They've been training at Stanford for about a week's time now. They've had double days every day since arriving in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. They've had tactics hammered into them by their manager, who just so happens to be turning 44 years old on this very day. They've scrimmaged against one another time after time with some exciting moments caught in between.
Now, Juventus get to face another team other than themselves.
The Old Lady begins the Guinness International Champions Cup against Everton tonight at the ballpark by the Bay, AT&T Park — a place that I may or may not have visited in the past four days for a completely depressing and pathetic baseball game even though my seats were totally awesome. It's the first game in what will be a three-game run in eight days for Juve, who will travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles over the weekend and then to Miami to meet up with the seven other teams and wrap up the tournament on Aug. 7.
With the Supercoppa just a little more than two weeks away, we're getting oh-so-close to when manager Antonio Conte wants his club to start getting into serious game shape (if they haven't gotten there already). And Wednesday night in San Francisco is just another step in that direction, even though a lot of the regular starters might not feature all that much at AT&T. But there's still the fact that they're in preparation stages — not only getting back to prime fitness, but working out the kinks and having the new signings adapt.
And what a better way to give Conte a birthday present that includes one of his favorite things — a win.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. The new guys up top. Their teammates have had nothing but lovely things to say about them, and now it's getting close to the time for the Carlos Tevez-Fernando Llorente partnership to show what it is made of when the games actually count. Although they are under the leadership of a new manager in Roberto Martinez, Everton was one of the more solid defenses in the Premier League last season. They won't be the toughest team Juve faces this year, but it will be a good test for this point in the preseason preparations. And that goes for Tevez and Llorente, too — who have both have been receiving a lot of kind words from their manager, too.
2. The internationals. No, Andrea Pirlo and Leonardo Bonucci haven't defected to the Stanford football team, so there's no reason to worry about any of that. But how much they play against Everton is obviously something those of us who will be in attendance at AT&T Park are wondering about. A lot of the Italian media outlets are saying it will be a lineup that somewhat resembles what Juve used in the Trofeo TIM last week against Milan and Sassuolo, which wouldn't be all that surprising. The Italian internationals — along with Martin Caceres — have been part of full training for a little over a week now and are obviously still behind the others in terms of fitness. But wouldn't it be nice to see Pirlo pinging a few cross-field passes to Tevez tonight? I think we know the answer to that.
3. The striker competition. No, not just Tevez and Llorente, but the other four guys, too. All six of them are traveling with the squad. How much time each of them will receive against Everton — and in the tournament as a whole — is obviously up to Conte and what he thinks will be reasonable, but Beppe Marotta has made it no secret that somebody will be leaving this summer. Maybe it will be a full four-way battle royale as we enter August. Who knows, though.
4. Let's just say it now: Please, for the love of God, nobody get hurt. This one is only a friendly and official games are only a few weeks away, after all.
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 8 P.M. ON THE WEST COAST; 11 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 5 A.M. IN ITALY
Note for Juventini in the United States and those who get Fox Soccer Channel: Juventus-Everton will be broadcasted the game live from San Francisco and will get underway on FSC around 8 p.m.