As we’ve gone from fall to winter, November to December to now January, the number in the loss column for Juventus has thankfully remained the same. That’s how you get to go on an unbeaten run in all competitions to 16 games like Juventus has been able to achieve as Max Allegri’s squad is officially set to begin the second half of the 2023-24 Serie A season.
So now, a couple of weeks into 2024, we can say this:
The one team that beat Juventus this season are next up on the schedule.
That’s right. It’s Sassuolo time once again. For some, that immediately has your mind going back to what happened during the second game out of the September international break. Don’t worry, you’re certainly not the only one who’s gone there and remembering all of the bad times that happened during that 4-2 self-destruction of a loss to Sassuolo at the Mapei Stadium on Sept. 23. It wasn’t just that Juventus lost that night, but it was the manner in which how they lost, with multiple game-changing mistakes leading to Juventus allowing a season-high four goals, the last of which coming on one of the most memorable own goals you will see all season long (and maybe over a longer period than that).
But ever since that woeful night in Emilia-Romagna, Juve have not lost.
In fact, Juve’s dropped a grand total of six points since that loss, allowing them to be the only team with a fighters’ chance of keeping pace with league leaders Inter this season.
It hasn’t always been pretty in the months following the loss to Sassuolo. But when you’re sitting here in mid-January and you can say you’ve lost just once in your first 19 league games (and 21 games in all competitions), that’s pretty impressive no matter how you try and spin it.
The two main players in that awful showing against Sassuolo, goalkeeper Wojciech Szcesny and defender Federico Gatti, have rebounded well from that night. You can say the former has done a little bit better than the latter in that aspect based on some notable blunders from Gatti since late-September, but it was a potential tipping point for Juventus as a team where they could have let things get really bad.
Yet that didn’t happen. Instead, Juve responded — and continue to do just that — how you would want them to. It’s been a 16-game run in which they’ve won 13 and drawn just three.
Over that same timeframe, things haven’t gone anywhere close to as well for Sassuolo.
A Sassuolo side that was struggling to begin the season when they played Juventus the first time this season is still very much a struggling side now that we’re at the official midway point of the 2023-24 campaign. Struggling might be an understatement considering how things have gone over these past few months. Or, more specifically we can just look at what they’ve done since beating Juventus ...
Sassuolo, currently sitting in 14th place and seven points above the relegation zone, has three wins in the last 3 1⁄2 months. That’s it. As much as you can say they’ve also got a win over Inter at the San Siro, a run like that ... yeah, that’s not great. Not by any means no matter what angle you look at it, no matter what the context of it is, no matter what point of the season it is.
Sassuolo’s form away from home isn’t great, but it’s not terrible, either, with eight points in nine games on the road. (Hey, that’s the same number of points Roma has in away games this season!) And it always seems like Sassuolo is never the routine kind of matchup like we thought maybe Salernitana or Frosinone were going to be in the Coppa Italia. Plus, as we know, we don’t have to look too far back in the past to see Juve recording a big goal tally in the Coppa only to come back in the next league fixture and not be the high-scoring juggernaut they were in the previous 90 minutes.
As we approach another game in which Juventus’ main objective is to win and keep pace with Inter — or, also described as “cut Inter’s lead back down to two points — there’s also the simple fact of preventing anything close to what happened against Sassuolo back in September. You do that, and the very chance of coming out with three more points and cutting Inter’s lead back down to two points is just that much greater — and it doesn’t matter what kind of form Sassuolo is in. Juve proved to be their own worst enemy in that late-September matchup. History doesn’t need to repeat itself on the 16th day of 2024.
- Paul Pogba and Nicolo Fagioli — still suspended.
- Mattia De Sciglio and Moise Kean — still out injured.
- Adrien Rabiot has recovered and is good to go, according to Allegri. Rabiot missed the last couple of games due to injury. Allegri said he still needs to decide if Rabiot will be in the starting lineup, though.
- After missing the last two games due to a minor knee problem, Federico Chiesa also is back in the squad and is available against Sassuolo, according to Allegri.
- Federico Gatti and Weston McKennie are both suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
- With no Gatti — who had an absolute horror show in the first meeting of the season against Sassuolo — available to play Thursday night, Allegri said he will have to decide whether it’s Daniele Rugani or Alex Sandro stepping into the starting lineup.
- For now, Max Allegri doesn’t see Chiesa and Kenan Yildiz playing in the same formation behind somebody like Dusan Vlahovic. Why? “Because we’ve found a good balance, and there’s always a risk that comes with changing things,” he said.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
I think this one is rather easy this week.
And it’s easy because the guy I really wanted to pick is suspended.
So, we’ll just go ahead and talk a little bit about the young man who did this the last time he took the field at the Allianz Stadium:
Ah, yes. That goal. That beautiful, beautiful goal. Quite the cherry on top of another dominant performance in the Coppa Italia that allowed Juventus to move on to the semifinals.
But it isn’t just the goals that Kenan Yildiz has scored in Serie A and the Coppa that has made his sudden rise into the starting lineup one that makes you hope this is just the first few sentences in a long and exciting story at Juventus. No, it’s much more than that. It’s the different look that he’s brought. It’s the energy that he’s brought. It’s the dynamism that he’s brought and continues to show whenever he’s on the field.
While the sample size of five games is still a rather small one, Yildiz has scored a goal every 96 minutes since making his first start of his Juve career on Dec. 23 against Frosinone. He’s scored in three of his last five appearances, with every single one of them being pretty damn good in their own unique way. And he’s done all of this on a grand total of ... eight shots. That’s it. And that’s pretty good!
So, in a lot of the same ways as how we felt when Juve played against Salernitana three days after beating them 6-1 in the Coppa, we’re just waiting to see what Yildiz does next. With Chiesa in and out of the lineup over the last three or four weeks, Yildiz has gotten a sudden chance to play — and he’s absolutely run with it. And you have to believe that until Chiesa can shake the latest nagging knee issues, it’s going to be a situation where Yildiz will get the chance to play more often than not.
Considering how the last five games have gone, that’s far from the worst thing in the world. As much as we all love Chiesa around here, seeing Yildiz step into the starting lineup and do what he’s done is one of the more pleasant surprises we’ve seen at Juventus in a good amount of time. He is a teenager who has been one of Juventus’ best players over the last month and proven that, despite the competition he’s faced is not exactly the best of the best in Serie A, this first big moment in bianconero is not going to prove too much.
That says a lot for somebody who is just 18 years of age. And while there’s bigger games coming in a couple of weeks, Yildiz being the Yildiz we’ve seen over the last month will only make this team better no matter who the opposition is.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024.
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. in 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 Italy, 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.