Adrien Rabiot and Nicolo Fagioli taking part in this friendly. The attack, and how Allegri actually has them playing, is a question mark — and the insistence on sticking with a 3-5-2 means that more of the square-peg-round-hole attempts will continue.

At least it’s a game that doesn’t count on the record book, right? It’s only July, he said, it’s only July.

Federico Chiesa’s fitness and confidence levels

Like we’ve already said, part of Allegri’s formation is expected to be Juve’s best winger playing as a second striker alongside either Moise Kean or Arek Milik.

As we know, the experimentation with Chiesa as a striker hasn’t exactly gone all that well both before his big knee injury and after he made his return last season.

So now we get to see if a healthier Chiesa, now a year and a half out from undergoing major knee surgery, looks a little more like himself compared to the frustrated guy we saw last season.

Juventus Medical Tests Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

Of course all of this comes under the cloud of the fact that Chiesa could very well end up being the big name sacrificed in the quest to generate income with no Champions League football this coming season. (And, you know, the fact that he also could request a transfer after reaching his breaking point with dealing with Allegri’s tactics, which is totally valid at this point.)

But, for now, it seems like Chiesa will be used as a striker because Allegri is hellbent on sticking with the 3-5-2 to begin the new season.

When it comes to Chiesa, not only do you want to see the joy return to his face because he is such a wonderful character to watch, but also how a “regular” summer has impacted him and his preparations for the new campaign. We’ve been given little glimpses of how he looks through Juventus’ social media channels, but until we see him out on the field for an extended run — although, guessing it will probably be a maximum of 60-65 minutes against Milan — we won’t know for sure just how much a summer that he’s more used to has helped.

This is the main thing I want to see with Chiesa. Sure, how he might play as a striker will be interesting. But, for me, it’s more about the explosiveness, the dribbling with plenty of confidence, the not trying to force the issue and be a little too selfish that I am interested in seeing most against Milan.

Basically, it’s mostly about how much can this Chiesa resemble the old Chiesa with the very obvious caveat that it will likely be happening as he’s deployed in a different position.

The youngsters who could break into the senior team later this season

The thing about games this time of year is that you know every manager is going to go deep into their bench and bringing on names that over the next couple of weeks will be with the Next Gen squad or heading out on loan somewhere in Serie A or Serie B.

That is especially true in the first friendly of the summer, with pretty much an entire new team starting the second half as Allegri has his players gradually build up their fitness levels.

Juventus Next Gen v Pro Partia - Serie C Photo by Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

A lot like last summer — and, really, for every summer because it’s only natural to think this way — there are certainly some interesting youngsters that have made the trip over to the U.S. who you want to see take the field. With the exploits of the Next Gen squad the last couple of years, the names we see on the squad list aren’t total mysteries compared to when players might be making the leap from the primavera for the first couple of weeks of preseason.

Teenagers Dean Huijsen, Kenan Yildiz (pictured at right) and Joseph Nonge are three of the most notable names from the Next Gen contingent that have made the trip stateside. Huijsen and Nonge have already signed a long-term contract at the club within the last few months, while fellow 18-year-old Yildiz is reportedly in talks for his own new deal as rumors of German and Turkish clubs trying to snatch him away persist.

With Allegri expected to field a lineup that looks a lot like last season, we probably won’t get a chance to see the young bucks until the second half gets underway. And you can definitely know that there will be more than a few eyeballs on the likes of Yildiz and Nonge — and maybe not Huijsen since he’s been doing individual training on the side lately — and how they handle themselves during what has been billed as a big summer for each of them.

Tim Weah and his first (unofficial) impression

Because Juve’s summer mercato has been pretty quiet the last couple of weeks — especially when it comes to players being signed — there hasn’t exactly been a whole lot of new faces to try and get acquainted with.

Except for George’s son, of course.

Juventus Training Session Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

For those United States men’s national team fans in attendance in Santa Clara on Saturday night, seeing Weah on the field won’t be anything new. Maybe his position on the field will be since he plays a much more advanced role while on international duty, but that’s going to be the only major difference.

But for Juve supporters, this is the first chance to see what Weah does in bianconero.

Even with it being a friendly in late-July, this has been something Poppa George will boast about for the rest of his life. Knowing that George Weah, the former Milan star who is now president of his home country of Liberia, has made it no secret that he is a Juventus supporter through and through, you know he’s going to walking around with his chest puffed out because of where Timothy now plays.

For Timothy, though, the expectation is for him to slot right into the Juan Cuadrado role in Allegri’s 3-5-2. That’s the kind of position that hasn’t totally played a ton of at the club level, but it’s probably one that he needs to get accustomed to if this is the way Allegri wants to go tactically. But, it’s one that we are going to get used to seeing him in.

There is going to be a lot of chatter about who he’s going to be lining up against since he’s a fellow USMNT player and the game is being played in the U.S., but the Weah-wingback experiment at Juventus is about to get underway.