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Juventus vs. Fiorentina Preview: Round 14 — Back to the scene of the crime

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A little less than 14 months ago, Juventus made their annual trip to the lovely land of Florence to take on Fiorentina. It seemed like a normal October day as Juventus prepared to take on their purple-wearing rivals to the south. It started out so well, too, with Carlos Tévez and Paul Pogba scoring first-half goals to help Juventus jump out to a 2-0 lead at the Franchi.

Then hell happened.

Juventus' two-goal lead turned into a 4-2 loss in less than 35 minutes. It was beyond ugly, beyond depressing, beyond throw-your-remote-across-the-street kind of angry, beyond any other negative kind of work you can think of. While it proved to be to the right kind of reality check Antonio Conte's squad needed, it was the kind of jaw-dropping loss we hadn't seen Juventus have since the Dark Ages of bianconeri football.

Guess who's back at the scene of the crime tomorrow night?

Yeah, go ahead and put 2 and 2 together. It's not that very difficult to figure it out.

Sure, Juventus already made their first return to the Franchi when they played Fiorentina in the Europa League in the spring, eventually beat La Viola thanks to Andrea Pirlo doing Andrea Pirlo things on a free kick. But this is a little different. This is the game where we knew Juventus would be going to Florence to try and exercise those stupid demons that made their 2-0 lead disappear in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

Both Juventus and Fiorentina enter playing good football. Max Allegri's squad hasn't lost in over a month, while Vincenzo Montella's team has one three straight in all competitions. So just when we thought there couldn't be anything else to add to this heated rivalry between Juve and Fiorentina, we have two teams who are playing pretty well right now.

Get your popcorn ready.

Historic and recent rival of Juventus. Out with one rivalry game, in with another. I guess it's just that time of year.

GOOD NEWS

I hate that I have to type this, but there's obviously going to be no Giuseppe Rossi due to his latest long-term knee injury. I still like you, Joe Red, so don't totally hate me now.

BAD NEWS

Juventus are as bare bones at the fullback position as they've been all season. There's a reason why Max Allegri is about to start Patrice Evra and Simone Padoin at left and right back, respectively.

Bad times, bad times.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. Will all the injuries force Max Allegri to back to the 3-5-2?

/cue all the dramatic music on the internet/

Here's the Gazzetta dello Sport's probable Juventus starting lineup about an hour before I hit publish on this preview:

Juventus vs. Fiorentina XI?

Gulp. There's going to be a lot of squabbling if Allegri goes back to what was already deemed a formation that had worn out its welcome been bled bone dry by Juventus teams of past and present. And, in that respect, I totally understand. But if Allegri feels like this is the best thing for his team because of all those crazy and poorly-timed injuries, who am I to disagree with him? Well, maybe I will a little bit, but I can understand why he might do what people are suggesting he might do. Although, to be completely honest with you, seeing Kingsley Coman potentially starting a game against a good team does make me a little more interested in Friday night's game than I was a few hours ago.

2. Will there be any kind of squad rotation going on?

And here we have another reason why Allegri might be switching formations, ladies and gents. At first, I was prepared to delve into another Álvaro Morata vs. Fernando Llorente discussion, but this quote from Allegri's pre-match press conference caught my eye...

A Morata/Llorente swap could be in the cards considering how the latter played against Torino over the weekend. Another one, as we've discussed in what seems like every preview over the course of the last couple of weeks is Roberto Pereyra stepping in for any one of the four central midfielders — be it actually in the center of the park or playing out wide as a wingback. Some are suggesting that Claudio Marchisio, who has played in every game this season — and starting all but two — could make way for Pereyra, giving Juve's No. 8 some rest before the clash with Atlético Madrid midweek. And as we can see above, Carlos Tévez getting some rest is now in play as well. Decisions, decisions...

3. Keeping Juan Cuadrado under wraps.

It seems as though whenever Juventus plays Fiorentina, Cuadrado is playing in a different position. One time he may be a right wingback, the next he is playing in attack as an all-out right winger. When Juventus and Fiorentina line up against one another tomorrow night, Cuadrado is set to play behind Mario Gomez as a second striker — something that isn't exactly where we've seen him play before against Juve. We know how dangerous Cuadrado can be when everything is clicking for him. We've seen it against Juventus, we've seen it in Europe, we saw it at the World Cup. There's a reason why Cuadrado had such a huge price tag attached to him over the summer. He's a damn good player and he should be Juve's No. 1 worry no matter if it's a three- or four-man defense being trotted out there.

4. The effectiveness of Arturo Vidal.

Luca Cetta over at Football Italia penned an interesting column after the Derby della Mole that Arturo Vidal was starting to look like the Arturo Vidal of old, one that is one of the best in the business. That's what happens when you set up the game-winning goal and score two penalties (although just one of them actually counted). By the shear numbers, it was a vintage Vidal kind of game — scoring a goal, setting up another, basically being one of the more decisive players on the field. If Vidal continues to be Allegri's choice to play behind the two strikers in his 4-3-1-2 formation, then his offensive contributions will only be that much more important than in years past when he was scoring as many goals as any central midfielder in Europe.

My starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Padoin, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Pogba, Pirlo, Pereyra; Vidal; Tévez, Morata

OR

My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Ogbonna, Bonucci, Chiellini; Pereyra, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Evra; Tévez, Morata

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