I don’t know if it’s the lingering impact of what Atalanta did over the summer or just the simple fact that they are arguably the most dangerous team in Serie A when everything is working out, but this match was the one I was watching from weeks now. We can say that Barcelona have been a yardstick, but they have been as irregular as Juve at the national level, and the troubled Spanish giants certainly don’t have a win over Liverpool behind them in these first three months of the 2020-21 season.
While sitting below Juventus in the Serie A standings, Atalanta are still damn dangerous, still talented across the pitch and still capable of beating just about anyone when channeling the kind of form from over the summer even though we’re at the gates of the winter.
Here is who has the next Juve scheduled.
And that is why this is Juventus’ most important match on the national calendar to date.
Atalanta could enter this group in ninth place in the Serie A standings and Wednesday’s trip to Turin comes at a rather interesting time for the club. They had reported a behind-the-scenes drama involving manager Gian Piero Gasperini despite another season in the knockout stages of the Champions League, while their beloved club captain is potentially leaving again just like it could have done during the summer. They have nowhere near as much success in Serie A this season as in the months before and after the reboot in Italy earlier this year.
Despite everything, Atalanta is still capable of so much.
And that is why this match is damn important for both Pirlo and Juventus, especially with some of the other matches we have in Serie A on Wednesday, especially Inter facing Napoli at the San Siro.
Just as Pirlo said in his pre-match chat on Tuesday, the big thing Juventus needs right now is consistency. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Not just because we keep mentioning it in the text here, on our podcast (which you should totally subscribe to on Apple Podcast or Spotify!), In the comments section on this blog or the good old Twitter machine during any given game the last couple months, but also simply by watching them play. The victory over Barcelona was a very different match from the victories over Turin and Genoa, which allowed Juve to win consecutive league games for the first time with Prilo.
But maybe, just maybe, this is Pirlo’s Juventus that finds some consistency. Or improvement. Or an identity. Or all of the above and then something that can be associated with these things as well. Juventus have looked solid in these last few games, and the fact that they are still relatively healthy means that this talented side hasn’t had to scramble players on and off as they did both earlier this fall and during the restart summer.
Now, with an Atalanta side that is (perhaps) improving despite the behind-the-scenes drama coming to the city, this is definitely a test game for Pirlo and Juventus.
The Serie A classification is absolute at the top of the standings, with first and sixth place separated by six points. For this reason, getting a couple of wins in a row and having a nice little run could mean you’re close to the top of the leaderboard.
Atalanta are the most dangerous team Juve have faced in Serie A for weeks, if not more. And winning against them will mean that Pirlo’s Juve are taking another step in the right direction, which, a few weeks ago, seemed like a great achievement.
- The same two injured out are the same two injured out over the weekend: Giorgio Chiellini and Merih Demiral. At this point, it may be until the new year before we see them return to the team. (Seems like that, doesn’t it?)
- What is one of the main things Andrea Pirlo keeps talking to his team about after every game, regardless of the result? “Concentration”, he said, “because we still get distracted in certain moments of the game”.
- This is pretty much all we got from Pirlo. There isn’t much news out there these days, which is a good thing compared to some points this season, when the injury list seemed to be two hundred words long.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
Last time I was wrong and I was wrong with Dejan Kulusevski’s pick. I will wear it, pick it up and apologize to the BWRAO readers for making it seem like the young Swede from Juve could potentially play an important role in a match where, in reality, he went off the bench and only played a couple of minutes.
So, let’s go with someone who looks like a padlock to play based on its current shape.
Weston McKennie has been on fire in the last two games. And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say he’s been one of Juve’s best players in the last few weeks or two – and with the schedule that’s a decent amount of matches! – and the smooth playback it received was totally deserved.
The same goes for its continued inclusion in upcoming games.
Or at least that’s what we expect to happen. (With my recent mistakes in this section of the match preview, who really knows outside of a couple of guys … right?)
Depending on the Italian media you will have a different interpretation of where McKennie will potentially play in Pirlo’s midfield against Atalanta. Much will depend, as happened over the weekend against Genoa, whether Aaron Ramsey will be the starter or not. McKennie could be used as a defensive midfielder, a DCM-attacking midfielder hybrid, or a box-to-box presence in a 3-5-2.
No matter what it is, McKennie’s versatility allowed Pirlo to use those skills to his advantage. His pit runs over the past two weeks have resulted in both goals and scoring chances for his teammates. He will always be a defensive bulldog, so he will provide some cover when there are other players on the pitch who don’t always press as hard as we would like. And, when you look at the other midfielders Pirlo has at his disposal, McKennie seems as good an option as any of them at the moment, so playing with him seems like a pretty logical choice.
He has gained a chance with his game of late to be a regular in the starting lineup right now. It’s a simple enough, but important thing to say right now.
Then again, it only took him a couple of months to start acting a little Italian, so maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised that it seems like he’s pretty settled now that 2020 is almost over.
When: Wednesday 16 December 2020
Where is it: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official starting time: 18:30 local time in Italy and throughout Europe; 5.30pm in the UK 12:30 New York time; 9:30 am Pacific time
HOW TO LOOK
Television: TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 1 (UK); Sky Sport Serie A, Sky Sport 251, NOW TV (Italy)
Online / mobile: ESPN + (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (UK); Sky GO Italia (Italy)
You can find other live view options Here, and as always, you can also follow us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven’t already, join the community in black and white and read all and join the discussion below.