Coming off back-to-back losses and dealing with what has become a seemingly familiar trend of multiple injuries around this time of year, Juventus would take to the field against last-place side Crotone. Having watched bitter rivals Inter crush Milan in the Derby Della Madonnina and distance themselves a bit at the top of the table the margin for error becomes less and less. Pirlo, receiving a lot of criticism from fans, wasted no time getting Ramsey back into the lineup as he has come back from injury, the rest of his lineup shaped up easily with the injured list being almost staggering. The shout was there to see the young talented midfielder Fagioli in this match, as Bentancur has continued to be inconsistent at the role Arthur was beginning to make his own prior to his injury. However, Pirlo opted for a midfield of Bentancur, Ramsey, and McKennie. Regardless of who he lined up with, let's be honest with all due respect to Crotone this should be a straightforward win and it was.
I fully expected a business-like approach in this from Pirlo's side, minimal effort but getting the result. No high-risk play, come out healthy and move on. The first half-hour was very flat from the Bianconeri, giving up a bit of possession to Crotone and allowing them to feel comfortable enough with moving forward, even had the visitors coming close on a slash towards goal when Danilo had lost his footing in front of our goal. After that half-hour and a lot of frustration shown by Cristiano Ronaldo especially, the Bianconeri and Ronaldo turned things up and started to create a lot of opportunities. Ronaldo ended up burning the Calabrese, scoring twice in six minutes at the end of the first half, also missing a wide-open opportunity that would've given him a first-half hat trick. McKennie added one in the second half to seal this and Pirlo gave some guys some rest and was able to get Fagioli some minutes in there. I was shocked however, Ronaldo was not rested in a match that was sealed against the worst team in the league, and Morata who was not well was brought into it as well. The argument could be there that they were hoping Morata could score and pick himself up, as he has been in a slump for a bit of time now and The Spaniard came close immediately upon his entry but unfortunately for him he put it just wide and it was the closest he would come. Back to youngster Fagioli who looked very comfortable in the deep-lying regista esque role upon entry. Showing great touch and always looking to advance the ball forward while showing patience in possession. This bright cameo and the positive showing against SPAL in the Coppa Italia have many fans asking for him to get more minutes, especially while Bentancur fades in and out of form. This was the main talking point for the rest of the week surrounding Juventus as there was no mid-week match for them and they don't play again until the weekend away matches against Verona.
The youngster from Piacenza, Nicolo Fagioli. Have we seen enough to get him in there more frequently? I can't help but feel we missed an opportunity to give us more of an insight into whether or not more trust could be put on the talented youngster's shoulders. This particular match against Crotone was set up with just the right amount of intensity and the perfect balance of pressure as Juve was coming off a couple of losses but facing the last-place side there wasn't as big of a threat there. While he has looked bright, we have only seen him in a midfield against SPAL that had acres of space to it and he wasn't really tested and the other a cameo in a match that was sealed at 3-0. These showings have left me still uncertain on whether we can lean on him just yet. The balance in how to deal with these youngsters is a fine line, it can make or break some. I would hate for the club to do a disservice to a clearly talented young player. I also find it interesting while many say he needs the minutes and for the record, I agree we should see more but it definitely matters who the opponent is. As I questioned Juventini if they would slot him into the lineup in a tricky away fixture against Verona the answer is almost unanimously no. So, while we want to see more the Scudetto race is far from over in my opinion and we need to take things one game at a time. Also, frustrations can make some think a little irrationally at times, and frustrations were high after the loss against Napoli and of course the 2-1 defeat to Porto away in the Champions League. Frustrations again led to Pirlo being under fire from Juventini. However, again being realistic his hands were tied in these matches if you ask me.
