Juventus vs. Parma Preview: Round 11 — The calm before the storm

Marco Luzzani

I know what is happening on Tuesday. You know what is happening on Tuesday. Antonio Conte and his players know what is happening on Tuesday. All of us know what's at stake when Juventus take the Juventus Stadium field in three days against Real Madrid.

There's just one thing: Real Madrid aren't Juve's immediate problem. Cristiano Ronaldo and his friends are just chillin' in the back of everybody's mind, waiting just a few hours to become the thing that everybody, no matter what age they are, will be talking about for three straight days. That's what the Champions League does to ya, folks. It makes you think about it...all...the...time.

HOWEVER...

Juventus travel to the Tardini on Saturday evening to face Roberto Donadoni and Parma — who just so happen to have the same exact amount of points so far this season as a certain named AC Milan. Last weekend we had the game after the game. Now it's the game before the game.

See how easy that is? I thought so.

Thoughts about Real Madrid may be floating around. That's fair, and completely understandable. I mean, it's Real Madrid in a incredibly important Champions League game that could very well determine if Juve make it to the knockout stages or are bound for the Europa League. But, for the time being, Conte's eyes are cast solely on Parma. At least they say they are. If they actually are looking ahead, they certainly aren't making it seem that way.

Then again, if anybody is choosing to talk Real Madrid over the game before Real Madrid, I'd like to think Conte would hit them over the head with a baseball bat just so they're able to reconfigure their thoughts. As cliche as it may sound, it's one game at a time for this Juve team right now with so many fixtures coming at such a rapid pace.

That's good news. Now it's just time to prove their words are actually the truth.

GOOD NEWS

The simple numbers from Juventus' last three games: Eight goals scored, two goals allowed. Sure, Juve aren't playing Real Madrid every three or four days, but the numbers are the numbers. There are a handful of reasons why Conte's men are back to playing some good football. One of the biggest has to be Juve getting their goal differential figure back to one that resembles how the team has played on the field post-Fiorentina meltdown.

BAD NEWS

Maybe it's just a gut feeling, but I never assume playing Parma is a lock to win. Maybe I should feel like it is because Juventus are a pretty darn good team and have been getting better these last few games. But it's just one of those games over the years that has never been a sure thing — especially when it's at the Tardini.

See?!

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. How much squad rotation there is in anticipation of Real Madrid on Tuesday.

There's no denying that it's going to happen. Real Madrid is lurking a few days away and I feel safe in saying we all know the importance that comes with Tuesday night's match at Juventus Stadium. But, for now, the objective is tomorrow night against Parma. The question is this: What will the squad look like compared to the basically full-strength side that beat Cagliari 4-0 on Wednesday? The lineup will look different. To what extent, though, is still uncertain...

Antonio, you can't tell us? Dammit. I thought we were friends...

2. Sebastian Giovinco against his former club.

The majority of folks have a hunch that Sebastian Giovinco will get the start against Parma tomorrow. I don't disagree with them — especially since both Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente have handled the bulk of the minutes since Juve returned from the international break and there's a pretty important game in three days. Somebody is likely to be rested, and because there are still just four healthy strikers right now, Giovinco will almost certain step in for either one of them. And, according to Conte, the foot problem that has hampered Giovinco the last couple of weeks is much improved.

Maybe I'm reading into it too much, but that quote from Conte's pre-game press conference sounds like Super Seba will be playing a little more than he has been come Saturday at his old stomping grounds.

3. The sudden resurgence of Mauricio Isla.

When you reach the point where even some of your most staunch supporters are wondering whether or not you're fit for a club like Juventus, you know there's definitely something wrong. That was what came along with Isla a month or so ago. He was struggling — badly. He wasn't just playing like the Isla of last season, but one a step or two below that. The last couple of games, however, haven't been the disastrous or unimpressive version of Isla we've seen a good portion of his short Juve career. He hasn't been out-of-this-world good, but still productive on the right wing. And with Stephan Lichtsteiner still trying to regain some kind of full fitness, it seems like it's Isla's job to lose for the time being.

I mean, we could have Marco Motta playing on a regular basis. Who wants that to happen? (Don't answer that.)

4. The always unpredictable brilliance of Antonio Cassano.

It's hard to believe that Cassano is 31 years old. And it's hard to believe that, at the age of 31 and still in the prime of his career, Cassano and his immense talent is playing for a club destined for a mid-table finish rather than one challenging for a title. So is the career ark of one of the most gifted Italian strikers we've seen come through the ranks the past 15 years. Even though he's not at a big club anymore, it doesn't mean he's not productive. Don't believe, click on this link and look at the graphic. He may be filling out his jersey a little more than he did in the past, but he's still a dangerous player. Conte knows what's up.

My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Caceres, Ogbonna, Chiellini; Isla, Vidal, Pogba, Marchisio, De Ceglie; Tevez, Giovinco

OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 7 P.M. IN ITALY; 1 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 10 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST

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