Knowing what Juventus did the last time they took the field and the simple fact that their last opponent is very much their next opponent, there’s really just one question to ask ...
What can Max Allegri’s squad do for an encore?
It’s only natural to think that way considering Sunday’s trip to Salerno will be the second time in a four-day span in which Juventus has played Salernitana. And not just play against Salernitana earlier this week, but absolutely bulldoze them in a 6-1 win to advance to the Coppa Italia quarterfinals. So, yeah, it’s that kind of performance that makes it totally understandable as to why a question like that would be asked. And, a few hours after kickoff at the Stadio Arechi, answered with hopefully the same kind of good news that followed Federico Gatti’s moment of questionable decision making and subsequent sub-par execution of his pass to a teammate.
The starting lineup that we saw at the Allianz on Thursday night will probably be a lot different than the one we’ll see on Sunday evening. That is the case for both teams who rotated heavily in the Coppa Italia Round of 16 tie earlier this week. Some of the rotation will be expected from Allegri, other parts of it will be forced due to sudden cases of injury and illness. But there is one thing that Allegri made clear during his pre-match on Saturday ...
He’s not expecting the same kind of Salernitana that he saw on Thursday night in Turin.
In a way, that is what you would expect somebody like Allegri to say when playing a team for the second time in four days. But it’s also very much the case considering Pippo Inzaghi did not play some of his most important players during the Coppa tie on Thursday. And with a relegation fight ahead and much more important than advancing another round in the Coppa Italia, Inzaghi set things up for Sunday’s game to be the much more important one o the two. (So did Allegri considering who he rested and who will be back in the starting lineup.)
Simply put, expecting a repeat of a six-goal night from Juventus against Salneritana — no matter how much of a struggling side they have been for much of the season — is certainly a little too much to ask. You’d love to see it because those kinds of performances are extremely enjoyable, but they’ve also proven to be a whole lot less likely no matter who you’re playing against.
But for Juventus, the trip to Salerno is essentially boiling down to this: keep pace with Inter, keep the good times going. Because of the latest VAR and Italian refereeing blunder, Inter extended their lead atop the table to five points, putting the pressure on Allegri’s Juventus to try and answer back with their own victory against a relegation battler this weekend. The label of being Winter Champions — or, as Tuttosport put it following Inter’s win, “CAMPIONI D’IN-VAR-NO” — is out the door with Inter’s very, very controversial win Saturday night, so all that’s left is to make sure you beat Salernitana again and cut the difference between first and second back down to two points.
Knowing that Allegri once again reminded us during his pre-match press conference that finishing in a Champions League spot is the most important thing going these days, taking care of business this weekend has been uttered multiple times since the 6-1 win over Salernitana on Thursday.
Let’s just hope Juve don’t start Sunday’s matchup like they did Thursday night’s win.
- The two suspended players are the two well-known suspended players: Paul Pogba and Nicolo Fagioli.
- Although, joining them on the suspended list for the weekend is another midfielder: Manuel Locatelli, who will miss out on the trip to Salerno due to yellow card accumulation.
- The three injured players are not a surprise, either: Mattia De Sciglio, Moise Kean and Alex Sandro. Allegri said last week that Sandro could be back as soon as the second week of January.
- Andrea Cambiaso has stayed back in Turin due to “feeling feverish,” according to Allegri.
- Federico Chiesa also hasn’t made the trip to Salerno due to a knee injury he picked up training. That (probably) clears the way for Kenan Yildiz to start his third consecutive league game, although Allegri didn’t give us any hints in terms of his starting strikers for Sunday.
- Allegri said that his back three will likely be Bremer, Danilo and Federico Gatti.
- With no Cambiaso, Allegri said that Timothy Weah “could start” but that no final decision has been made. Considering the lack of options both out wide and in the center of the midfield, it’s probably extremely likely that Weah does start on the right wing.
- Even without the number of injuries, suspensions and now illnesses, Allegri has chosen not to call anybody up from the Next Gen squad to provide a little extra depth. (The next Gen squad, currently in 17th place, hosts fourth-place Pescara on Sunday.)
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
In the few times that Manuel Locatelli has either needed to be subbed out or completely unable to play, Max Allegri’s line of succession has been pretty easy to figure out. Or, in simpler terms, a succession plan that is the opposite of what Logan Roy had in place.
So, with Locatelli suspended for the weekend, let’s talk about the young man who will probably step in for him.
The last time these two teams played at the Arechi, Hans Nicolussi Caviglia was actually on the field. The catch is that he was playing for Salernitana, not Juventus, in the Bianconeri’s 3-0 win last February. In the 11 months between that game and this one, the boyhood Juventino has not only returned to the club he grew up at, but has also had to bide his time seeing as Allegri has only deployed him instances in which Locatelli can’t go.
And when you consider that Locatelli has played the fourth-highest amount of minutes of any Juve outfield player, the chances for young Hans have been few and far between.
His first of his two starts this season came in the Derby d’Italia against Inter and was the first significant amount of minutes he had played since the springtime when he was still on loan at Salernitana. He didn’t have to wait as long for his second start, which was only a week later against Monza. Since then, though, he’s only had one other appearance off the bench against the same Frosinone side that Juve will face in the Coppa Italia quarterfinals next Thursday. So it’s not exactly like we can say he’s in fine form heading into his next appearance.
But the thing that you could see from Nicolussi Caviglia from start No. 1 to start No. 2 was just his comfortability level had changed. Of course, you had his first Juve start coming against their biggest rivals and his second coming against a Monza side that is in only their second Serie A season, so that’s two very different levels of nervousness to try and cope with. The level of ease in his second start was much more obvious, and his performance showed.
There’s surely going to be some nervousness facing a team that only seven or eight months ago he was playing for — especially one like Salernitana that helped him get his career back on track after he dealt with his multiple major knee surgeries. But if he can settle in like he did against Monza, then things will hopefully go as well as they did there when Juve take the field in Salerno.
When: Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024.
Where: Stadio Arechi, Salerno, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 6 p.m. in Italy and the Central European time zone, 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 12 p.m. Eastern time, 9 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 Italia, 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.