Roma would need decades of uninterrupted victories to even out their all-time series with Juventus. Over the course of their nearly one-hundred-year "rivalry," The Old Lady of Italian Football has come out on top approximately 47% of the time, keeping the Giallorossi firmly under their orthotic heel.
Seeing Juve on the fixture list seldom means good things for the capital club, but if nothing else, it gives us an excuse to catch up with our friends at Black, White & Read All Over. As we often do when this fixture rolls around, Danny and I traded questions ahead of this critical yet foreboding fixture.
Before we get into the match, for those of us not completely up to date on the story behind Juventus’ point deduction, give us the layman’s version if you don’t mind revisiting this particular calcio trauma.
BWRAO: Ah, yes. This stupid season in which first talking about Juventus’ season that doesn’t actually involve anything that has happened on the field. Let’s try and make this quick even though it probably won’t be.
Basically, all of the swap deals that had plusvalenza on the books have come back to haunt Juventus. While it’s clearly something that many clubs both in Italy and around Europe have done, Juve has been made the poster child just because of the number of these swap deals they did. It looked like it might be coming out to be not much at all before the entire Juventus board of directors — most notably president Andrea Agnelli — resigned during the early days of the World Cup break. That kicked off (again) the legal happenings and where we find ourselves today, with the appeal of the original clearing of charges from last spring resulting in the 15-point penalty from January.
Juventus has officially appealed that ruling, with the end result being either the 15-point penalty being confirmed or wiped away completely. There are still two other investigations that could result in some sort of penalties — the case involving Juve’s deferred salary payments during the 2019-20 season following lockdown as well as UEFA’s case regarding potential financial violations.
It’s all a mess. It really is.
How are you liking the Europa League? It’s fun, isn’t it? Do you get the sense Juve is willing to invest the time and energy to make a genuine run at the title?
BWRAO: We half-heartedly joked so many times about Juventus being in the Europa League on our podcast that you would think we’d actually come to hate it. But … it’s not bad? Like, you look at the teams remaining in the round of 16 and … there’s some good teams! As you all are well aware of, the competition itself isn’t the bad part of the deal. It’s the fact that you’re stuck in that Thursday-Sunday scheduling grind for as long as you’re in the thing.
I think Juve’s going to at least give it a go in the Europa League simply because we have absolutely no idea what’s to come in terms of points penalties being taken away or being added onto what is already there. This could be Juve’s only way to get into the Champions League or it could be something completely different from that. We just don’t know right now, and I think that uncertainty will prove to be the biggest motivational factor to try and make some sort of run.
After a disastrous start to the season, Juve is suddenly one of the hottest teams in the league, so what’s been the key to this turnaround?
BWRAO: This season, on the field, can basically be broken down into four parts — the early-season struggles that involved the Champions League faceplant, the eight-game domestic winning streak, the ass-kicking night in Naples and now what we’ve seen from this team over the last month or so ever since the points penalty was handed down. It’s been an absolute ride — and not in a good way for a good portion of it — and the fact that we still have no idea what is still to come in terms of more penalties is just the added layer hanging over Juventus this spring.
There’s not one singular thing that has been the difference for Juventus of late. Max Alllegri still plays a little too conservatively, so that doesn’t help much. But, for me, one of the biggest things has been the fact that Angel Di Maria has come back from the World Cup in absolutely fantastic form. And, unlike the entire pre-World Cup portion of the schedule, Juve’s finally getting mostly healthy. Paul Pogba made his long-awaited second debut at Juventus. Dusan Vlahovic is back.
Plus, you throw in Allegri still giving a lot of minutes to somebody like Nicolo Fagioli despite the fact other players are back in the fold and you have a team that is starting to like it can go on decent winning streak despite their manager’s very obvious flaws when it comes to style of play.
Has Adrien Rabiot finally figured it all out? What’s gotten into him this season?
BWRAO: It’s Contract Year Rabiot, baby!
In all honesty, if that’s actually the case, then more power to him, I guess. But, overall, it’s been a pretty good season for Rabiot. He’s probably playing his best ball as a Juventus player since the post-lockdown stretch of games when he looked great for the better part of two months. The thing is, it’s the non-summer-of-2020 years that still very much stick in your craw, so it’s not like we’re all getting carried away from a Rabiot hype standpoint.
Who knows if he’s figured it out. Rabiot is such a mysterious kind of player for the simple fact that he’s got all the tools and physical attributes you want in a midfielder yet he doesn’t always show it. Playing in a role that certainly suits his skillset more often this season compared to Allegri’s first year back definitely helps.But at the same time, I’ve seen plenty of Rabiot to make me think that this might be a player turning things up in the last year of his contract to try and score a big pay day from a Premier League club.
Basically, he’s been good and definitely valuable considering how much uncertainty there’s been in Juve’s midfield and other places in the starting lineup. But I also have seen Rabiot play poorly for the vast majority of his time in Turin, so at this point I don’t know what to believe.
Which players, if any, have underperformed so far this season?
BWRAO: Of the players who have underperformed this season, the biggest one who has actually had the chance to play and not missed the entire season before this past weekend is an old friend of yours. Yep, it’s Leandro Paredes.
It’s not because there were tons of high hopes for him when he arrived on loan from Paris Saint-Germain in the final days of the summer transfer window. But, that said, he was a player that Allegri specifically asked for, got and has now benched in a big game like the Turin derby in favor of giving a 21-year-old from the NextGen (Under-23) team his Serie A debut. Paredes is one of Juve’s highest earners this season but he has been pretty bad outside of a couple of weeks before the World Cup break. He had a legitimate chance to come back to a league he knows well and has played well in this season, but has basically shown he’s not a very good player at this point in his career and somebody who is certainly not worth the kind of money he’s making.
How can a beleaguered Roma side defeat a resurgent Juventus this weekend? Where are they susceptible?
BWRAO: The easiest thing I can say is be about as direct as you can be in the same kind of way Napoli was a few weeks ago. That might not result in Juventus being hit for five goals again, but it will certainly give the three-man Brazilian backline the same kind of challenge. Roma definitely have the kind of players to cause Juve issues, and that is before you take into account that this fixture has had a little bit of unpredictability when played at the Olimpico.
If Allegri is willing to sit back and let Torino have 60 percent of the possession at Allianz Stadium, I wouldn’t be shocked to see that same thing happen against Roma this weekend. Just how Roma takes advantage of that will be the biggest thing that determines the final result.
Lastly, give us a prediction!
BWRAO: I’m going to say some sort of draw. It may be 1-1 or 2-2, but I just think a draw that has a stupid goal or two is how this thing goes. For as good as Juve’s defense was during the eight-game winning streak earlier this season, they’ve been a little more a mixed bag in 2023, so that could mean Roma is able to hit them where it hurts Sunday night.