Okay, so Juventus won't win the first ever Guinness International Champions Cup. I know, I know. It's quite the letdown after such a successful two-year run by Antonio Conte. I mean, if Juve can't win the ICC, what else is there to strive for?
Wait, let me start over with all of this.
WIth their loss on PKs to Everton on Wednesday night, Juve find themselves in a situation where they can only finish in fifth place at best in the International Champions Cup. Not exactly what we all associate with Juventus, but that's not really the point of all this traveling up and down the state of California the past couple of days. Conte's squad is basically in SoCal for 24 hours — flying in Friday night, getting geared up, taking the field at Dodger Stadium, then heading back to base camp in Palo Alto.
To say they're a little busy this weekend is probably a good way to describe things.
Fifteen days remain before Juventus play for a trophy that truly does count. This are the games that prepare them for that challenge, as frustrating as these friendlies may be. The Supercoppa is the first objective that Juventus have circled. Then the title defense in Serie A. Then the Champions League. No, this current U.S. tour isn't
But it has one purpose — to get Juve ready for the things that matter. And no matter who they will be playing after tonight's game in Los Angeles against the Galaxy, it's going to serve its purpose. Conte will make sure of that.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. How the recently-returned internationals figure into the starting lineup. In San Francisco, Andrea Pirlo was the only player who took part in the Confederations Cup to actually step on the field and get playing time against Everton. Whether that was by total design or not, we will never know, but the fact still remains that some of Juve's most important players have yet to feature at all in the preseason. With another three days of training under their belts, Conte could shake things up a bit and roll out a lineup that will resemble the one that we will see in the Supercoppa and against Sampdoria in three weeks. Of course, it will all depend on how Conte thinks they've prepared themselves in the time in between AT&T Park and the trip to Los Angeles.
2. The ever-interesting Carlos Tevez-Fernando Llorente dynamic. There were flashes of good things against Everton three days ago. But a lot like many aspects of the game in the middle of the preseason preparations, they're nowhere near a complete package. Tevez was one of Juve's more potent players on Wednesday night, and that was certainly a good sight to see. It wasn't so good for Llorente, who worked his tail off, but didn't have the same kind of success that his projected strike partner did. Maybe it can be attributed to the rust still trying to be knocked off after playing sparingly at best for the better part of the last 12 months, I dunno.
Of course, Conte could throw out Mirko Vucinic and Alessandro Matri and I just waisted around 100 words typing out something that might not even happen.
3. Finishing, finishing, finishing. While Tim Howard was an absolute monster at times in the Everton goal, there were times I'm sure I wasn't the only one at AT&T on Wednesday thinking "What if..." Ya know, "What if they put those shots on target instead of hitting side netting so many times?" What if, what if, what if. Sure, it's the beginning of August and nobody is expected to be in midseason form right now. But for a team that has struggled at times with its finishing in front of goal, it'd be nice to see that the opportunities that are being created — friendly or not — don't continue to go to waste.
4. CAN WE TRY AND AVOID PENALTY KICKS FOR ONE FREAKING PRESEASON GAME, PLEASE? I MEAN, COME ON, GUYS.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Tevez, Llorente
...or something like that. I'm feeling greedy.
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 4:30 A.M. (SUNDAY MORNING) IN ITALY; 10:30 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 7:30 P.M. ON THE WEST COAST
And in the same fashion as the game against Everton, Fox Soccer Channel will broadcast Juventus-L.A. Galaxy LIVE starting at 7:30 p.m. PST/10:30 p.m. EST. As the saying goes, check your local listings for more information.