Juventus vs. Sampdoria Preview: Round 1 — Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

Claudio Villa

The last time Juventus played Sampdoria, there was nothing to play for. It was the last day of the 2012-13 season, the Scudetto had already been clinched, and everybody had been assured that nothing of much importance was going to happen. Stupid jerks made us watch anyways because we love them so damn much.

Ah, but this Juventus-Sampdoria match is a little different.

The 2013-14 Serie A campaign is officially here. Well, tomorrow it will be. But the countdown has begun. The grass at the Ferraris will be looking extra special good with it being opening night. The players will roll out their fancy new boots they just got from their respective sponsors. The road to a third straight Scudetto starts in Genova — not against Parma as weird as it may seem after the last couple of years — and we're just about ready to get the party started.

Serie A, we've been waiting for you to return for months now, sitting through transfer rumors that make no sense and watching every player that could be going to a new team not sign with Arsenal. (Okay, cheap shot. I'm sorry, but I'm not sorry.)

While Juve didn't beat Sampdoria last season, the sound of typing "defending their Serie A title" has much more of a ring to it. So if you wanna keep doing that, Antonio Conte and crew, go right ahead. No complaints here.

And I'm just going to go out on a limb and say there's a little more to play for this time around. Just a hunch.

GOOD NEWS

Wait, so you're saying Serie A will officially be taking up a lot of our time in front of the television and computer for the next eight or nine months starting tomorrow night?

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Welcome back, old friend.

BAD NEWS

Claudio Marchisio is hurt and out for another 30 or so days, but we already knew that. Luckily Paul Pogba is here to continue his usual awesomeness during Principino's month-long recovery time.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. That ever evolving Carlos Tevez-Mirko Vucinic dynamic.

I could talk about how they've played on the field. Or maybe I'll just show you what Tevez said on Thursday regarding his developing partnership with our favorite part-time mustached Montenegrin.

"I get on well with Vucinic. He is a player who makes the difference. We only played for the second time together in Rome on Sunday and obviously we need to get to know each other better and refine our movements, but I'm already satisfied."

(Source: Football Italia)

Okay, so maybe I'll talk about how they've played on the field.

It's quite a small sample size, but thus far the Tevez-Vucinic partnership has gotten the job done. They seem to be on the same page when it comes to their movements and passes up front and they have that added bit of combined flair to break down an opposing defense or do some fancy kind of back heel when needed. Conventional wisdom suggests the more they play alongside one another, the more and more comfortable they will be as a strike tandem. So far that seems to be the case — and you won't see any complaints here if the final product is a good one.

2. Manolo Gabbiadini's impact.

We knew he'd be on the watch list sooner or later, but the first week of the season is certainly a bit of a welcome surprise. A good number of folks think that this is the season before he breaks into the Juventus squad in some kind of capacity. Manolo has said he's treating this game like any another and just wants to start the season on a positive note. That's cool and totally understandable. Except for the fact that this is the club that will be keeping one hell of a close eye on him this season, judging him week in, week out to determine whether he truly is ready for the big stage in Turin.

3. Paul Pogba's impact.

It's a nice problem to have when somebody of Pogba's ilk can be considered a "reserve." But Pogba's far from a guy who spends most weekends on the bench because he's not good enough to be a starter. It's far from that. The number of bad games Pogba has had in a Juventus jersey may as well be smaller than the number of hairstyles he rocked last season. With Marchisio's month-long injury putting Pogba in the starting lineup on a regular basis for the time being, it will be interesting to see how the 20-year-old Frenchman continues to grow and develop as a midfielder. And based on what we've seen in the 12 months he's been with Juventus, there's no reason to think a few more of those awesome Pogba performances won't become a regular thing again.

4. Building off the Supercoppa performance.

For as fantastic as it was, seeing Juventus score three goals in five minutes on a consistent basis is pretty much unheard of. I don't think that's breaking news to anybody of us, but Juve did indeed bring some of their top-notch play to the Supercoppa blowout victory against Lazio last Sunday night. It certainly made the not-so-positive thoughts from the United States tour go away, didn't it? Now the key is obviously to keep things going as the season officially gets going.

5. Who else will show up with a beard as the season gets underway?

First it was Andrea Pirlo. Now it's Andrea Barzagli. The beards are taking over Juve's regular starting lineup. Who might be next on the road to sporting a face full of hair? 'll just leave this here for the rest of you to see. #BOH

My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Asamoah; Vucinic, 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

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