Over the course of Juventus' current 15-game unbeaten run, it's hard to look at many of those games and say something along the lines of "Boy, that was a disappointing result." That's probably because up until a couple weeks ago, all Juventus was doing was win, win, win.
But what last Sunday brought us was a disappointing result. When you see Juventus is 2-0 up after 30 minutes, you usually think that three points is going to come with Antonio Conte's squad back to Turin. Especially the way they have been playing in domestic competition since, oh, that stupid day in Florence back in October.
And with that, Juventus look to bounce back from that disappointing result in Verona against Hellas' bitter rivals, Chievo. That's pretty convenient, isn't it? Yeah it is, but that's also just how the schedule has fallen this season. Some teams get natural rivals on back-to-back weekends, Juventus get the double dose of Verona within a seven-day period.
Chievo comes to Juventus Stadium tomorrow afternoon in a much different position than their city rivals. Instead of challenging for a spot in Europe, Chievo are sinking fast. They haven't won a game in months, having only picked up a handful of points over their current winless run.
Not exactly the worst team to have come to town after a frustrating game the week prior now, is it?
Or we could just read what a certain Uruguayan defender named Martin Caceres had to say during an interview with JTV on Friday.
"Our clash with Chievo is a very important game, especially after the two points dropped in Verona. We need a perfect performance, then we'll turn our attentions to the Europa League."
I agree with what you have to say, Mr. High Socks. Keep speaking the truth. And wearing high socks, of course.
Juventus unbeaten streak update: 15 games, 40 goals scored, 8 goals allowed.
This has been a Juventus unbeaten streak update.
More good news? Chievo haven't won a game since early December when they beat Sassuolo 1-0. That's a total of nine games in all competitions. No wonder they've gone tumbling down the Serie A table and enter the weekend one point out of the relegation zone.
Injuries are back! Isn't this exciting?! No, not really.
Mirko Vucinic is out 'several weeks,' according to the Juve doctors. Simone Pepe is injured again. Then there's Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, who are both tipped not to be in the starting lineup this weekend. If you're in favor of some squad rotation, you very well could see it tomorrow afternoon. (And that's not exactly the worst thing in the word.)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. How much anger will Juventus take out on Chievo?
Short answer to my own question: Hopefully a lot. Why? Because it hasn't been a very common occurrence to see Juve being the ones throwing away a two-goal lead during Conte's time as manager. Judging by the fact that the players saw Monday's day off canceled, I am going to think that Conte was a little more than angry about what happened against Hellas. And in the past when Juve have done something stupid or have a disappointing result, the next game is the one where they take things out on their opposition. Remember when they had that 2-2 draw against Real Madrid earlier this season? Well, the next game Conte's men went out and smacked Napoli in the face for a 3-0 win. That's how it's done. And that's the kind of angry Juventus team should show up at Juventus Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
2. What Juventus' defense is going to look like.
Andrea Barzagli didn't play due to injury against Hellas Verona. Giorgio Chiellini had to leave in the second half because of his own injury situation. That's...not very good news. Well, it would be if you don't have good players waiting in the wings to fill the void. Luckily for Conte, he's got a couple defenders in Martin Caceres and Angelo Ogbonna who are there when need be. Considering the injury situation, both Caceres and Ogbonna will be playing from the start tomorrow afternoon. And that's not a bad thing — especially the way Caceres played last Sunday in Barzagli's place. The guy is pretty good, ya know. Even without the high socks.
3. Will one of Paul Pogba or Arturo Vidal start from the bench?
Or, as an alternative question: Will Claudio Marchisio get a start against Chievo? It does seem like one of them will get a rest with Principino stepping into the starting lineup this weekend. If it's simply because of a resting thing with the Europa League on the horizon or because Conte isn't happy with their recent performance, I don't know. But when you watched some of the Juve players on Sunday against Hellas Verona, it didn't seem like some of them had the usual gas in the tank like most weeks. Sounds like a day off for somebody is in order, and a start for Marchisio is just around the conrer.
4. Fernando Llorente's impact.
I don't mention the big Spaniard for a week and he doesn't score a goal. Is this some kind of coincidence? Yes. Okay, maybe not, but let's just pretend it is for the sake of being nice. When he was subbed off in the 66th minute last Sunday for Dani Osvaldo, it was the first time since early December he had been replaced that early in a game. It was pretty easy to understand why Conte decided to throw on Juve's newest striker — Llorente really wasn't doing much of anything at all. Maybe playing against one of the worst teams in Serie A will get Llorente going again. That'd be cool.
5. Can Juventus effectively defend set pieces?
In case you haven't noticed, Juventus defending set pieces without much effectiveness was a common theme against Hellas Verona last weekend. But don't tell that to the good people at WhoScored, okay?
'Strong' hasn't been something about Juve's defense in recent weeks, especially six days ago in Verona. Where did both of Hellas' goals come from last Sunday? Well, set pieces. Yeah, not very strong there. And while Juventus were quite average in the second half last weekend, you'd like to think that if they eliminate the mistakes on set pieces, they probably come away with three points rather than just one. Maybe that's just my head putting some positive spin on a disappointing game, but if Juve get back to 'strong' rather than 'facepalm' then they're only that much better overall.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Caceres, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Llorente, Tevez
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 3 P.M. IN ITALY; 9 A.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 6 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST
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