Juventus are in the semifinals of the Europa League, a place where you think any kind of significant squad rotation we saw earlier in the competition would go to die. This is no longer a place for the starting lineup to be field with a good number of reserves and players who need a bit of time on the field not finding any sort of room.
It's the final four of the Europa League. Time for error is pretty much thrown right out the window. If Juventus want to turn the final into a home game, they're going to have to play their best game. And, along with that, their very best lineup.
There aren't any slouches at this point in time of the Europa League no matter how you actually feel about the competition. Sorry, but that's just it is, folks.
While Antonio Conte will be missing midfielder extraordinaire Arturo Vidal on Thursday night, the rest of Juventus' squad is ready to play against Benfica. The only question now is rather simple: Who will be the 11 players getting the start tonight?
Remember, two important things.
#Conte: "@carlitos3210 is back training. I'll wait until tomorrow before deciding whether he'll start or not." #BenficaJuve @EuropaLeague— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 23, 2014
And, the second...
#Conte: "@kingarturo23 is out for #BenficaJuve. We'll let him rest up and hopefully he'll be back within a week's time." @EuropaLeague #UEL— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 23, 2014
While it's easy to not include Vidal in the starting lineup because of the knee injury that he is still recovering from, Conte has been playing it pretty close to the vest when it comes to Tévez's status for the first leg. The Italian press is rather convinced that Juve's No. 10 will be fully healthy and ready to go from the opening whistle against Benfica tonight. He's back training, so there's no reason to really disagree with that notion.
Who starts alongside Tévez might be another matter.
Could Mirko Vucinic, the man whose reputation for showing up in big games still follows him around like a little puppy, get the nod ahead of Fernando Llorente? Or will the Beauty and the Beast tandem get the start like so many times before during the season?
We'll see. Juventus show up in Portugal expecting a tough match and there's nothing tell us that they won't get one. Here's to hoping that away goal arrives and that the reason to throw our respective Simone Padoin signed jerseys across the room are kept to a minimum. You never know, though. Maybe you'll just want to hug that jersey oh-so tight.
- UEFA Europa League: Antonio Conte rules out Arturo Vidal for Juventus' first leg against Benfica
- UEFA Europa League Preview: Juventus vs. Benfica, Leg 1: On the road again...
- The case to bring Antonio Candreva back to Juventus
- Juventus 1:0 Bologna - Bianconeri edge even closer to third Scudetto
- Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. Bologna