Even throughout the exit in the Coppa Italia, Antonio Conte maintained that the Scudetto was the primary goal. Even throughout the struggles against Bayern Munich, Antonio Conte maintained that the Scudetto was the primary goal. Now, with two out of the three fronts that Juventus entered the season competing on no longer in plan, there's only one thing on the table that remains from the beginning of the season.
The primary goal.
Seven rounds remain between Juventus and a second straight league title. It might not be the sexy Champions League trophy with the two big ears, but it's still something that should be looked as a major accomplishment for Conte's men. And for Conte to go 2 for 2 when it comes to Scudettos since he was named Juventus manager, that's a pretty damn good record to keep intact. If he wants to make this a regular thing, I won't object to it. And neither should you.
Well, that's unless you're not a Juventus supporter, but that's not really where I'm going with all of this.
The final charge starts Monday night against Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The last time Juventus visited the Olimpico? Well, we won't really talk about that. The last time Juventus played Lazio? Yeah, we won't talk about that one either. Memories of Roman-based teams this season aren't exactly all that pleasant as of late. But as we've come to find out, Juventus are still top of the table with a very healthy lead.
And there's just that one thing that remains. The one thing that Conte has circled from the very start of the 2012-13 campaign, even before the Champions League run got up and running.
That's right — the primary goal.
Conte: This season's real aim was to get back into the UCL and push for the Scudetto. I think we’re well on course for this #LazioJuve— JuventusFC (@juventusfc) April 14, 2013
Nine-point lead in Serie A as of this preview being published. Of course, that may change or stay the same depending on the Milan-Napoli result. So there's that, which is nice.
And there's this little development...
Conte: Chiellini and Giovinco will both miss out on #LazioJuve. Pepe, Bendtner and Anelka are all working their way back to full fitness.— JuventusFC (@juventusfc) April 14, 2013
Conte declaring Giovinco out of the Lazio match isn't all that surprising since he missed out on the second leg against Bayern Munich on Wednesday. But to see Chiellini miss out, after nothing had really been said about any kind of injury-related problems other than a report from Sky Italia, it's a little concerning for the simple fact of everything that he's been through this season. Whether it's just a one-game thing or something more than that, it seems like we'll just have to wait and see.
I guess all we need to do now is have yet another Chiello prayer circle.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. How Juventus respond to the Champions League elimination disappointment. Yeah, I know, it's cliche. But we've seen this team struggle in games that follow up European contests. And while last weekend's win over Pescara was complete domination even though it got frustrating as hell at times, it was more of the exception than the rule. Why's that? Because Pescara is Pescara and anything other than win would be a terrible result. But Monday's fixture is a little different — hostile environment, better team, post-Champions League exit state of mind. What's it gonna be, Juve?
2. Will Antonio Conte change his formation? A slight change, of course, but there could be a shift in what Juve's formation and tactics look like. That's at least what La Gazzetta is suggesting on Sunday with only three strikers available to play against Lazio. It would be a way to get Paul Pogba into the lineup — mainly because he's awesome and playing fantastic football right now. But we've seen all of this talk before and Conte stuck to his tried-and-true 3-5-2, so who really knows what will happen until the official lineups are released less than an hour before kickoff.
3. Striker selection. Depending on which formation Conte goes with will certainly play its part in which striker or strikers play. If there's a lone striker, then it's probably going to be Mirko Vucinic. If there's two strikers, it will be Vucinic and then somebody else. But since none of the strikers currently available to Conte are really on any kind of consistent form, going to a lone striker — as much as it could isolate Mr. Vucinic in the final third — might be the way Conte is leaning right now. But then again,
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Peluso; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Quagliarella, Vucinic
My starting XI (3-5-1-1): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Peluso; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Asamoah; Marchisio; Vucinic
Now I can't be wrong. Haw!
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