The opportunities to watch Juventus this season are becoming fewer and fewer by the week. Then again, we could say the same thing in September and October. But when the schedule starts hitting March and April, you realize that you're not only hitting the home stretch, but also the games needed to wrap up the Scudetto are fewer and fewer.
Think of this one as the game before the game where Juventus can clinch the Serie A title. Or you can think of it as the game before the game where Juventus can make it to the Europa League final. Either one is okay because both of them are the truth. Because of Roma's 2-0 win over Milan 48 hours ago, that's exactly the case. Maybe if Milan did something productive we could have put the champagne on ice and gotten ready to celebrate, but that's obviously asking too much of them this season.
So now we're forced to wait to have a party. Those jerks.
Last time out
The champagne is going to be left on ice for the time being, you would think, but Juventus are still getting closer to their third straight Serie A title. Tomorrow night's game against Sassulo and the victory everybody is predicting that comes along with it will mean that Juventus are on the brink of the history they've pursued for weeks on end. They've talked about three straight titles, and that day is almost here.
I feel safe in saying they're ready to celebrate.
Now it's just time to make sure that day does arrive as soon as it possibly can.
Juventus are looking to see off a Sassuolo side that has its own share of things to worry about. Even with all of their radical changes during the January transfer window, Sassuolo are still trying like hell not to get relegated. As of this post going live, Sassuolo is about as close as they can possibly be to not being sent into the relegation zone.
#Conte: "#SassuoloJuve is a fundamental game. It won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination, they’re fighting to stay in the division."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 27, 2014
Hey, there's only so much we can ask for — and one of those is a Scudetto celebration next weekend. I don't know for sure, but I'll assume the players and coaches feel the same way.
Juventus is atop the table, Sassuolo is in 17th place entering Sunday's action. See how simple that was?
Much like in Sassuolo's visit to Juventus Stadium earlier this season, a certain striker by the name of Domenico Berardi will be suspended.
Unlike in Sassuolo's visit to Juventus Stadium earlier this season, a certain midfielder by the name of Luca Marrone is being tipped to start tomorrow.
Much like Juventus' Europa League tie against Benfica on Thursday, it's looking more and more likely Arturo Vidal will be taking no part in tomorrow night's trip to the Stadio Città del Tricolore. Even if the rumors of a possible knee surgery aren't the actually the case, Vidal's ability to recover has to be on the top of Juve's must-watch list.
#Conte: "Vidal will most likely be training with the team today and we’ll try and get him back to 100%, either for tomorrow or Thursday."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 27, 2014
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. How many starters are rested in anticipation of Benfica's trip to Turin in three days.
It's hard to say which way Antonio Conte will go at this point because Antonio Conte is Antonio Conte. Just when you think he might do something you expect, he goes in the opposite direction. The thing with Juventus' next two games is pretty easy to figure out — one is against a club fighting to not get relegated, the next is a European semifinal. If I was a bettin' man, I'd say one of those has preference over the other. But then again, my name is not Antonio Conte and I'm not a manager for the soon-to-be three-time defending Serie A champs. So I guess the guy has done a little bit better than i have the last couple of years.
2. How those reserve players actually, you know, play.
I don't know why, but I'm getting a different kind of vibe when it comes to this squad rotation if it does end up happening tomorrow night. Some of the reserves, like Martin Cáceres, have been playing on a regular basis the past month. While others who are being tipped to get a start, like Federico Peluso, who haven't been seen on a field for months on end. (Feb. 27 in the second leg against Trabzonspor to be specific.) It's an interesting decision Conte has on his hands. He can say he will field a strong team as much as he wants, but it's pretty easy to figure out which game is more important right now.
3. Who starts up front, Sebastian Giovinco or Carlos Tévez?
Here I was thinking that the word of Tuttosport was actually right for once, and then Conte had to go and say this during his pre-match press conference on Sunday morning.
#Conte: "Our medical staff have done a good job with @carlitos3210 . He’s in excellent shape, wants to play and will do tomorrow."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 27, 2014
So, I'd say that's a little bit of a curveball. There can be two ways to take "wants to play and will do tomorrow." Either it's an attempt to scare the living crap out of Sassuolo because Tévez scored a hat trick against them earlier this season. Or, Carlitos is actually going to team with Fernando Llorente tomorrow night. I don't really have a gut feeling about what it's going to be because the original gut feeling of the last 48 hours was that Giovinco was going to play from the start. If Conte feels the need to play Tévez before a crucial European tie, then so be it. But the way Seba has been playing lately, he's been bringing something to the table. That's more than you can say about some of Juve's other strikers right about now.
4. How desperate of a team Sassuolo actually is.
Sassuolo entered the weekend about as close to the relegation zone without actually being there. After 34 rounds, they're tied on points with Bologna, who currently sit in 18th place. That thing is, by the time Sassuolo take their home field for the second to last time this season, they will know how Bologna have done — win, lose, or draw. Depending on the results, Sassuolo could either be sent back into the relegation zone themselves or have the chance to put some kind of breathing room between them and the bottom three. It's pretty easy for them to figure out what they need to do in the four remaining games this season. Having to try and do it against the soon-to-be champions isn't so simple.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Cáceres, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Isla, Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio, Peluso; Llorente, Giovinco
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
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- Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal reportedly at risk of undergoing knee surgery
- UEFA Europa League: Juventus vs. Benfica, Leg 1, full match coverage
- Benfica 2 - Juventus 1: Initial reaction and random observations
- UEFA Europa League Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. Benfica, Leg 1