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Italian Super Cup Preview: Juventus vs. Lazio — Starting off on the right foot

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No more friendlies for the Pope. Now it's time for something that matters.

Paolo Bruno

Even in the preseason — regardless of what the results ended up being — when you see your favorite team not playing well, it's hard not to just shake it off and not be a little frustrated. Juventus came to America and didn't play like Juventus. There were mistakes — a lot of them when it was all said and done. It wasn't what we've come to expect, despite what time of the year it was, from such a well-oiled machine.

Sure, Juve went 0-for-America during their U.S. tour. It wasn't pretty and there were only a handful of good things to come out of the two weeks in California and Miami. Like I've said, it's not exactly how we all drew it up. But consider this important question at the end of this very logical tweet, okay?

That's just the thing. We're here, watching these games, and some of the things look un-Juventus-like. But we totally forget that even now the team has been training as a full and complete unit for just about two weeks. Juventus' preseason has looked like a lot of other team's preseasons — and that's perfectly okay. Maybe it's just my view (although it probably isn't), but I'd rather have Juventus work out their problems in the first few weeks of August rather than the first few days of European competition.

And while the reports continue to spread around all of Italy about Antonio Conte doing Antonio Conte types of motivational strategies after the disappointing trip to the United States, it's time to see what kind of Juventus shows up on a Sunday night in Rome. I mean, do we really think that Conte won't have his team prepared for a game that involves a pretty nice trophy? This isn't just the Supercoppa, but it's also the final final final tuneup before Juve kick things off against Sampdoria next Saturday. It's almost like the final study session before the school year's first exam...or something like that.

Now they have the chance to throw all of that out and start the season just like they did last year — watching Gigi Buffon hoist the Supercoppa above his head after beginning the season with a victory.

LE CHIAVI

Juventus is playing in the Supercoppa for the second straight year. I don't think there's much else that needs to be said.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. Mirko Vucinic and Carlos Tevez. They were easily the two best strikers in the preseason and because of it, everybody is tipping them to start alongside each other tomorrow night in Rome. They've shown a good understanding with on another in the short time we've seen them play together during the International Champions Cup. Small sample size, sure, but they're the best thing Conte and Juventus have right now as Fernando Llorente continues to shake off the rust from his virtually inactive 2012-13 campaign.

2. Who will step in for Andrea Barzagli? The injury problems that have been hampering the Great Wall seemingly all summer haven't gone away. Just when we thought he was healthy again when he made his preseason debut, he walked off without even playing 30 minutes. And now he's a doubt for the Supercoppa. But luckily Conte has a solid bench to work with on this one. House money is on Juventus' resident Uruguayan, Martin Caceres, getting the call. Natural fit on the right side of the defense, has played well this preseason, and is likely hungry to impress his manager in his first official game of the season.

3. How the defense looks. To say Juve's D look shaky during the preseason build-up would be, well, probably assessing things on somewhat of a kind level. Obviously there were some players who were still trying to sort a couple of things out, but as a whole, things weren't impressive to say the least. With Chiellini and Bonucci back in the fold and getting into game shape again after their post-Confederations Cup vacations, things should get better. I say 'should' because that's just a general assumption considering the regulars will be back in the fold. Now all that's left is just hoping the kinks were worked out by Conte between the squad getting back to Italy and Sunday night in Rome.

4. Whether or not Federico Marchetti puts in another career night against Juventus. Out of all he goalkeepers in Italy, Marchetti is the one who saves his best for Juve. How many times have wee seen him absolutely dominate between the sticks whenever Juve play Lazio? I don't have the exact answer, but it's been pretty damn frequent since he moved to the capital city. Maybe it's because Gigi Buffon is usually standing there in the other goal. Maybe it's something else. But expecting Marchetti to not be totally amazing when he plays against Juventus at this point might be the wrong kind of thought process.

5. Stamina of the internationals. Try and put together a probable starting lineup and you'll likely notice one thing — basically all of those players were on midweek international duty. Some played a lot of minutes, some played a half, maybe some were "lucky" enough to not feature at all. But the majority of Juventus' international players did see the field. And with a quick turnaround between the friendlies on Wednesday and Sunday night's match, it'll be interesting to see how Conte handles the squad with the season right around the corner.

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

OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 9 P.M. IN ITALY; 3 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; HIGH NOON ON THE WEST COAST