So, this tour of the United States, huh.
Two (unofficial) games in, and already people are getting grumpy. I don't think that's exactly what the Juventus tour organizers had in mind when they sat down a few months back and agreed to take part in the International Champions Cup. But, unfortunately for some, that's the territory you enter when you don't play well in the preseason. It might be knee-jerk to others, but it's just reality. We want results. We're spoiled. Dammit, Antonio Conte, you gosh darn spoiler.
(For the record, I'm not worried.)
And with Juventus only having one more match — the all-important seventh-place game against Inter Milan later today at Sun Life Stadium in sunny Miami, Fla. — before the Supercoppa, it's Conte's last chance to see his team take part in a friendly before things really matter in Rome in less than two weeks.
Conte was the first to state his displeasure with the less-than-stellar showing at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night.
"We need to show more hunger. Buffon made an important point saying he fears a possible indulgence after two consecutive championship successes and you just need to look at the goals we conceded today to realize the danger is there.
"We must increase our concentration levels. We haven't won a game since we've been here, it's now time to change that."
- Source: juventus.com
Il Mister has a point. Conte is not the kind of coach just to accept the fact his team played poorly because it's a friendly and doesn't matter when it comes to wins and losses. Conte wants his team to perform well — and they didn't do that in the 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy. I don't think it's any secret right now that Juventus need to improve the overall state of things before they head back to Italy — we know it, Conte knows it, and after Saturday night's loss the players know it, too. It's true they've worked their tails off this preseason and trying to crank things up for a meaningless game isn't easy to do. But that's also to be expected considering who their manager is — and that means he wants quality performances that don't even come close to resembling the effort put forward against the Galaxy.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Whether Conte rolls out a competitive lineup or calls in the reserves. If there's one thing that Juventus' manager has shown us during this Guinness International Champions Cup, it's the fact that if your name isn't Rubinho or you aren't a primavera kid, you're probably going to get some kind of playing time. It's the preseason and Conte is giving just about everybody a chance to get onto the field, so there are all these different directions he could go. Does he risk the regulars picking up a knock before the Supercoppa? Does he think that some of the regulars need to get into better game shape? So many questions to be answered, ladies and gentlemen.
2. The showing of 'hunger' that Conte desires after the losses to Everton and the Galaxy. Or, a better way to say all this would be a simple question: Will Juventus play like they actually give a damn? Pointless preseason tournament or not, I don't think Conte or a lot of the players expected them to be in a game against Inter for seventh place.
3. The look of the defense. I think it's safe to say that, for a good part of the loss to the Galaxy, Juventus' defense pretty resembled a hot mess. And guess what? We can't blame Federico Peluso for most of it. TAKE THAT, HATERS. But in all seriousness, Juve's defense hasn't been all that good during their time in the United States. We can try to chalk it up to it being the beginning of August and that may be a decent reason why. But at the same time, it's not exactly like these are defenders who aren't familiar with one another or the system that they're playing in.
4. Which striker combination gets the first 45 minutes. We've seen Carlos Tevez- Fernando Llorente against Everton, then saw Fabio Quagliarella-Alessandro Matri against the Galaxy. Who's next? I really have no idea. Could we see Tevez and Mirko Vucinic? Maybe the Llorente-Sebastian Giovinco combination from the second half on Saturday night could reappear (I am still waiting for a picture of this for the comedic purposes, by the way). The rotating will continue like it has throughout the entire squad, we just don't know where it will stop.
5. Nobody gets injured so we all can go back to Italy and prepare for the Supercoppa. There, simple as that. Nothing more, nothing less. Just a full plane of healthy Juventus players is all I ask for.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Caceres; Bonucci, Chiellini; Isla, Vidal, Pirlo, Marcihisio, De Ceglie; Tevez, Vucinic
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 12:45 A.M. (WEDNESDAY MORNING) IN ITALY; 6:30 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 3:30 P.M. ON THE WEST COAST
Note for Juventini in the United States and those who get Fox Soccer Channel: Juventus-InterMilan will be broadcasted the game live from Miami and will get underway on FSC at 6:30 p.m. local time.