Two-and-a-half months ago, Juventus made the trip to Udine and put the final touches on a season that just about any fan of the club would like to forget for a multitude of reasons. The players looked tired, us fans were certainly tired and a summer of unknowns was about to commence with plenty of questions about the future of Juventus being raised.
Some of those have been answered. Others are still very much unknown heading into the final days of the summer transfer window. Some are essentially TBD until this time next year.
But one thing is 100% for certain: Juventus, just like they did during the final weekend of the 2022-23 season, have made the trip to Udine. But instead of trying to put some sort of bow on a season that we couldn’t wait to see end, this is a day for new beginnings.
Sunday night at the Dacia Arena brings the start of a new season for Max Allegri and Juventus. Weeks of work during preseason training and friendlies is now being replaced by games that mean something in the standings, the kind of day that will hopefully be celebrated both before kickoff and then after the final whistle sounded. It all begins against Udinese, who just so happened to see Juve roll into town and claim a 1-0 win to close out last season back in June.
With the new season comes the unexpected, a 38-game slate in which Juventus will be looking to — at minimum — get back into the top four because there shouldn’t be any sort of points penalties being handed down this time around.
While there’s been so much happening off the field for new sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli and the rest of the new-look front office to try and figure out, the vibes appear to be quite good amongst the squad from the outside looking in. Juve manager Max Allegri, now entering the third year of his big-money four-year contract he signed when he returned to the club, says he’s “very happy with the squad” he has on his hands. Finishing in the top four this season is a must, Allegri says, and that is pretty much the bare minimum for this current squad that has talent but is very much flawed in more ways than one.
The hope, of course, is that a Juventus squad playing without European fixtures on the schedule this season can take advantage of a less congested schedule and the ability to focus solely on Serie A until the Coppa Italia arrives in January. Juve’s preseason results —wins over Milan (on penalties) and Real Madrid and a draw with Atalanta — saw plenty of positives happen even if they were vastly different performances from one to the next. (Not that they were bad by any means, just ... different.)
But there are plenty of on-field answers left to find out about:
- Can Federico Chiesa be better in his striker position than he has in the past?
- Can Dusan Vlahovic be better than he was a season ago now that it looks like he’s staying?
- Can Bremer be the leader in defense in Year 2 more than he was in Year 1?
- Will Contract Year Rabiot have a second season?
- Will the new and younger wingbacks make for a more dynamic attack?
Those are just a few that pop into my head as I write this. There are plenty more. No matter what, though, we’re about to get at least the first step of those answers at the Friuli.
As is usually the case with Sunday night’s opponent, Udinese has not done a ton of major business during the transfer window, instead sticking to their budget-wise ways and low-cost maneuvering to try and improve the squad. Their biggest signing was to bring 23-year-old Brazilian striker Brenner in from Major League Soccer’s Cincinnati FC. The most newsworthy move has proven to be one that actually hasn’t happened, with midfielder Lazar Samardzic’s reported move to Inter falling apart right before the two clubs made things official earlier this week. Samardzic, who was in Milan ready to sign his contract before things went in the tank, is now rumored to be a target of Lazio.
So, while Udinese has not been at Juventus’ level of a lack of bringing new players in, it’s not like they’re pulling a Chelsea and bringing in somewhere close to a double-digit total, either.
There may no longer be any Tuco Pereyra around in Udine, but there will be a lot of other names that we saw lining up across from Juventus on the first weekend of June to end last season.
For Juventus, though, it’s simple: Some names may be different, the formation is different than 12 months ago, a lot of the names are the same, but if you play like you did in last season’s opener, then good things are bound to happen.
Scudetto holders Napoli won on opening day. Inter followed that up with their own win. Now it’s over to Allegri and Juventus to make their first impression for the 2023-24 season.
- Paul Pogba — in the traveling squad.
- Nicolo Fagioli — in the traveling squad.
- Moise Kean was not called up for the trip to Udine due to a leg contusion.
- Mattia De Sciglio is the only long-term injury as he will be out until the new year due to major knee surgery.
- Leonardo Bonucci has not been called up as he continues to be frozen out of the squad. Bonucci’s No. 19 was also not registered by Juve prior to the first weekend of games, a sign that the club is not changing their chance regarding their now-former captain.
- After getting Nos. 13 and 15, respectively, teenagers Dean Huijsen and Kenan Yildiz are part of the traveling squad.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
USA! USA! USA! USA!
There are other players who are technically new on this Juventus roster — you know, the guys returning from loan or the ones who have been promoted from the Next Gen squad either temporarily or for good — but Timothy Weah is certainly the most prominent addition.
In a way, it’s almost by default because of how little Juve have actually done on the transfer market for obvious reason.
At the same time, the handful of preseason friendlies have given us the first glimpse of what Weah has to offer as he takes over as Juventus’ preferred option down the right wing in Allegri’s 3-5-2. In those games, Weah proved to be one of Juve’s most dangerous players, giving a first impression that is very much what you were hoping for from a player who is taking over for a starting lineup stalwart — albeit sometimes a frustrating one! — for the better part of the last decade in Juan Cuadrado.
Now, the games count for real and Weah’s official Juventus debut is nearly upon us.
Weah will bring speed and creativity to the right flank. He won’t be afraid to take his man on and he will likely be one of Juve’s most important contributors to the attack. And if he can hold his own defensively both against Udinese and beyond, then Juve’s biggest summer signing will make a whole lot of fans in a hurry.
Just like the rest of the team, the first impression to begin this season will be important. The good thing for Weah is that he’s gotten a few preseason friendlies under his belt already. If he plays like he does in those games, then we’re off and running — both literally and figuratively.
When: Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023.
Where: Dacia Arena, Udine, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. Italy and the Central European time zone, 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 2:45 p.m. Eastern time, 11:45 a.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TNT Sports 1 (United Kingdom).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+ (United States); fuboTV Canada (Canada); discovery+, discovery+ 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.