Juventus vs. Lazio Preview: Round 2 — Going back for seconds

Claudio Villa

It's almost like Juventus played these guys a couple weeks ago or somethin'.

The Serie A schedule can be kind sometimes. It can also be a cruel mistress whose sole purpose in life is to make the team you root for suffer with a sick kind of joke when it comes to when certain games happen. Or, it can be just completely odd, scheduling games at the oddest of times or stacking up big game after big game.

Two weeks after playing Lazio in the Supercoppa, you wanna guess who Juventus is playing again? Yeah, it's Lazio. And while they had to travel all the way to Rome last time, tomorrow night is a little easier to get to. The two-time defending Serie A champs, fresh with another Supercoppa captured, open up their third season at the Juventus Stadium in front of what is expected to be yet another packed house in Turin.

Like we would expect anything else, though, right?

After a hard-earned, rain-soaked win over Sampdoria to open the 2013-14 league campaign, Antonio Conte's men have certainly gotten back to their winning ways after their preseason struggles. Those memories of getting beat by the Los Angeles Galaxy at Dodger Stadium? Yeah, they're all but gone at this point. Conte has gotten out his spiked bat — or whatever it is he does to motivate his team — and Juventus are back to being Juventus again.

Like we would expect anything else, though, right?

Right. Now on with the show.

GOOD NEWS

Juventus have played two competitive games since they returned from their not-so-successful United States tour and Carlos Tevez has scored goals in both of them. That relatively low transfer fee is looking pretty darn good right now.

Oh, and in a shocking development, Paul Pogba is really, really good and only seems like he's getting better with every game that passes. Just in case you didn't know by now.

BAD NEWS

There's a two-week long international break following this game. Convenient, isn't it?

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. Any kind of adjustments Lazio make.

Gee, what do you think they'd do after getting whooped 4-0, smart guy? Well, it's an honest topic and discussion, really.

Lazio went from being down 1-0 at halftime to looking at a 4-0 hole in a matter of minutes once the second half started. A lot of it was because of what Juventus did after the break, but Lazio didn't do a lot to help themselves in the Supercoppa. It certainly wasn't the kind of performance a lot of us were thinking they would turn in and it ended up costing them dearly (duh). But Conte isn't expecting the same Lazio to show up Saturday night at Juventus Stadium. How do I know that? Because he said it himself.

"Tomorrow will be a different game entirely. A trophy was handed out in Rome and we're happy to have won it, but the final score doesn't reflect the difference between the sides. Lazio are equipped to fight for the top spots, have always made it difficult for us and will do again tomorrow. We'll no doubt run into certain difficulties, but we also want to create some of our own."

2. The continued excellence of a certain Paul Pogba.

In the days following Juventus' season-opening win over Sampdoria, it seemed like just about anybody who has ties to Juventus was interviewed and had some kind of comments raving when it comes to Pogba's potential this season and going forward. And I can't really blame them. Pogba mania is taking over Turin more and more every time he takes the field. The guy doesn't have bad games these days. He seems to have some kind of decisive impact on the game. Or, to wrap this section up, we can just listen to what Didier Deschamps had to say about Pogba in Thursday's edition of Tuttosport.

I'd be cool with that.

3. The continued settling in of Carlos Tevez.

Two competitive games, two goals. Juventus signed Carlos Tevez to put the ball in the back of the net and that's what he's done so far. He's worked his tail off, and Conte has definitely noticed it. Remember those rumors of Tevez needing to lose weight we heard about when preseason training was getting started? Yeah, those seem like a distant memory right now. Small sample size, sure, but he's producing and that's exactly what he was brought to Turin to do.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I think Carlitos will get a warm reception from the Juventus Stadium faithful tomorrow night. Just a hunch I've got considering it will be his first home game as a Juve player and the start he's had to his Juventus career that the ovation he gets will be a boisterous one.

4. The continued consistent inconsistency of Mirko Vucinic

It'd be easy to jump on Vucinic for not having all that great of a game last weekend against Sampdoria. I won't do that — to a point. He's obviously very well suited to be playing alongside Carlos Tevez and they've shown that thus far. However, after having a very good game in the Supercoppa against Lazio two weeks ago, his performance against Samp wasn't so great. Maybe there's just something about Lazio that brings out the best, maybe he just likes playing at the Olimpico. Either way, Good Mirko is going to have to show up or it very well may be Fernando Llorente time when everybody returns from international duty and the schedule starts to get busy.

5. Stephan Lichtsteiner's continuing to haunt his former club.

Ever since he's arrived at Juventus, it's fun to watch the Swiss Express go up against the two Roma clubs. The Supercoppa was just another reminder of that — and so was the fact that he celebrated like a Juventino following his goal at the Olimpico. If he had friends left amongst the Lazio faithful, who knows if he still does now.

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

Rinse and repeat. Is it really that difficult to pick this team these days? Nah.

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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