The first leg of the Coppa Italia didn't exactly go as planned. I don't think a brain surgeon is needed to figure that one out. But because of it, Juventus' first trip to the Olimpico in Rome of the season is a much more decisive one than it probably should have been.
Juve and Lazio's 1-1 draw at the Juventus Stadium a week ago means the winner advances to the Coppa Italia final. And especially after how last season's final against Napoli went, I'm pretty sure Antonio Conte and the boys would like to go back there and atone for the way things ended.
And it just so happens that this match
Hey, it looks like we have something to remember for motivation — as if the last time Juventus stepped on the pitch wasn't enough to begin with.
There really is only one option when it comes to this game: Win it. Don't mess around with trying to win with away goals. Don't risk any kind of extra time. Just end it after 90 minutes and head back to Turin knowing the ticket is pushed for a second straight trip to try and claim the elusive silver star to put on the jersey.
Is that to hard to ask?
Juventus' players are pissed off. So is Antonio Conte. Just about everybody with ties to Juve are pissed off after Saturday's controversial. So, the logical thing to do is to come out take all of that anger out on Lazio.
That's certainly the vibe and thinking around the interwebs ever since the final whistle blew 48 hours ago. I'm certainly one of them, especially with the way Conte likes to use these sorts of things as motivational tools. So if Juve come out full throttle (more on this a little later), then we know exactly what Il Mister talked about before the match.
The left side of Juventus' midfield and defense are really starting to show how much they miss Giorgio Chiellini's presence. Obviously he won't be playing in this game and the next couple of weeks, but that's beside the point. Look at where the goals have happened the last two games against Lazio in the first leg and Saturday's draw with Genoa — yep, the left side of defense. While Marco Borriello's goal (lol that, by the way) didn't actually happen on the left wing, it originated from there.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. What the lineup looks like. Yeah, it's the Coppa Italia. But it's also a trophy that Conte said the team will fight for. In part because of the current injury situation, Conte fielded a team that probably fielded more first teamers than the usual Coppa match. Could it be the same tomorrow night? It might not, but those who were injured last week are pretty much in the same boat now, so anything is really possible. If the scoreline was different, then Conte would probably roll with more backups. But since it's 1-1, you never know.
2. How pissed off Juventus begins the game. Like I said above, using the Genoa result as a motivational tool could very well be high on Conte's list of things to say. Or maybe it's already been said. I dunno. But what Juventus look like at the start of the game will be huge, especially if it results in an early goal that sets the tone. If Juve come out with fire and dominate play, then it's pretty clear what Conte did. If Juve come out sluggish and doesn't generate much of anything, then it's going to be another one of those days where one simple lapse may come back to haunt them.
3. The Luca Marrone Effect. It's the Coppa Italia, so young Luca is all but certain to play his part. And since he played in the first leg, trying to completely knock off the rust shouldn't be one of the things to worry about. Well, at least I hope so. It'll be interesting to see where Conte fields Marrone — be it in the center of defense or in one of the three midfield spots. My guess would be in defense to give Bonucci a rest. But it also depends on who is healthy in the midfield. If options are limited, then it's a possibility he plays an Andrea Pirlo kind of role.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Storari; Barzagli, Marrone, Caceres; Isla, Vidal, Pogba, Giaccherini, Peluso; Giovinco, Quagliarella
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 8:45 IN ITALY, 2:45 ON THE EAST COAST, 11:45 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST