Juventus vs. Catania Preview: Round 10 — Elephant(s) song

Maurizio Lagana

At my day job (which is actually a night job because most sports happen at night, you know!), we have a simple saying: Three's a trend. Because of how they've played lately, this can be something used to talk about our beloved Bianconeri. Juventus have put together back-to-back performances that show us they're starting to get back to the team of old under Antonio Conte.

And, well, simple math tells me Conte and his squad are just one away from making this current run a trend.

The Juventus we've seen the past two games is certainly a different one than we saw against Fiorentina 10 days ago. And, as a lot of people have said, it looks like it was the smack in the face they needed to snap out of the funk they were in. Yeah, they were picking up points and hanging around the top of the table, but they weren't playing like we were used to. They were winning, but lacked that extra something we've become accustomed to.

Now it seems like the old Juventus, at least over the last two games, is starting to show itself again.

I like writing those kinds of things. Who enjoys writing about a Juve that is struggling?

Well, I can think of a couple people, but I'm pretty sure it's nobody around here.

Maybe like the Jackson 5 said, "It's easy as 1, 2, 3..." Let's hope so.

GOOD NEWS

Have I mentioned that Juventus are starting to play a lot better than they were a few weeks ago? Yeah, that's a good thing. Let's just keep it going, fellas.

BAD NEWS

From Saturday's post previewing the Genoa match:

Injuries are still here and making their presence be known. No Stephan Lichtsteiner again. No Mirko Vucinic again. No Fabio Quagliarella again. We've kinda figured that would be the case for the time being, but it still limits Conte's options.

A quick check of who has been called up for tomorrow night's game...and it's the same 21-man squad. Just rinse and repeat. Nothing more to see here, folks.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. If Juventus can keep taking steps forward.

Real Madrid was the first step in the right direction, Genoa was the second. This Juventus squad is definitely starting to get out of the sub-standard rut they were in to begin the season. The win over Genoa was vintage Juve domination under Conte at its finest. And going up against another squad that is close to the relegation zone, you wouldn't really hope for anything else. Knowing what we do about Conte, he's certainly going to want to emulate the effort from the weekend So now there's only one thing to do...right?

2. The continued development of the Tevez-Llorente partnership.

Much like the rest of the team, Juve's current striker partnership has been getting better the last couple of games. Obviously they're coming from different situations — Carlos Tevez has been starting pretty much every match this season, while Fernando Llorente has had to shake off the rust of not playing all that much last season. But now that Llorente has started to really get up to speed, the results are starting to show. Llorente was quite good against Genoa, Tevez was even better. Their rapport is getting better as time goes on as it should. And with the striker position still low on numbers, Nos. 10 and 14 will likely be Conte's go-to partnership going forward.

3. The performance of Juventus' wingbacks.

Yes, Juventus played better as a whole against Genoa over the weekend. But did you notice how much a difference it makes when Kwadwo Asamoah plays pretty darn well? There was a presence on the wings on Sunday that we didn't really see much the first six weeks of the season. Asamoah had his best game in quite awhile, and it's no surprise that Juve kept attacking down the left wing because of it. Who plays opposite the Ghanian is still TBD — I'll take Martin Caceres for $500, Alex — but after the showing against Genoa, it doesn't seem to be totally dire straits like it used to.

4. Who's the odd man out in the center of the midfield?

All four options are healthy, but only three can play. Thanks, Captain Obvious. So who's it going to be? Some folks are saying it's a midfield trio of Arturo Vidal, Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio — which would make sense based on the way Conte has rotated this the last couple of games. If it's a simple Marchisio and Paul Pogba switch, then so be it. But Juve are in the middle one heck of a busy schedule right now with a match every three or four days, and it won't slow down until the middle of November. If there isn't much rotation going on, it probably means Conte will wait to rest the more important players over the weekend against Parma.

5. More consistency on the defensive side of the ball.

What has made Juventus so good the first two years under Conte? Well, a lot of things, but the play of the back three is certainly one of the most important ones. Juventus' defense locked down just about every attack Genoa brought forward over the weekend. Obviously it's not all on Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini because Juve's midfield contributes so much on the defensive side of things. But the stupid mistakes that lead to stupid goals, at least on the short-term, are no longer an issue. Let's hope it stays that way.

My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Caceres, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Llorente, Tevez

OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 8:45 P.M. IN ITALY; 3:45 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 12:45 P.M. ON THE WEST COAST

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