Here I am a week or so ago thinking Juventus are set to face their former manager for the first time since he got replaced by the legendary Antonio Conte — until a monkey wrench was thrown into this guy's storyline generator. Genoa had to go and sack the man who made Milos Krasic's ears bleed for about nine months straight after the team went suffered another disappointing defeat.
One for old times' sake, okay? Sure!
There will be no grand return to Turin for Gigi Delneri. It's too bad. I missed seeing Sgt. Slaughter go absolutely nuts on the sidelines while, at the same time, we all sat there trying to figure out what the hell he was screaming to his players. And I'm pretty sure said players were in the same boat, too.
But the managerial position at Genoa has become a revolving door the past three season. In the past 30 months, they've gone through seven managers. No, seriously. That's the truth. I didn't make that figure up at all. If I was trying to fool you guys, it'd be with something a lot more interesting than changing managers as much as Marco Borriello changes hairstyles.
Luckily we have another thing to talk about regarding two teams who are heading in opposite directions this season: Ciro Immobile.
That's right. The 22-year-old striker who is co-owned by both Juventus and Genoa will play his second ever game against the club he grew up at. The Juve brass certainly have a close eye on the Italy Under-21 international's progress this season, and now they'll get an up-close look at just how much progression he has made in his first-full Serie A season.
But unlike the last time Juventus and Genoa played, maybe Ciro can keep his name off the scoresheet? Just an idea.
We know about where each team is in the table, so here's a stat that pretty much all that needs to be said about the success Juventus has had against Genoa recently.
1 - Genoa have won only one of their last 18 league matches vs Juventus (3-2 in April 2009). Awe.— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) January 25, 2013
Arguably the most important thing of all: Genoa, despite having a reasonably talented squad, has sucked away from home and this game is at Juventus Stadium. Could that be the simple recipe for success? It could be.
That's all I got. That's pretty much all you need to know about the recent history of this matchup. Carry on.
Injuries. Sooooo many injuries.
Giorgio Chiellini is still weeks away from his return. Andrea Pirlo is an injury doubt. So is Leonardo Bonucci. So is Sebastian Giovinco. So is what seems like half of Juventus' usual starting lineup. Luckily for us, Claudio Marchisio returned mid-week against Lazio in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semis. And while it doesn't as seem as drastic as it was against Lazio, the lineup could look a lot different just because of who isn't there rather than who is.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Ciro Immobile. We might as well just get it out of the way, right? Forget all the talk about him moving back to Turin during the January transfer window. Genoa are fighting relegation, so why would they give up the striker with the most potential within their ranks right now? As strange as it may sound, keeping young Ciro at Genoa will probably be the best move for Juventus — especially if there are plans to bring him back to base in the summer. He'll get playing time. He'll hopefully score a good number of goals and show the entire Juve cast of talent evaluators that he is ready for the big stage.
2. Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic's health. And, if they aren't completely healthy, how well either Fabio Quagliarella and/or Alessandro Matri fills in for the diminutive Italian ant striker fella and the Montenegrin. The striker rotation from the early part of the season seems to be replaced by Giovinco and Vucinic becoming the unquestioned starting pair up front. However, with both battling the injury bug right now, it could be time for Juve's other two healthy strikers (no, not Nicklas Bendtner) to take advantage — or at least try to do so — of an opportunity to play from the opening whistle.
3. The overall health of the squad following Friday's final pre-match training session. "We'll continue to evaluate (insert injured player's name here) situation" seems to be a sentence that Antonio Conte is saying all too often the past couple of weeks. And it's with good reason — as noted above, a number of crucial players are battling to be at full fitness right now. Until Conte gives the go ahead, I don't know what to think. Juventus should get the job done regardless of who the starting strikers are, though.
4. Paolo De Ceglie or Federico Peluso? Even taking the last-minute screw-up against Lazio into consideration, I'd like to think that PDC has the upper hand on the left wing-back job while Kwadwo Asamoah continues to work his magic down at the Africa Cup of Nations. But Conte has been known to throw a surprise or two our way when it comes to his squad selection. And if he feels like rewarding Peluso for his goal against Lazio in the Coppa, then he won't wait long to do so.
5. Whether Genoa actually look like a team that just got a new coach and wants to put up a fight to not get relegated or the same one that has sucked for the overwhelming majority of the season. I'll start this point with one stat: In 10 games away from the Luigi Ferraris this season, Genoa has scored seven goals. That's second-worst in all of Serie A, "trailing" only Palermo, who have scored just four goals in 11 away matches. And they're looking to try and get something going at Juventus Stadium? Welp, good look with that.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Marrone, Caceres; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pogba, Marchisio, De Ceglie; Giovinco, Vucinic
KICKOFF TIME: 8:45 IN ITALY, 2:45 ON THE EAST COAST, 11:45 A.M. (thank god) ON THE WEST COAST