We see Pirlo being under fire this week and even before the match against Crotone, comments such as "how could you start Bentancur after the disaster against Porto?" were a popular choice for the venting fan but what could he have done outside of start Fagioli? The injury list is long with Juventus. Bonucci, Chiellini, Cuadrado, Arthur, and Dybala are all still out, on top of that Morata, Kulusevski, and McKennie haven't even been at a hundred percent all battling either an illness or minor injury. The report for most is the same, trying to recover in time for the second leg at home against Porto March 6th to 9th being the target date. However, Arthur's status remains in jeopardy of being much longer as the threat of surgery still lingers. Dybala also has uncertainty surrounding his return date. He was included in the side against Porto to be with the team and there was the optimism of him receiving some minutes against Crotone, however, the pain that seemed to have been gone had returned and sidelined him again. He was in Barcelona midweek to see a specialist and the good news was they don't see a need for surgery and have told him he can continue with his therapy. He seems to be under fire more than ever since the discussions of his contract renewal came to the forefront and this injury has led many fans to say that we should move him. I still have my reservations about doing so as do a good number of juventini who still stand by his side throughout this unfortunate campaign for him. Not only fans but many former players offer high praise for Dybala and continue to state the fact Juventus should keep him and that there are only 15 players in the world that can offer what he can and if the replacement isn't there be careful what you ask for. The latest stating this was Mauro Camoranesi in a great interview run by Mirko Di Natale. This brings up another hot topic of the week as Champions League continues and Cancelo plays well for Manchester City, some Juventini choose to state their frustration that he is becoming what many thought he could with us for Pep's side. While I see both sides of the discussion, there are those that say get over it he's gone and there are those that say Juventus made a mistake. While it is hard to say it's a mistake and I don't think fair, as we used some of that money to bring in De Ligt and Danilo, who after one poor year has now become a lock in our starting XI. I still see the frustration as a simple question of was there others that should've been moved before him? For me, the answer is an easy, YES. Not only that while De Ligt is a generational talent, the roster still remains covered with some makeshift options and I can't help but feel some of the quality has diminished. Particularly in the midfield and we have no options at Left Back outside of Sandro really. While Danilo has been great in the hybrid role of outside back/center back he isn't the same when playing as an outside back. This goes back to Dybala if the discussions continue and we are going to be looking to move him let's make sure we replace him properly with equal or better quality, something we have been struggling with dating back to the 2014-15 season where it started to begin taking a one step forward two step back feeling in mercatos. So no matter where you stand on Dybala and moving him I think we can all agree we need to be smart about what follows it because Dybala has been fantastic over his years with the club and been vital to several scudetti during this dynasty run. To make matters even more interesting the first half financials were released today for Juventus.
The financials showed yet another significant deficit of 105 million euros and this is no doubt due to COVID and is completely expected. Which will make the summer Mercato very interesting. Juventus will have to sell in order to bring anyone in, the issue is everyone else will be in the same boat. So, if deals can be made by swaps it will depend on if the players involved will be willing to move in the other direction. How does this tie into Dybala? Well, it will be very hard to find a club to purchase him outright, and if a purchase was made it wouldn't be at true value. Buckle your seatbelts, either way, it will be an interesting summer as there is no normalcy apparently returning for this particular season which will continue to see revenue lost by clubs...oh and let's hope Juve can go deep in Cham[pions League because that money will help a lot! Let's get it right Pirlo.
As for what's on tap for the weekend?... a trip to Verona. A tricky away fixture with Morata not able to make the match and apparently not going to be in the lineup against Spezia midweek either. It really never ends with this club when it comes to injuries, at this rate we will have to renovate J Medical and increase its size. There are also some reports stating Ronaldo would be rested, which is shocking, to say the least considering that slight margin for error we have which I spoke about earlier. Without Morata I would definitely have CR7 in the lineup and maybe look to rest him against Spezia but again this could be an issue if Morata can't make it in as we can't drop points against these opponents if we are going to make ground in the race. There are some reports stating U-23 player Felix Correia could be called up and get some minutes, he is no doubt an exciting prospect and I would love to see him get minutes especially if it means we are in a comfortable position when he is introduced. On top of our injuries, Danilo who has been as steady as one could hope for all season will be out due to suspension. The rumors circulating say we should see Dragusin as outside right back with Demiral and De Ligt at Centre Back with Sandro at outside left-back. This is what I predicted a few days ago on the podcast and I would be fine with this given our circumstances. Despite how our roster looks Juve will no doubt have enough to see this one through but will we? I believe Juventus will win this match. I don't think it will be pretty and won't be one that will hold high praise but I see the club getting the job done in a close one-goal margin game. Honestly, at this point I don't care how they come they just need to come, they being victories, of course, so Juve...JUST WIN!
Enjoy the match and upcoming week Juventini!
Forza Juve Fino Alla Fine