In a perfect world, Juventus will swiftly go into the international break with three more points and that will be that. They'd be playing a relatively easy opponent, one where Juve would seemingly cruise to a win by a couple of goals and then we would sit there for two weeks eagerly awaiting the next round of fixtures because we want to see the perfect start roll on.
But Juventus aren't facing a team that will be wallowing in the bottom half of the table this season. No, no. Juventus are facing their closest competition, the club that has also started the season with five straight wins. They're facing Roma, their clear-cut No. 1 competition in Serie A.
So, I'll ask all of you the following question: Who's ready to rumble?
Juventus-Roma is the showdown of the season to date. It doesn't matter if it's just the sixth round or taking place on the fifth day of October, it's the gosh darn showdown of the season. Both teams have yet to lose a game, with Roma and Juventus combining to allow all of one goal between the two of them. Roma are coming off a draw in which they deserved more than one point against Manchester City, Juventus look to get back on the right foot after a disappointing showing in Madrid against Atlético.
Is it possible that a game could be this big on the first weekend in October? Well, when the two teams atop the league at this point in time are so much better than everybody else, then it's pretty important. It is the game that everybody has looked forward to for weeks on end, the one everybody pointed to the minute it was announced on fixture release day. And that is before both Roma and Juventus started the season perfect in Serie A.
Just take this into account: Juventus Stadium sold out in what seemed like about 20 minutes. (Okay, it was actually a couple of hours, but that's still absolutely incredible.) That should pretty much tell you all you need to know about how the game is being perceived by those who are going to be in attendance. And in turn, it will tell you that Juventus Stadium will almost be, without question, deafening when the opening whistle is about to sound.
Yep, it's everything you want — and then some — in a top-of-the-table clash between two very, very good teams.
Now there's just one thing left to do. You know, actually play the game.
Juventus have still yet to allow a goal this season. And outside of a momentary lapse in man-marking from Stephan Lichtsteiner, Juventus still have a perfect defensive record.
Some good injury news for once: Martín Cáceres and Álvaro Morata, who were both injured midweek in Spain, will be available for selection tomorrow night against Roma, according to Max Allegri at his pre-match press conference.
As of this preview going live, Andrea Pirlo's status is still being determined. He has been called up, but who knows what his role will be tomorrow night. You get the feeling that he's close to being back to match fitness, but it's hard to read whether Allegri is going to bring Pirlo back before the international break or wait until he's had an extra two weeks just to be sure.
There's also the other injured players, most notably Andrea Barzagli and his reported injury setback following surgery on his right heel over the summer. Boo.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Juventus coming out of the Champions League.
It's never not interesting to yours truly to see how Juventus respond to a tough European outing, regardless of the result. But with Juventus playing not-so-hot in Spain and having ramp things up again for another incredibly important game a few days later. As I've said many times after Juventus suffer a loss (or even a disappointing result): Will we get a team that is clearly worn out from the game prior? Or will we get a squad, like we saw so many times under Antonio Conte, that just comes out pissed off and wants to prove a point to everybody? That's Allegri's task. Get 'em snarlin' mad, Max.
"I think our strength is always to evaluate the positives and negatives from a game in order to face our next encounter in the best possible way. We are ready to face Roma. It will be a different game with respect to our match against Atletico because they play a different style of football."
Those are the words of Giorgio Chiellini. Let's see if Giorgio is right. I sure hope he is.
2. Roma coming out of the Champions League.
The difference between last season is a pretty noticeable one: Roma's in Europe, too, folks. Unlike last season when they could put all of their focus on Serie A, Roma now have the same weekly grind that Juventus does with Champions League football being played midweek. Up until this point, they have yet to falter one bit. But the devil's advocate will say that up until this point, Roma hasn't played anybody close to Juve's class in Serie A so far this season. You know what? That's definitely the truth. Who did Roma have after their Champions League opener? Cagliari, which ended in a 2-0 win against Zemanlandia. I think it's safe to say that playing Cagliari after a European contest is a little different than playing Juventus just a few short days after playing in the Champions League.
Garcia: Challenging all these teams is fantastic. We do this job to play these kind of games.— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) October 4, 2014
3. Roma's front three vs. Juventus' back three.
Well, there will be at least one team using a 4-3-3 tomorrow night. It just won't be Juventus. /grumble/
But the reality is, it's going to be a 4-3-3 vs. 3-5-2 just like it was each time Juventus played Roma last season. And when it comes to Roma's trident up top, it's safe to say they will be a challenge. Why? Well, because Francesco Totti is still damn good at what he does. Gervinho has the ability to be a complete pest on the wing and has truly thrived under Rudi Garcia's direction and guidance. And there's also a chance that Juan Iturbe shows his face and reminds Juventus what they're missing after the transfer-that-never-happened this summer. Having Cáceres available will be huge for the defense based on how good he's been this season. Putting at least one of Roma's offensive threats on lock will be huge.
4. The impact of Fernando Llorente.
And now we talk about Mr. Llorente, the guy who was tipped for big things this season but has yet to truly get anything going outside a few contributions here and there. Is it true that Llorente isn't playing well through the first five weeks of the 2014-15 season? Well yeah. But with Morata available despite having a "minor" muscle injury from the loss to Atlético Madrid, one has to think that Llorente will once again be starting alongside Carlitos Tévez against Roma. It will another chance for Llorente to get going against a team that is extremely well drilled and organized defensively. Not exactly the kind of team you want to play against when you're trying to regain some form, but a good performance against a very good team like Roma will likely do wonders in re-instilling some confidence entering the international break.
5. The impact of Arturo Vidal.
In case you've forgotten or haven't checked the internet lately, Arturo Vidal likes playing against Roma.
4 - Arturo Vidal has netted four goals against Roma in Serie A, his joint-favourite target in the top flight. Preference #JuveRoma— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) October 3, 2014
Now, Roma's midfield is definitely not as shaky as it was when Vidal first arrived in Italy. But look at the way Vidal played against Atlético Madrid; that's about as un-Vidal-like as it gets. It was almost a microcosm of the team's performance as a whole, which wasn't anything special whatsoever. Vidal played like crap, Juventus played like crap. There you go, folks. Simple formula. But we know it's not on Vidal, just like it's not solely on a lot of other players. But you look at how Roma may line up on Sunday and see Vidal seemingly straight across from Miralem Pjanić, it's impossible not to think that Good Vidal will have to outweigh Bad Vidal. That's just how the simple formula works.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Cáceres, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Marchisio, Pogba, Asamoah; Tévez, Llorente
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 6 P.M. IN ITALY; HIGH NOON ON THE EAST COAST; 9 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST
- Know your enemy: Talking Juventus-Roma with SB Nation's Roma blog Chiesa Di Totti
- Report: Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli suffers setback in comeback from heel surgery
- UEFA Champions League: Juventus vs. Atlético Madrid, full match coverage
- Martín Cáceres, Álvaro Morata injured during Juventus' loss to Atlético Madrid
- Juventus 0-1 Atlético Madrid: Bianconeri stumble in Madrid