For the first time in a month, we can solely concentrate on the football on the field, not what is going on in the transfer market. It's not like Juventus' January was filled with a ton of transfer activity anyways. There were rumors, sure, but that was always going to happen even if Juve needed to add a bunch to their squad.
So now we get to drop the transfer talk and focus on what matters the most — what's going to take place on the field, not in the transfer rumor mills. And who do we get to welcome to Juventus Stadium on a fine Sunday evening?
Ah, right. Those guys from Milan.
Juventus playing is always a big deal. Why? Well, because it's Juventus against Inter. There you have it. Inside information at its finest, ladies and gentlemen. You won't find that kind of insight anywhere else, people.
Okay, so maybe it's not exactly breaking news that Juventus and Inter don't like each other one bit. And that's even before all of this Mirko Vucinic and Fredy Guarin transfer drama we've been hearing about for the past two weeks or so. Sunday's Derby d'Italia could be looked at as a meeting of good against evil. I'd like to think of it that way in some aspects.
But what it also means is the renewing of a rivalry that doesn't need much outside reasoning else to get amped for. Throw out the form guide, throw out the league positioning. Juventus vs. Inter is Juventus vs. Inter. It's one rival against another. Or, maybe, it really is good against evil, the backbone of the Italian national team against anything but that.
You win this one and you're feeling pretty good about yourself after the final whistle sounds.
That's why I'd like Juve to this one. Like usual, it's just a helpful suggestion for Antonio Conte and his crew to take in. It's not like they really need it, though. I'm pretty sure they have a grasp on what they're doing.
Juventus unbeaten streak update: 13 games, 35 goals scored, 5 goals allowed.
This has been a Juventus unbeaten streak update.
Juventus don't have a winning streak anymore following their second trip to the Italian capital in a weeks time. Not that collecting a draw last weekend against Lazio was the worst thing in the world, but you never like to see a winning streak. At least they haven't lost a Serie A game since the third week of October. I guess that's still pretty cool when you think about it all.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Does Antonio Conte stick with Claudio Marchisio or go back to Andrea Pirlo?
It's not often you even think about this question when Pirlo is healthy and available to start on any given weekend. Unpopular opinion may be to go with Marchisio because of the other option that's available — that Pirlo fella. But you look at how Pirlo has played of late compared to how Marchisio has adapted to his new role as a regista and it makes you think. Or, it's at least made me think a little bit. Just about every Italian media outlet is saying that Marchisio will make way in the starting lineup for Pirlo, who has started from the bench in the last two league games so that he could play against Roma in the Coppa Italia. Let's just hope that the extra rest pays off this time compared to when Juve were dumped out of the Coppa two weeks ago.
2. Can Fernando Llorente keep the good times going?
Yes, yes he can. The first month of 2014 was pretty darn good for Llorente. How good? This good...
Four games played, four games starter, four goals scored
I'd say that's pretty good. Llorente has certainly started the new year with a bang. I feel pretty safe in saying that he's playing the best ball of his young Juventus career at the moment. That's never a bad thing for a player of Llorente's caliber. He has quickly risen up the league's scoring list as a result of his hot January. One more goal and he'd give Juventus their third double-digit goal scorer of the year with a little less than half the season left to be played. That not only says something about how well Juve have played during the current unbeaten run, but also just how much Llorente has settled into life in Serie A after having to wait his turn.
3. Can Juventus' back three get back to being their dominant selves?
The foundation of Juve's success over the past three months has been their defense getting back to what we've come to expect of them the last couple of years. That means shutouts. Lots and lost of shutouts. But there's been something missing from Juventus in their last three league games. Care to take a guess? Yeah, it's been a shutout. Allowing four goals in a three-game span might not be a big deal to some, but when you're a team that thrives on its insanely good goal differential, it's quite the contrary. Maybe it's because of the shuffling of the lineup in recent weeks, who knows. But Inter have talent leading the line, and keeping them quiet will probably mean three points for Juve.
4. Juventus' wingbacks against Inter's wingbacks.
Going up against a team that also plays a three-man defense isn't as much of a foreign concept as it used to be in Italy. But before it became Serie A's latest fad, Conte and Walter Mazzarri were using a variation of the three-man backline on a regular basis. And what does that mean? Relying on your wingbacks for a lot of service into the box. For Juventus, that means Stephan Lichtsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah will again be key to the Old Lady's success.
5. That other big game going on Sunday in New Jersey.
Mainly because one of our friends, Mr. Ivo, is rooting for one of the teams involved. Hey, Go Not-Seahawks! (Sorry, Ivo.)
6. How Marco Storari plays between the sticks.
There's something about being a backup goalkeeper that is fascinating. Outside of the Coppa Italia, Storari can go months without appearing in an official game, which is nothing new to him considering who is Juve's undoubted No. 1 in goal. But with Gigi Buffon suspended due to the red card he picked up against Lazio, Storari is getting one of those rare chances to play from the start in a league match. And if he's anything close to the keeper that came on and made a couple of huge saves against Lazio, then things will be pretty okay. I wouldn't be opposed to that.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Storari; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Asamoah; Llorente, Tevez
OFFICIAL STARTING TIME: 8:45 P.M. IN ITALY; 2:45 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 11:45 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST
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