It's been a wild 2013 thus far. There have been highs. There have been lows. There have been wins. There have been losses. There has probably been quite a bit happening in between. It's just been one of those six-week periods where everything is just absolutely crazy and there's really nothing else that could have been done.
But I'm gonna go out on a limb here: Juventus are back on the right track.
Now, you might say that Juve's crucial 3-0 win in Glasgow over Celtic would have something to do with it and you'd probably be right. I mean, it's tough for something as monumental as what went down on Tuesday to not influence your judgement. But I think even before that
I think? Eh, that doesn't make my argument sound very convincing.
Regardless, February has been good to Juventus much in the way that January wasn't. The winning trend is back and, unlike like Saturday's opposition, there isn't any kind of drama or media attention surrounding the club for all the wrong reasons. Juve are just being Juve right now — winning and doing it in an effective matter.
That's really all we can ask after such a rough month we all just experienced and with a huge week of fixtures — at Napoli and home to Celtic — to begin March. It's about to get busy again soon, folks. There's no other way around it. What better way than to seriously get rolling as February enters its second half?
So, onward and upward, Juve. That's the plan and I'm perfectly okay with it.
Juventus' form since all of those highly-annoying January struggles: W-W-W.
Roma's form January-February form since everybody returned from winter vacation: L-L-W-D-W-D-L-L.
Talk about difference of not only success, but atmospheres around the respective squads in general. Gone is Zdenek Zeman from Roma's bench, as the controversial (putting it lightly) received his walking papers at the beginning of the month. The team was a mess, players were disgruntled, and the Roma tifosi were pretty much sick of what they were seeing from their team week after week — and for good reason.
For Juventus, it's the complete opposite. Riding high after the huge 3-0 win over Celtic in the Champions League, Juve return to Italy looking to bring points home from Rome for the second time this season. Hopefully it will be better than the last time Juventus visited the Stadio Olimpico about three weeks ago in the Coppa Italia. I don't want to remember that. Maybe I'll go watch the highlights of Juve-Celtic again. That seems to be the trick.
Injuries and suspensions, which seems to be the normal 'Bad news' section these days since Juventus are actually playing somewhat well right now.
Out do to yellow card accumulation: Claudio Marchisio and Federico Peluso.
Out due to injury: Giorgio Chiellini, Paolo De Ceglie, Simone Pepe, and the ghost of Nicklas Bendtner.
The return of Kwadwo Asamoah makes Peluso missing out a moot point mainly because we all know Kojo is the starting left wing-back when he isn't off trying to win an AFCON trophy or held out of the lineup for whatever reason. And while missing Marchisio is always a big deal because he's become so incredibly important to this team's success, it will be a good chance for Pogba to get into a game that will likely be in a very hostile atmosphere.
So maybe it isn't all bad news. Maybe I should rename the section "Somewhat bad news" or something like that.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Any kind of post-Celtic hangover. The last time Juventus recorded a 3-0 win in the Champions League (against Chelsea) and then had a rivalry game in Serie A, the second didn't go as well as the first. Let's just say the objective is to not repeat anything close to that tomorrow night. The trouble for some teams is getting up physically and mentally for a huge game, coming down from that high of success, and then trying to do a quick turnaround for another important game just a few days later. That's probably one of the things Antonio Conte has hammered home during the three days of preparation for Roma. And knowing how meticulous Conte is about every single detail, he'll make sure his squad is ready to roll from the opening whistle.
2. The Kwadwo Asamoah Effect. He's baaaaaaaaaaaaack! Obviously Asamoah was the focus of Thursday's off-day post around these parts (which is also linked above), but I think the biggest thing Asamoah will bring is stability to the left side of defense. That means less pressure on both Martin Caceres and Paul Pogba to pick up for somebody like Federico Peluso, who certainly made quite a few runs forward against Celtic. Asamoah is one of those iron-lunged folks in the mold of Arturo Vidal who can just run for days, and that will help when Roma do attack down Juve's left flank with Erik Lamela.
3. The suddenly amazing goal-scoring prowess of Alessandro Matri. Speaking of those who are back, can we say that Matri is officially back now? This is the Matri of old — scoring goals (four in the last four games), working his tail off, even recording an assist or two. He's not the world-class striker Juventus need, but if he keeps scoring, he'll get back to being a damn good one. And that, for right now, is exactly what the doctor ordered.
4. Who starts alongside Matri? Yes, I'm actually posing this question to the masses. Why? I give you this:
For Roma v Juve I'd play: Buffon; B-B-C; KwadSteiner, V-P-P, Mavinco, I can see an in-form Matri and zippy Giovinco trouble Roma's leaky DEF— Luca Cetta (@l_cetta) February 14, 2013
It's an interesting thought. I know Matri-Vucinic has been working well lately, but with Roma's defensive struggles all season long under Zeman and now the uncertainty as to who the heck is going play in Andreazolli's second game in charge, Super Seba could be a good option. Then again, Vucinic has been scoring goals almost as frequent as Matri has, so, at least in my mind, Conte can't really go wrong with either pairing.
5. What the Roma squad looks like. New coach, new formation, new injuries, same old problems for the Giallorossi. Last week in Andreazolli's coaching debut, Roma rolled out a 3-5-2 formation, but because of a lack of centerbacks, it seems like that will be scrapped for a four-man defense. Other than that, it seems like it's anybody's guess as to where they will go from there. Some say 4-2-3-1, others say 4-3-1-2. I dunno. I guess we'll just have to see what happens on Saturday when the official lineups are announced.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Caceres; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Asamoah; Giovinco, Matri
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