Sometimes I look at the schedule this time of year and think, "Man, this really does suck." But other times, it's the exact opposite. Sometimes it's good to have games being played every couple of days, other times it isn't. Having games come fast and furious — sorry, no Vin Diesel here — is Juventus' reality right now, with the Champions League and Serie A calendar making sure there isn't much time to relax these days.
So, now three days after a 2-1 win over Hellas Verona on Sunday at Juventus Stadium, Juve are back on the field again, traveling to Verona (no, really) to face Chievo Wednesday night. The same Chievo side that is sitting on four points after four games and just won its first game of the season over the weekend.
Sounds like we're set for another three points against one of Verona's finest squads, right? Chalk it up right now and prepare for the Turin derby over the weekend, right?
The truth is, though, it's been far from that in the past couple of years.
Juventus has as many wins as they do draws against Chievo ever since Antonio Conte took over as manager. Remember Sergio Pellissier scoring goals and leaving us completely silent? Yeah, that was pretty annoying. But it's the reality of playing Chievo — never easy as you'd think with potential annoyance only one goal in the last 10 minutes of a game away.
Either way, there's no rest for the weary. Or, in this case, there's no rest for Juventus.
A short Hellas Verona recap: Fernand Llorente scored a goal. Carlos Tevez scored a goal. Those two were brought in to score goals. I think you know where I'm going with this line of thinking.
JUVENTUS IS CURRENTLY IN A EUROPA LEAGUE SPOT. PANIC.
Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, here's something else:
This isn't any kind of inside information or anything, but it should be said: Juventus' finishing the past couple of games has been pull-your-hair-out-worthy. Luckily for you, we'll be talking about this in a couple paragraphs. So you got that going for you, which is nice.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Do we get an immediate encore for the Tevez and Llorente show?
Now that Llorente has actually gotten playing time, the next line of thinking is how Antonio Conte plans on using him going forward. Well, at least it is for me. You can think about whatever you want, guys. But how Conte integrates Llorente into the squad is certainly an interesting topic to think about. Does Llorente get another start right away on Wednesday or is he eased into being a regular starter much in the same fashion as he was eased into the starting lineup for the first time? Valid question with an answer still to be determined.
Another reason why I bring this up — this quote from Conte after Sunday's win:
"As far as the rotation's concerned, we're playing every three days and need everyone to get vital playing time under their belts. I've alternated the defenders in the previous two games, sooner or later Tevez will also have to sit one out."
At some point Tevez is going to be given a rest. But the way he is playing right now, is he really showing the signs of needing a break?
2. Squad rotation.
Editor's note: You can't go without this being mentioned a match preview this time of year!
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can move on to the task at hand — trying to figure out what is going on through Conte's mind and figure out what exactly he's going to do. While that can be quite the task, maybe we can try? I don't know, but it seems inevitable that there are going to be changes from the squad that faced Hellas Verona over the weekend. Those exact changes, at least at the time of writing this, aren't known. I guess we'll just have to be patient
And then there's one case in particular of somebody who hasn't gotten much of a rest at all this season.
3. The impact Andrea Pirlo makes...if there is one...if he plays.
If it were up to me, the bearded maestro's name would be as far away from the team sheet as possible against Chievo. Since I'm here writing previews instead of managing Juventus, that's not going to happen. But just because I'm not standing next to Conte and barking out orders to players, it doesn't mean I haven't noticed just how minimal Pirlo's impact has been and how much he has played — both for club and country — during the past year. Another thing I've noticed: A rested Pirlo is much better than a tired, out of form Pirlo. Just a hunch.
4. Whether or not a day off did Giorgio Chiellini some good.
Speaking of a guy who hasn't been playing well and needed a day off, we have King Kong.
Chiellini got his much-needed day off over the weekend against Verona. And judging by the way he was playing before he got a spot on the bench, it came at the right time for the simple fact that he probably got more than just a physical day off. Hopefully it worked not only worked when it comes to rest, but mentally as well. It's pretty easy to say how important Chiellini will be when the bigger games come calling in the next month or two. Heck, there's a Champions League game in Turin eight days from now. I feel pretty safe in assuming that Chiellini will be part of the starting XI when Galatasaray come to town.
5. Juventus' finishing in front of goal.
In their last two games, Juventus have taken 62 total shots. No, really. I'm not making this stuff up, people. It actually happened: 27 shots against FC Copenhagen, 35 against Hellas Verona. That's...a lot of scoring chances. Not all of them have really been the best of opportunities, but a shot towards goal is a shot towards goal and it goes down on the stat sheet. This is nothing new, especially with Conte as manager where it seems like Juventus creating a lot of scoring opportunities isn't exactly a huge development. But with better strikers comes better finishing. Or at least that's the hope.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pogba, Marchisio, Asamoah; Tevez, Vucinic
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