Maybe it's just a coincidence. Maybe it's just pure, dumb luck. But the last time Juventus were coming out of an international break and looking at a Champions League match on horizon, their Serie A opponent a few days prior was, you guessed it, Inter Milan. Now, Juventus won't be facing the would-be European champions like they did in Bayern Munich last March, but the Champions League is still the Champions League and Europe awaits just a few short days after a derby.
Juventus have their Group B opener against FC Copenhagen looming in the not-so-distant future. First things first, there's a little matter of traveling to the San Siro and facing Walter Mazzarri's new-look Inter. That's right — Derby day. Juve is undefeated. So is Inter. Sure, it's the just the third game of the season, but that's out of our control. Many are saying it could be the first in a number of matches that could shape the Scudetto race.
But couldn't we say that about a lot of derbies involving Juventus and Inter? I think so, but feel free to tell me otherwise.
Either way, what a nice way to get thrown right back into the fire that is the Serie A schedule. You think Antonio Conte would want this any other way? He gets to make sure his team is ready to get back into the swing of things by prepping them for one of the most intense rivalries in Europe there is and then gets to start his quest to conquer the Champions League.
Football time is upon us. What a wonderful time to try and get three points every couple of days.
Juventus went into the international break with a 4-1 win over Lazio. It was a dominating performance — one that showed many just how dangerous Juve can be with somebody like Carlos Tevez adding his attacking talents to an already incredibly talented squad coached up by an even better manager.
Speaking of Tevez, he's 3 for 3 when it comes to scoring goals in games that actually count. Methinks Juventus signed a pretty good striker, guys. I'm willing to go out on a limb with this one.
And there's also this.
4 - Juventus have won 4 of their last 5 Serie A meetings against Inter. Date.— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) September 13, 2013
There seems to be a trend developing here. Keep it going, gents.
Short-attention-span writing for short-attention-span reading...
- Juventus has already played Inter this (pre)season and lost on penalties. Prepare yourselves, folks.
(Okay, so maybe the International Champions doesn't matter.)
Juventus, as a team, have had to wait two weeks to try and built off the 4-1 win over Lazio. Boo.
Oh, and Juve's injury list has gotten quite a bit bigger over the course of the international break. Mirko Vucinic is a doubt for the tomorrow's game against Inter, Martin Caceres is done for the next 35 days or so, and Andrea Barzagli had to pull out of the Italy squad because he can't shake his incredibly annoying foot injury. But more on that in a couple of second.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. The health of Mirko Vucinic.
While he's not going to be out as long as fellow international break casualty Martin Caceres, Vucinic's injury has put him in doubt for Inter. That's not exactly new news around these parts, but it's also the reality of the situation. It's clear that, at least for the time being, the Vucinic-Tevez partnership up front is the one that Conte is going to rely on. There hasn't been a need to rotate things just yet with the schedule being the way it was pre-international break. But with Vucinic fighting off an injury and the schedule about to get busy, the choice the Mister has is undoubtedly an interesting one.
I don't know. It's all very interesting.
2. Who starts alongside Carlos Tevez if Vucinic is a no-go?
The million dollar question around these parts — and solely dependent on whether Mr. Montenegro is healthy enough to play. Earlier in the week it was seemingly between two gentlemen, Fabio Quagliarella and Fernando Llorente. You might have heard of them before. As of Thursday it seemed like the Italian press' favorite to start next to Tevez up front is the man who scored a wonder-goal at the San Siro last time Juventus were there.
Ya know, this goal...
I could watch that goal over and over again. (And maybe I did.)
Come Friday, the same GdS folks who were saying Quagliarella was going to start were saying Llorente is going to get the nod. If you're confused, you're not alone. Every day brings a different player. But it seems like who actually will start next to Tevez will be one of the things we'll have to wait for the starting lineups to actually know. The Italian press can try and pinpoint it all they want, but it's Antonio Conte's call last time I checked.
3. The health of Andrea Barzagli.
The Great Wall's fitness has been a concern for weeks now. Why? Well, for the second straight time he's been called to international duty, Barzagli hasn't played a minute for Italy. There's not a growing concern that Barzagli won't be able to be ready for Inter like there is with Vucinic, but it will be interesting to see how he handles and immediately responds to the usual defensive situations — sprinting and stopping and then sprinting again, going in for tackles, challenging the opposition in the air, etc. etc. etc. — he will likely find himself in against Inter.
4. Whether this new-look Inter is worthy of the praise it's currently getting.
Ah, fun with small sample sizes. The Italian press — and other outlets, for that matter — is certainly enjoying what Mazzarri has brought to the table thus far. Along with Roma (!!), Inter is one of two teams that has yet to allow a goal in the opening two rounds of the season. While you try and pick your jaw up off the ground after associating Roma with defense, let's try and remember we're talking about Inter — and not the one we laughed at last season. That was quite fun, though, I must say.
5. How Juventus look coming out of the international break.
The international break wasn't exactly a break for some. Some were able to basically get a free ride home with the Italian contingent who played in Turin on Tuesday night. Others, like Arturo Vidal traveled halfway around the world for his pair of World Cup qualifiers with Chile, had to make the trek back home over thousands of miles. There may be some kind of international break fatigue, there may be no reason to worry. We'll find out in Milan on Saturday.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Asamoah; Vucinic, Tevez
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 6 P.M. IN ITALY; HIGH NOON ON THE EAST COAST; 9 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST