Juventus-Chievo Preview: Round 23 — Will the Real Juve Please Stand Up?

Marco Luzzani

The good, please?

January wasn't very kind to our Black and White brothers. Not even close to being nice. The final results — LWDWDDL — pretty much sums up what, outside of last season, has been a typical post-winter slump for Juventus in recent memory. That's the main reason why Juve's comfortable lead atop Serie A has now become one where the rest of the pack is within serious striking distance.

We can only hope the month of February is just a tad — or a lot — better than the previous 31 days were.

How would Antonio Conte describe his team's current run of not-so-hot form?

I wouldn't necessarily say that Juventus' struggles are a bit of unlucky results. Sure, Claudio Marchisio missing a wide open goal against Lazio isn't exactly the best of luck, but a lot of Juve's recent struggles have been a lot of their doing. They aren't dropping points because of bad luck. They're dropping points because they're not playing well.

And how do you snap out of a bad run of form?

A trip to Chievo!

Dammit, why does it always have to be a tricky as hell team that shows up when things aren't going your way. That just seems to be the way things are right now. At least there's no Sergio Pellissier to do his usual nonsense against Juventus. That would suck.

LE CHIAVI

In the span of three weeks, Juventus' near-double-digit lead atop the Serie A table is now down to a measly three points. That's...not very good at all. One more stumble, and Juve could very well officially have some company in first place. Yeah, good times, y'all. Very good times.

Not really.

GOOD NEWS

I really have no idea.

BAD NEWS

It's two-fold, people.

Breaking news: Juventus are playing like crap. Maybe the fact that it's not January anymore will magically solve all of our problems, but I doubt it. The way this team is playing right now, you don't know which one is going to show up. They can dominate a team for 80 minutes and then suddenly find themselves in a 1-all type of situation. Juventus is doing its best Jekyll and Hyde impersination right now — and that's not a good thing at all.

As announced at the beginning of the week, the post-Genoa bans were handed down to quite a few influential people on the Juventus squad. Antonio Conte won't be leading his team tomorrow or next Saturday against Fiorentina. The same goes for Leonardo Bonucci. Mirko Vucinic is suspended this weekend, but will return against the Viola unlike the other two. So we got that going for us, which is nice.

Oh, and Claudio Marchisio is hurt again.

So maybe it's three-fold. Dammit. I don't like when there's more bad news than good news.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. Could this possibly be the return of the 4-3-3? I'm not betting on it, but with the injuries and suspensions, it has to at least cross Conte's mind, right? I man, it has to — especially considering this team needs something to get some good mojo going again with the upcoming fixtures' importance getting bigger and bigger. It's not the absolutely guaranteed solution to fix Juventus' struggles. It's just an idea. And if it works out well, why not roll with it going forward while a good number of starters are still sidelined for one reason or another?

2. Who steps into the starting lineup for Magic Mirko? It's pretty simple to choose who it will be playing up top with Sebastian Giovinco: Fabio Quagliarella or Alessandro Matri? In the past few games they've been paired together, the Matri-Giovinco partnership has shown some promise. And if I had to chose, I'd pick those two rather than Quags and Gio. Nothing against you, Fabio. I still like you.

3. Will there be an Anelka appearance?

So, Anotnio,, what does that mean?

Starting Anelka was never really the plan since he's only been training with the squad for a couple of days since he passed his medical tests. As Conte said, he needs time to learn the manager's system and all that jazz. I'm not ruling out a substitute appearance, though. If Marco Borriello can get on Conte's good side in a hurry, surely Anelka can, too.

4. What will the defense look like? Obviously any kind of formation change will depend on it, but with Bonucci's suspension and Giorgio Chiellini's long-term injury, the defensive line will certainly have a different look. Obviously Andrea Barzagli will play, but who else? Martin Caceres should. Stephan Lichtsteiner should. But where will they play? That's the big thing that will determines all of this. If Conte really wants to stick to his guns and stay with the 3-5-2, we might even see Luca Marrone back in defense for the first time in a couple weeks.

My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Marrone, Caceres; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, De Ceglie; Matri, Giovinco

OR

My starting XI (4-3-3): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Caceres, De Ceglie; Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio; Giovinco, Matri, Giaccherini

Better to be safe than sorry, right? Ha!

OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 12:30 P.M. IN ITALY; 6:30 A.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 3:30 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST (lol)


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