Antonio Conte's words after Juventus' 2-0 win over Bologna weren't out of the blue. You knew he would speak about the Champions League with the weekend's fixture behind him.
"Special speeches won't be required to prepare for this game. We've made life difficult for ourselves in the Champions League and now it's down to us to put things right in Istanbul."
I know I agree with Conte a lot of the time — and this isn't one of the occasions where we will be disagreeing.
Juventus knows exactly what is at stake. Galatasaray knows exactly what is at stake. You don't need to open a massive investigation to figure out what Juventus and Galatasaray are playing for tomorrow night in Istanbul. One team will be headed to the knockout stages of the Champions League, the other all but certainly will be trying to get to Juventus Stadium in a few months for the Europa League final.
As cool as playing in a European final in Turin sounds, I don't want it to be this one. Sorry, Europa League.
Sure, Juventus have some room for error entering tomorrow night's showdown, but who really wants to risk it? I know Conte doesn't. It's win and get three points, and that's it. That's the way it should be. Juventus should play against Galatasaray the same exact way they did against Shakhtar Donetsk a year ago. Well, maybe not the same exact way, but at least enter the with the same kind of mindset.
It will be a hostile atmosphere just like it was in Ukraine. Galatasaray need to win to advance to the knockout stages. Anything less sees them heading to the Europa League. It's pretty simple for Roberto Mancini's men.
The objectives are clear for both teams. And with just 90 minutes left to go before the first half of the knockout stage field is set, it's now or never for Juve to book their ticket into the next phase of Europe's premier club competition.
The current Group B standings are as follows:
1. Real Madrid -- 13 pts.
2. Juventus -- 6 pts.
3. Galatasaray -- 4 pts.
Okay, so that's a good thing. And that means a draw — Juventus' Champions League special the last two years — would still mean Conte's squad is in the knockout stages. And I think most of us can agree that this current Juventus team is playing a whole lot better than the one that played out a 2-2 draw in Turin back on Oct. 2.
So they've got that going for them, which is nice.
No Andrea Pirlo. That's the beginning of the bad news, and the end of the bad news. Oh well. At least he's got other things to do with his newfound free time as he recovers from his knee injury.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. How Juventus play.
This isn't about formations or anything like that. This is simply how Juventus approach the match. The thing I like about the game last year in Ukraine was just the flat out grinta Juve showed. They got the lead and then just busted their asses to keep it that way. It wasn't pretty, but it was exactly the kind of game Juve had to play to win it. Obviously it's a different season and different opponent, but if Juve come storming out with the same kind of mindset they had almost a exactly a year ago, then the knockout stages should be calling.
2. Antonio Conte's tactics.
Now we can talk formations and tactics. And as much as I'd love to debate the pros and cons of the 3-5-2 vs. 4-3-3 in Europe debate, all signs are pointing towards Conte going with old faithful against Galatasaray tomorrow. That's not all that surprising considering how it's worked the last six week or so. How much Pirlo being plays into the decision I don't know, but it has to at least cross Conte's mind, right? No Claudio Marchisio to play out on the right wing like he's done when Juve's gone 4-3-3 in the other European games this season because he has to fill in as a central midfielder. So I guess the tactics talk is more of a lightweight status quo declaration more than anything else. Oh well.
3. Carlos Tevez and his personal Champions League bugaboo.
Carlitos has been quite good when it comes to playing in Serie A. The Champions League, however, has been a bit of a different matter. Through Juve's first five group stage matches, Tevez has yet to find the back of the net. That's not exactly what he was brought to Turin to do, as we all know. But I guess the bright side in Tevez struggling to score goals in the Champions League is that Juve's still scoring goals in Europe. It sure would be nice to see Tevez celebrating a goal tomorrow night, though, I can tell you that much.
4. Containing Didier Drogba and friends.
If it wasn't for Drogba's goals in Turin, who knows how things would have gone the first time Juventus and Galatasaray played back in October. Juventus gets the lead, and Drogba snatches it away just a few moments later. Annoying, isn't it? Well, yeah. But the good thing is that Juve's defense has snapped out of their stupidity they had at that point in time. The thing is, though, Drogba and the rest of the Galatasaray attack is still dangerous.
5. Whether or not Stephan Lichtsteiner is fully fit and ready to play.
I wasn't the only person who thought Steiner would feature on Friday night against Bologna. The only problem was that when the starting lineups were announced an hour or so before kickoff, Lichtsteiner's name was nowhere to be found. It might have just been Conte making sure he was healthy for Galatasaray, or it might have been because Lichtsteiner isn't up to full fitness just yet after two months on the sidelines. I'd like to think it's the former simply due to the fact that Lichtsteiner is a player Conte doesn't want to risk before such a big game. And judging by some of the predicted lineups on Monday, it looks like the Swiss Express will play his part in Turkey.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pogba, Marchisio, Asamoah; Llorente, Tevez
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 8:45 P.M. IN ITALY; 2:45 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 11:45 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST