Juventus didn't wait long to make the nine-hour flight to Doha, Qatar and begin preparations for tomorrow's Supercoppa. Almost like "We got that win over Cagliari, let's roll out of town and start looking at Napoli!" Maybe not exactly what the Juventus contingent had in mind, but that's how things went down as they put together they're itinerary.
Either way, Juventus arrived in Qatar before many of their Serie A rivals even stepped on the field for the final games of 2014. This wasn't for a Christmas-related vacation. It wasn't even just some detour on the way to another foreign destination that involves a bunch of time sitting on the beach with a nice drink. Nope, Juventus has one more game before we open up some presents, drink some champagne as we ring in a new year and wait for Serie A to get back going once again.
That's where the trip to Doha comes in, and the reason why there was some Thursday night football a couple of days ago.
Juventus is playing in yet another Supercoppa Italiana, this time against Napoli after Rafa Benitez and his gang of players won the Coppa Italia over Fiorentina. So while Juventus celebrated their third consecutive Scudetto under Antonio Conte, Napoli went crazy because they captured their fifth ever Coppa Italia. Funny how those things work out.
We can stop talking about Juventus struggling to get the job done after they easily disposed of Cagliari in Zemanlandia three days ago. It was a win manager Max Allegri has routinely called back to during the build-cup to the Supercoppa. And you would have to think that after getting a win after three straight draws in all competitions, this Juventus side is feeling pretty good about themselves rather than being left completely frustrated once again.
So I think we know what Juventus want to do on Monday night against Napoli.
Then again, that's pretty much the objective no matter who the opponent is.
A win gives Juventus another trophy.
Trophies are cool.
Seeing Gianluigi Buffon lift trophies over his head is cool.
Therefore, after this three-point plan has been laid out, I feel safe in saying Juventus should beat Napoli. Why? Because they're going to get a trophy for it. That sounds like plenty of motivation to me.
Instead of this game being played in the lead-up to the 2014-15 season, both teams have made the long trip to Qatar to play for the Suppercoppa. Not exactly how things should be done, right? Then again, this is Italy where doing things without much logic behind them is pretty much status quo.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Can Arturo Vidal build off his fine performance vs. Cagliari?
It doesn't take much to see why last Thursday's game was one of Arturo Vidal's best of the season. It truly did resemble the Vidal of old — one that is contributing from one end of the field to the other and really looking like the box-to-box midfielder that is so coveted by clubs with wallets the size of 18-wheelers. It was such a welcome change from the kind of Vidal we'd been seeing for most of the season. The next question is easy: What's next, Arturo? One game won't suddenly change the viewpoint of what has been a disappointing campaign for one of the best midfielders in the business. If Vidal goes on and struggles for another couple of months like he has to close out 2014, we won't remember what Vidal did on that night in Sardinia. But if he builds on it, then the 3-1 win over Cagliari could be looked at as a turning point in the season for a player who means so much to this Juventus squad.
2. Who makes way for Paul Pogba in the starting lineup?
It was clear what Max Allegri's intentions were when the starting lineups for Juventus' game against Cagliari were announced. Juventus' manager wanted Pogba ready for Napoli, and well-rested at that as well. But with Pogba returning to the squad, that means somebody has to sit. Is it Claudio Marchisio, one of Juventus' best players over the last month or so? I dunno. Andrea Pirlo? Eh, I don't know. If it's Roberto Pereyra, then that likely means Vidal gets shifted higher up the field, which as a lot of us have noticed, hasn't really been a spot where he's excelled since Allegri went 4-3-1-2 on us. At times having so much depth is a wonderful thing, but this has to be a pretty tough call to make. Then again, these are the decisions Allegri gets paid a nice salary to make. So go ahead and make 'em, Max! We'll be waiting...
3. The Napoli attack vs. the Juventus defense.
For all the jabs and jokes we direct toward Napoli, they do have some very good players — especially in the attacking third of the field. And not only are they quality players, but they're ones that come with pace out on the wings and the ability to create their own scoring chances. That means the likes of Stephan Lichtsteiner and Patrice Evra will try and limit José Callejón and Dries Mertens. And Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci or whoever else starts in the middle of Juventus' four-man defense will have to keep Gonzalo Higuaín away from doing what he's done against Juve in the past.
If this Serie A season has taught us anything, it's this: Napoli may have a defense that leaks in goals as much as a mid-table team that isn't going anywhere other than staying in Serie A, they can definitely score goals. There's only one team who has scored more goals in Italy's top flight this season — and that's the team they're facing in the Supercoppa.
My starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Vidal, Marchisio, Pogba; Pereyra; Tévez, Llorente
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 6:30 P.M. IN ITALY; 12:30 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 9:30 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST
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