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At least Koeman has Messi

The Portuguese tested positive again for Covid-19 on Tuesday, ruling him out of the Bianconeri’s Champions League showdown with Barcelona in Turin
Let’s face it: Barcelona have bigger problems than Juventus right now.

The Blaugrana’s entire board resigned on Tuesday evening. The club is finally rid of Josep Maria Bartomeu, the worst president’s in Barcelona’s history, but he has left Camp Nou engulfed in chaos and controversy.

Of course, the supporters that have long been calling for his head will be delighted; Lionel Messi, too, you’d imagine.

However, it’s hardly great news for Ronald Koeman. The man who hired him is gone and none of Bartomeu’s potential successors are particularly interested in entrusting the Dutchman with the responsibility of overseeing the upcoming rebuilding job at Barcelona.

Still, at least Koeman has Messi in his ranks. Andrea Pirlo won’t have his best player available for Wednesday’s Champions League clash.

Just moments after Bartomeu’s resignation had been confirmed, it emerged that Cristiano Ronaldo would not be able to face Barca, having once again tested positive for Covid-19.

Happily, the Portuguese has been asymptomatic since first contracting the virus while on international duty a fortnight ago. He will return soon enough and, knowing Ronaldo, probably stronger than ever.

However, Pirlo really could have done with his star striker for such a high-profile fixture, which has arrived at the time when the pressure on the rookie coach is rising ever slightly.

These are very early days, of course, and Juve remain unbeaten, but they have won only two of their five Serie A games to date – and one of those was a walkover.

Indeed, even accounting for what was an impressively professional 2-0 defeat of Dynamo Kiev in their Champions League opener, the Bianconeri’s 3-0 ‘win’ over Napoli undoubtedly ranks as their best result of the season so far.

The Partenopei, unlike Juve, are in fine form and Gennaro Gattuso and his players were very much looking forward to tackling a team that is still trying to find its feet under Pirlo.

The reigning Italian champions have drawn their last two league games, away to Crotone and at home to Verona, and find themselves fifth in the Serie A standings, already four points behind early pace-setters AC Milan.

Pirlo was always going to require time to implement what are innovative and exciting ideas. A huge admirer of Pep Guardiola’s methods, the former Juve playmaker wants his players to press the opposition intensely and change positions constantly. The objective is a fluidity of movement that will make the Bianconeri very difficult to read – and, therefore, stop.

They are already unpredictable, at least, although only in that it’s difficult to know what to expect from the Old Lady. Successfully guessing who is going to play – and where – is close to impossible.

The net result has been unsurprisingly stop-start performances. There have been signs of real promise, but too often their play has lacked imagination and energy.

Last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Verona was a perfect case in point. Juve were sluggish and sloppy, and deservedly fell behind. Second-half substitute Dejan Kulusevski – the one forward playing with any consistency this term – not only earned his side a point, he also injected some much-needed energy into their game.

“We shouldn’t need a slap in the face to wake up,” Pirlo lamented in his post-match interview with Sky Sport Italia. “We ought to start with intensity and continue from there.”

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