Have you ever realized that international breaks aren't much of a break for a lot of Juve players? Just a thought. As you were...
For all the right reasons, a lot of attention 24 hours before Juventus' game against Bologna on Saturday night at the Dall'Ara has been put on the back burner because of the Champions League news. There's a reason why it's covered the way it is. And there's a reason why there's so much attention put on it.
Heck, even Juventus' official website rolled out a headline that read "Focus split between Bologna and European Draw" on Thursday afternoon after the day's training session. It's there. Everybody knows it. It's consuming our minds. It's the Champions League, people. The Champions!!!!
(Sound the anthem, dammit.)
In actuality, though, Juve's trip to Bologna is not only the final game before the two-week international break, it's a mark of what's down the road — the final stretch of the 2012-13 season. After Saturday's match, there's only nine more. If that's not the signal of that we're about to hit the sprint to the finish, I don't know what else will.
Well, maybe when there's only five games left, but that's beside the point.
The objective is pretty clear, though: Juventus win on the road against Bologna and there's a chance to put even more distance between the rest of the competition. If some people think the Serie A race is done and dusted now, what would a a double-digit lead do? Yeah, I know what you're thinking.
A nine-point lead with 10 games left to play certainly isn't a lock that the title race is over, but it's definitely a damn good sign — especially with Napoli completely struggling the way they are right now.
And what does Antonio Conte have to say about his team's latest victory? Well, see for yourself...
Sunday's victory was very important and showed us to be a great team, given how the game was poised #BolognaJuve— JuventusFC (@juventusfc) March 15, 2013
One of the things I was looking forward to the most was to see how well Frederik Sorensen was playing since the last time we saw him taking on Juventus back in October. However, the 20-year-old Danish defender picked up a knock and is unlikely to play against the club that brought him to Italy. Dammit.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Can Mirko Vucinic snap out of his funk? It doesn't really matter how he's playing, really, because Antonio Conte is going to play him and make him a focal point of the attack. But unlike the up-and-down trend of form throughout his career, Vucinic has been consistently meh the last month or so. Clearly that's going to have to change if Juventus want to create more scoring chances instead of turning the ball over in the final third, but that's pretty much a given. To be honest, it doesn't really matter who he's paired up with up top. When Vucinic plays well, so does Juventus.
2. Striker selection. Nice transition, huh? I'll take the bow later. I'm assuming Vucinic will be playing because, well, I haven't heard anything to the contrary. So who's gonna be alongside our favorite striker who may or may not be sporting a mustache? Odds are Sebastian Giovinco since he's pretty much started every game the past few weeks. I'm still sporting my #TeamMatri shirt, but I'm not putting money on him starting even though I think he should be.
3. What will the Juve-owned kids do? We already know one of them won't be there, but there's still one big one to keep an eye on. His name is Manolo Gabbiadini. You might have heard of him. We've written about him in the not-so-distant past. He's almost exclusively been employed as a left winger of sorts since Bologna went to the 4-2-3-1 full time. His stats on the season may not blow your mind away, but he's consistently playing. And at his age, that may be the most important thing of all.
4. How much will Bologna miss Iceman Sorensen? Another great transition. I won't ask for a round of applause, though. But Sorensen's performances in the center of Bologna's defense has had a lot to do with their recent performances. (You can read more about that here if you feel so inclined.) The injury he picked has put a slight dent in what has been one heck of a few months for the young Dane, who has shot up Bologna's seasonal ratings chart in the process.
5. Controlling Alessandro Diamanti. I mentioned Sorensen being one of WhoScored's top-rated players this season, well here's the No. 1 guy. Diamanti has been damn good this season, excelling in the middle of the "3" of Bologna's 4-2-3-1 formation. He scores goals, he creates goals, he does about everything in between offensively for Bologna. He's a very good player who has a very unique set of skills. No, he's going to be starring with Liam Neeson in Taken 3 or anything, but he'll be looking to make a big impact on Saturday.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Vucinic, Matri
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 8:45 P.M. IN ITALY; 3:45 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 12:45 P.M. ON THE WEST COAST