There are a lot of questions coming out of Juventus’ 4-2 loss to Sassuolo this past weekend. But, in the simplest terms, the one that applies to the first midweek fixture of the 2023-24 season isn’t all that hard to figure out or take hours of hard-hitting analysis.
You’re always going to ask yourself that question after Juventus puts forth a rough go of things. But it’s especially true when Juve lose in the kind of fashion that they did this past weekend, with mistakes galore and self-inflicted wounds all over the place. It was bad — really, really bad — over the weekend. And it just so happens that instead of six or seven days before Juventus steps onto the field again, the first midweek fixture of the 2023-24 season arrives immediately after they did what they did against Sassuolo.
By simple name recognition, facing a club like Lecce would probably be the perfect tonic for a wounded Juventus that was probably riding a little too high after their win over Lazio a little over a week ago now.
But then you go ahead and look at the Serie A standings after the first five games of the season and ...
- Third place: Lecce
- Fourth place: Juventus
Wait ... what?!
I know the early-season Serie A standings always seems to have a head-scratcher or two ever year, but this might be one of the most surprising ones of the last couple of campaigns, if not more than that.
That’s right, folks. Tuesday night’s matchup at the Allianz Stadium in which the Ultras in the Curva have already said they will not be there for it is a top-four clash. It isn’t necessarily the headline-grabbing tilt like, say, Juventus facing Inter or Juventus and Milan, but it’s third place traveling to the stadium in which Serie A’s fourth-place team calls home. It’s one team that’s unbeaten playing a team that just suffered its first loss of the season in pretty glorious — and not in the good way — kind of fashion.
Bet you didn’t expect Juventus to be the second one in that last sentence.
Well, unless you watched what happened on Saturday at the Mapei Stadium. Then you know all too well just how bad things got and how important is for Juventus — no matter the opponent — to bounce back quickly. Good thing that they have had only three days in between games, right? Well, let’s see.
As much as Lecce’s wins outside of the season-opening victory over Lazio came against anybody you would consider “good,” it’s not like Juve’s loss over the weekend can be categorized as an opponent that is highly regarded. (You know, since Sassuolo came into the game in 17th place in the Serie A standings.) It was oh so very bad — be it the game-changing mistakes that led to goals, the play of the midfield, the finishing in front of the Sassuolo goal, the completely wide open spaces in the second half that Domenico Berardi could run into on the counter, the fact that Berardi was still on the field after sending his studs into Bremer’s shin, all of it.
Juventus manager Max Allegri didn’t hide how his team was feeling in the aftermath of Saturday’s loss. Allegri used words like “angry” and “sorry” to preface the fact that they are motivated to truly put the Sassuolo loss in the rear view mirror and get back on track. That’s all good in theory, but Juventus need to actually come out and play like an angry (yet composed) squad rather than one that is showing hangover-like signs from what happened a few days earlier.
When the schedule was announced, this game was thought of to be a chance for Allegri to rotate things ahead of a big game against Atalanta the following weekend. There will be rotation and Allegri has basically said as such, but Lecce’s strong start to the season might not make this as straightforward of a matchup as this was thought to be a few months ago.
No matter what shape Lecce is entering Tuesday night’s game in, Juve need this one — and probably in more ways than one knowing what happened just a couple of days earlier.
- Paul Pogba — still suspended as we await the results of the B sample to be released on Oct. 5. If the initial failed doping test is confirmed, then Pogba will prepare his argument for the Italian sporting court and risks a suspension between two and four years.
- The other two Juventus players who will miss out are through injury: Alex Sandro and Mattia De Sciglio.
- Moise Kean is a doubt due to a minor tibia issue, per Allegri at his pre-match press conference. Kean has yet to start a game this season.
- Allegri, to nobody’s surprise, continued to voice his support for Wojciech Szczesny following the Pole’s brutal showing against Sassuolo over the weekend. Allegri said Szczesny will get the start against Lecce despite some speculating it could be Mattia Perin’s time for some run. We’ll talk Szczesny again shortly.
- Allegri hinted at one of Dusan Vlahovic or Federico Chiesa starting from the bench against Lecce considering their heavy amount of minutes early this season and the weekend trip to Bergamo looming.
- With Kean injured, Arek Milik will almost certainly be the one who steps into the starting lineup if (when?) either one of Vlahovic or Chiesa is rested.
- Allegri, at least in front of the microphone, has taken a learn-from-your-mistakes kind of approach to Federico Gatti’s stinker against Sassuolo, saying the 25-year-old Italian “has to stay calm” and understand that “these mistakes happen, and they’ll probably happen again, but maybe not quite like the other night.”
- Allegri has told us his Scudetto favorites: “Inter, AC Milan and Napoli.” He continues to maintain that Juventus’ main priority is to secure a top-four finish in Serie A.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
You never want to be the guy who has the distinction of somebody who’s probably coming off the worst game of their career. But, considering what we saw a couple of days ago, I think we can probably say that’s the situation for Juventus’ No. 1.
Over his time as Juventus’ starting goalkeeper, it’s not like Wojciech Szczesny hasn’t been in this kind of situation before. He’s had big-time mistakes. He’s bad stretches of time — sometimes a couple of weeks when Juve were playing three games every eight or nine days — in which those mistakes were relatively consistent. Each of those times have obviously seen Szczesny struggle and Juve drop points over the course of the poor form, but every time he’s been able to rebound and right the shape.
Sometimes the recover has been faster than other instances, but he has always gotten back on the horse and shown why he’s consistently one of the best keeper in Italy.
Here we have the latest instance of a game in which Tek struggles, makes a game-changing mistake or two and now has to put his short-term memory to the test to be able to flush all of the bad from the loss to Sassuolo.
Much like previous iterations of the Szczesny Struggles, the hope is that a veteran like he is won’t let this linger. The safety net — no pun intended, I swear! — of Perin being the backup will always be there, and Lord knows there’s already been a number of people calling for him to become Juve’s new starter because that’s what happens whenever Tek has one of these games. But Allegri is doing what Allegri does whenever Szczesny has one of these moments — dig in firm and tell everybody at every possible chance that Tek is his starter.
That’s no surprise. It feels like the only thing that would see Szczesny replaced as Juve’s starting goalkeeper is a truly prolonged amount of terrible form or an injury absence. You what would prevent it from getting to that first option? Getting back on track against Lecce.
When: Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023.
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, 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: TLN (Canada); TNT Sports 2 (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.