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Italian Super Cup Preview: Juventus, Napoli Battle At The Bird's Nest

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It's okay, Gokhan. We all want to give Claudio a hug. You're not alone.
It's okay, Gokhan. We all want to give Claudio a hug. You're not alone.

Up until about 15 hours ago, I had this great introduction for this preview. It was hilarious. Don't believe me? Well, too bad. You're just going to be forced to take my word for it.

Then, the hammer was thrown down. Sure, Leonardo Bonucci and Simone Pepe have been cleared of all charges, but that was somewhat expected. However, what was also expected was the fact that Antonio Conte and Angelo Alessio would be banned for 10 and eight months, respectively. And that's exactly what happened. My happy feelings towards the Supercoppa triumph on Saturday are basically crushed.

Transfer talk? Meh. Concentrating exclusively on the game at hand? Yeah, not possible.

But, through all of this, Juventus will be playing their rivals from the south.

The long voyage from Italy to China has finally reached its payoff day. Well, at least that's what we hope. I'd hate to travel several thousand miles just to lay a complete dud out on the field. Especially one with a trophy at stake.

Ah, but that's why they play the game — at least that's what people say.

LE CHIAVI: It only makes sense that the last official Serie A-related game and the first are between the same two teams. Easy for marketing! All those fancy graphics will be saved! Awesome, I'll go sleep the rest of the day.

Welp.

Okay, so Juventus and Napoli face off again, just like they did in the middle of May for the Coppa Italia. This time it's extra special, extra super! That's what the name on trophy says!

Things are different from the last time these two teams have played, though. Napoli, most notably, has said goodbye to Pocho, as Ezequiel Lavezzi went off to P$-G along with all the others folks currently filling all of their swimming pools with bags of money. Heck, there are probably a few bags of cash falling out of their lockers. It's possible, right?

GOOD NEWS: The team is playing well. We don't really need ask for anything else, right? Well, it's not exactly that simple, but it's a good start. Things — on the field — aren't perfect, of course. There's still plenty of work to be done and there are times where Juventus look like a team that has only been training for about a month (and for the ItalJuve contingent much less than that).

BAD NEWS: When facing a team like Napoli, one that lives and dies by the counter attack, having your A-plus defense available is key. Well, as we've seen this entire preseason, that ain't happening. Giorgio Chiellini may be out of this, but having two out of three available isn't too bad. The question is who stats along with Andrea Barzagli and Leo Bonucci (further discussion below).

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:

  • Andrea Pirlo's beard isn't going anywhere. Sorry, just had to get something about #PirloBeard out of my system.
  • How Juventus react to Conte and Alessio's respective bans. Numerous players have said they are using this whole situation as a source of motivation. And to be completely honest, they better be. Conte had created such a tight-knit group last season that any other kind of reaction, other than the desire to demolish Napoli, would be completely wrong.
  • Who starts in the back three. I may have just mentioned it, but who cares. It's important. Will Il Mister go with the experienced choice, Lucio, or will he go with the player who has continued to impress in the friendlies this summer, Luca Marrone? It's going to be interesting to see which way Conte goes, especially considering the man Marrone had been filling in for, Mr. Bonucci, is likely to start.
  • The Giovinco Effect. It's not only what Super Seba will do against Napoli, it's who he will be paired with up top. Will Conte stick with Alessandro Matri after his brace against Malaga, or will Mirko Vucinic — who has thankfully ditched the #VuciStache experiment — start for the first time in weeks?
  • The Insigne Effect. If I had no rooting interest whatsoever, I'd love to see the kid play. But because of who I root for, I really don't feel like having the Supercoppa be the 21-year-old Insigne's coming out party. He can wait a couple more weeks and rest that ankle injury of his until Napoli open up the Serie A campaign against Palermo, right? That'd be nice.