When Genoa came to Juventus Stadium at the end of October, things were a little different than they are now. Juve were coming off a complete disaster in Florence and then a frustrating 2-1 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid in the group stages of the Champions League. Losing two games in a row, no matter what combination of competitions, hasn't exactly been a common occurrence since Antonio Conte became manager.
Thankfully, it's a wee bit different now.
The times have changed in Juventus' favor. Well, for the most part, at least. There's no denying that. Instead of looking up at Roma atop the league table, Juventus is seeing its lead seemingly grow bigger and bigger every six or seven days. "Move along, kids. A runaway freight train storming through town." is what some people might say in regards to what Juve are doing to their Serie A opposition right now. Teams in Italy have tried to beat Juventus these past four months, yet nobody has actually done so.
The European competition struggles, well, we'll discuss those later.
But for now, it's all about the weekend.
As Conte's squad roll into the Luigi Ferraris to face a rejuvenated Genoa side under former Juve primavera boss Gian Piero Gasperini, the current unbeaten run faces the club it started against. Nineteen league games have come and gone and Juventus have yet to be beaten during that stretch. It started against Genoa at the end of October in Turin and has now been carried over half the season, spanning over nearly five months and into tomorrow's clash at the Ferraris.
And why not keep things going and get another win over Genoa?
Glad you agree.
Genoa is actually giving playing time to former Juventus legend Marco Motta. No, really. A team in the top half of the Serie A table has Marco Motta in its starting lineup. Let that sink in for a second. And then laugh.
Claudio Marchisio is injured, but nothing's serious, according to the man himself. Just when he was starting to play well again, too...
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Squad rotation, or no squad rotation? That is the question.
In a way, this could say just how serious Antonio Conte is going to be taking Thursday's trip to Florence. Why? Well, let's face it: Juventus are blowing away the competition in Serie A right now. Juve's 14-point lead atop the table is a season high and it doesn't seem like it's going to get cut by any considerable amount any time soon. Does that mean with some room to play with Conte will field some of the reserves and rest some players with the second leg against Fiorentina just a few days away? You would like to think he has considered it, but we won't truly know until the lineups are released. One of the many things we are left to wonder about since Conte doesn't do pre-match press conference before league games these days, I guess.
2. How Juventus respond to Thursday's disappointment.
First, words from Giorgio Chiellini.
I'm looking at the second sentence in particular since this is the game after that game Chiellini is referencing. It's pretty easy to be disappointed about the result when you play as well as Juve did in the first half and then give up the game-tying goal with less than 15 minutes to go. But this is the thing that I'm wondering when it comes to Juventus tomorrow: Will a disappointed Juventus mean an angry Juventus against Genoa? That could very well be the difference in how the game goes. Conte's men can either come out sluggish and lag through 90 minutes or they be pissed off from the opening whistle and take a little frustration on a Genoa team that is playing some pretty decent football right now.
3. Carlos Tevez's health status.
It wasn't much of a surprise that Carlos Tevez didn't start Thursday's match against Fiorentina. But it was a bit of a eyebrow-raiser to some when he wasn't even included in the squad list that Conte released on Wednesday afternoon.
That is what Conte had to say during his pre-match press conference before Leg 1 of Juventus-Fiorentina in the Europa League. And since then, there's been very little word as to how Tevez is doing. Maybe it's a case of 'No news is good news." I'd be pretty okay with that. But if Conte is planning on taking the second leg against Fiorentina completely serious, then maybe it would be the best thing for all parties involved to just rest Tevez another couple of days without risking any kind of him reaggravating his injury. I'm sure some the combination of Dani Osvaldo and Fernando Llorente
and Sebastian Giovinco can hold things down for another game.
UPDATE: No Sebastian Giovinco either for the trip to Genoa after he also has been given a few days to rest and no included included in the traveling squad by Conte. Just like Marchisio, the diagnosis is nothing serious.
4. The impact of one Paul Labile Pogba.
The last few weeks haven't been very kind of Mr. Pogba, who just so happens to be celebrating his 21st birthday today. What better way to ring in a birthday than to snap out of a funk, right? Well, that's the hope for Pogba. With Marchisio all but certainly out for the trip to Genoa after being injured against Fiorentina on Thursday, there's no better alternative to play in front of Pogba right now. (You Simone Padoin fanboys, sit yourselves down right now.) And unlike the two other central midfielders who are picked to start against Genoa, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo, Pogba has had some time to rest after coming off the bench on Thursday. Maybe that will help, maybe it won't. But on thing is definitely for sure: This current version of Pogba isn't the one we saw the first couple months of the season. And I miss that early-season Pogba. I can't lie.
5. The possibility of Genoa keeper Mattia Perin going H.A.M.
As we've come to see over the last few years, Juventus have a chance to take control of games played against Serie A opponents. Because of that, the number of shots on the opponents' goal seem to weigh heavily in Juve's favor. And while not limited to just Juventus, Genoa keeper Mattia Perin and his massive amount of hair is certainly used to making a good number of saves this season. Nobody has made more saves than the Perin in the current campaign (109) other than Rafael of Hellas Verona. It's pretty simple to figure out that Perin has had a few games where he just takes things over and dominates, making save after save with many of them being high quality ones at that. In the first Juve-Genoa matchup this season, Perin stopped seven shots — easily making him Genoa's Man of the Match on WhoScored. All those saves are paying off for the 21-year-old Perin, who seems like he's on the cusp of becoming a regular in the Italian national team.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Peluso; Llorente, Osvaldo
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 8:45 P.M. IN ITALY; 3:45 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 12:45 P.M. ON THE WEST COAST
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