A year ago, the Coppa Italia served as a de fecto Champions League for the simple fact that there was no European football to be had for Juventus.
That goodness we don't have to do that again.
But, in less than 24 hours, the Coppa Italia is back again. With Juventus continuing the Champions League voyage, the "other" trophy in Italy has certainly become a lot less important in the grand scheme of things. That's at least some people's general thinking of the matter. For some folks, like Antonio Conte, it's another trophy to win — one that eluded his team last season as they came up short in the final against Napoli.
For Conte, it will be his first game back at Juventus Stadium since he returned from his ban just 72 hours prior. I'm pretty sure the tifosi will be happy to see him, guys. Not quite sure, though. Just kinda a hunch I've got.
The Coppa Italia will probably mean a couple of things: 1) Players who don't start much will actually get to play; 2) It's a chance to see a team Juventus will play again in league in just a little over a week. It's not exactly inside information here, but it's what we've come to expect from the Coppa Italia. And let's face it: With Juventus playing on all three fronts this season, the Coppa Italia is third fiddle to the league campaign and Europe. That's just how it goes.
So, with that being said, are you ready? You know, ready for some football?
It's the Coppa Italia! Let's rock!
TEAM NEWS AND NOTES
A Coppa Italia game means Gigi Buffon gets the night off, right? Not so fast. Due to Marco Storari being suspended, San Gigi will get the start in goal for Juventus, according to Conte at his press conference on Tuesday. ...Also of note from the presser is the current injury situation. According to Conte, Luca Marrone and Mauricio Isla have recovered from their respective injuries. Not-so-good injury news: Martin Caceres and, to a lesser extent, Lucio.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. The lineups. It's the Coppa Italia and that means the benches will be used. It's pretty much the unwritten rule of this competition. Well, for some clubs, like Juventus, it is. Barring injuries, of course, the squad Conte trots out will certainly look different than the one that has been used in recent weeks. There haven't been too many chances for Andrea Pirlo or Claudio Marchisio to rest this season, but Wednesday's cup tie against Cagliari is the time to do so. Conte pretty much said in his pre-match press conference that there will be squad rotation, but to what extent is obviously in wait-and-see mode.
2. The striker combination. Mirko Vucinic has been playing as much as anybody in recent weeks, so if Conte wants to give him a night off, then this is probably the time to do so. That means the age-old question: Who starts up top? Sebastian Giovinco is fresh as can after sitting out Sunday's win due to suspension.
The same can be said for Fabio Quagliarella, who has been sitting out the last few games for mouthing off to Angelo Alessio — at least that's our best educated guess at this point. Then there's Alessandro Matri and Nicklas Bendtner. Maybe Big Nick can just live-tweet the game or something if he doesn't get to play. At least he'd be serving some kind of purpose.
3. The reception Antonio Conte gets at Juventus Stadium. It will be loud, it will be fantastic. The tifosi will sing Conte's time and time again and it will be glorious. The reception Conte will undoubtedly will get is deserved and it is one that's been four months in the making. They chanted his name when he was up in the stands, and now it will be even that much better when he steps out onto the sidelines for the first home game since his touchline ban ended.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Caceres; Isla, Pogba, Marrone, Giaccherini, De Ceglie;
Quagliarella Matri, Giovinco
Who knows, though. I could be totally wrong — which is very likely.
KICKOFF TIMES: 9 P.M. IN EUROPE; 3 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 12 NOON ON THE WEST/BEST COAST