Quietly, almost out of nowhere, the Coppa Italia has snuck up on us. Maybe it was the fact that Juventus didn't take part in the first couple of rounds of the tournament, maybe it was something else. But the Coppa Italia has arrived and will be part of Juve's schedule as long as they want it to be.
So here we are. Coppa Italia, Juventus. Juventus, Coppa Italia. Good to see you two get acquainted again.
The round of 16 sees newly-promoted Serie B side Avellino come to Juventus Stadium to face Antonio Conte and his cast of characters. Coming off a 4-0 shellacking of Sassuolo over the weekend, Juve was able to respond the way many hoped they would after the mess that was their Champions League exit a week ago.
But now the quest for a silver star on Juve's jersey officially begins as they hop into the Coppa Italia round of 16.
I'd like a silver star. It'd look cool on the jersey next season. How 'bout it, fellas?
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. The unofficially mandatory squad rotation in the Coppa Italia.
There will be squad rotation because that's what happens when teams play in the Coppa Italia. Even with some of the injuries Conte is dealing with right now, the reserves will play because that's what the Coppa italia tells us to do. Or, at least, it's an unwritten rule of the competition. There will be changes. To what extent, though, we're still waiting to see what the starting lineups look like. And who really knows what it comes to the mind of Conte.
2. The probable combination of Sebastian Giovinco and Fabio Quagliarella.
With the Coppa Italia comes squad rotation. We know that because I just spent a decent amount of time writing about it. The thing is, though, some of the players who could play tomorrow against Avellino haven't seen the field much at all in recent weeks. That's true for both Giovinco and Quagliarella, who haven't played much lately for their own respective reasons. Especially so for Giovinco, who has appeared in only eight Serie A games so far this season due to injury. If he does get the get a spot in the lineup like a lot are predicting, it will his first start in six weeks. Time for Super Seba to make a difference? I'm all for it.
3. The sharpness of Marco Storari.
The life of a backup goalkeeper isn't exactly the easiest. That's especially true when you're playing behind somebody like Gigi Buffon, who hasn't missed much time at all the past couple of years. But the Coppa Italia is Marco Storari's time, the only competition he gets consistent playing time these days. The biggest thing that you usually worry about when it comes to a backup who doesn't play much is just how much rust may be there. Storari's lone appearance this season was in Juve's 2-1 win over Hellas Verona on Sept. 22, a game where he didn't have to make a save.
That's a long time to go in between appearances. Luckily for us, it's not the first time Storari has been in this situation before. Hopefully, for our sake, he doesn't play like some keepers who haven't been in a game in three months.
4. What, exactly, Avellino brings to the table.
I can tell you this right now: I haven't seen Avellino play. Ever. I know, shame on me. The only Avellino-related piece of information I can supply is that it's where Tony Soprano's family is originally from. Because of that, I'll snag this bit of information from Juventus' official website:
The Serie B outfit have slowed a little of late — they have recorded a win, a loss and three draws in their five most recent league fixtures — but their current position of fifth in the table is no mean feat for a newly-promoted side.
So now that we have that out of the way, we can move forward. Avellino has been one of what seems like the yearly surprise teams in the Coppa Italia. Rarely do you see Serie B sides in the round of 16, but here they are. And come Wednesday night, they'll be playing at Juventus Stadium for what will probably be the only time for a lot of their players. Regardless of who is playing for Juventus tomorrow, it's going to be quite the task for the newly-promoted side.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Storari; Caceres, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Isla, Padoin, Pogba, Marchisio, De Ceglie; Quagliarella, Giovinco
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 9 P.M. IN ITALY; 3 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; HIGH NOON ON THE WEST COAST