One of the knocks on Massimiliano Allegri — and deservedly so, I might add — was how his teams started each season during his time at AC Milan. It was no secret, and for whatever reason, it wasn't a one-time deal, either. Allegri's Milan squads were notorious for starting the season poor and sluggish, with it ultimately costing him his job no matter how you feel about the squad that was assembled around him.
How his Allegri started his career as Juventus manager?
Win. Win, win, win. And, most recently, another win midweek against Cesena in Turin. Juventus has played five games (four in Serie A, one in the Champions League) — and they've won them all. Just for fun, they have yet to allow a goal in those five games, too, which is another sign of how well Juve are playing under their new boss. If there was ever a way to start a season as a manager, I'm sure Allegri would choose exactly what is going on right now.
But Allegri isn't settling for a handful of quality wins. This is what he said after Wednesday's 3-0 win against Cesena at Juventus Stadium:
MAX ISN"T SATISFIED AND HE WANTS YOU TO KNOW ABOUT IT.
We've seen Antonio Conte's squads win at the start of the season, but not always while playing their best. Conte's teams started to truly click when November and December rolled around (although that didn't always pay off in the Champions League). While Allegri acknowledged Juve are nowhere near their peak, it's not like his team is playing anywhere close to poor right now, either. With both Atlético Madrid and Roma waiting in the wings before the second enthralling international break arrives, Allegri knows that keeping the train rolling is Priority No. 1 tomorrow night.
#Allegri: "It’s never simple for anyone to win in Bergamo. Atalanta approach the game on the back of 2 defeats and will cause us problems."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) September 26, 2014
You see, that's exactly what you want to hear — regardless of who is on the upcoming fixture list. But it's just that much more imperative that Juventus don't slip up in their annual trip to Bergamo. Why? Because Maxi said so. (And it's not like I disagree with him, too.)
I like the way Juventus has started the season. You like it, too. That wasn't so hard, was it? Indeed.
To be honest with you, I'm tired of talking about injuries preview after preview. You might ask yourself, "Well, you write it, so why do you keep mentioning it?" And that's a good point. So, for this match preview, I won't mention Andrea Pirlo, Andrea Barzagli, Martín Cáceres, and Luca Marrone are still working their way back from their respective injuries. We can also add Romulo, who wasn't called up for the trip to Bergamo, to the list of players currently injured.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Can Juventus keep the shutout streak going?
Gigi Buffon had to make all of one save against Cesena on Wednesday, thus putting forth the notion that Juventus always want their legendary goalkeeper to have a few nights off even though he's actually still on the field. History tells us that Atalanta has only scored two goals in their last six games against Juventus, not exactly an inspiring tally for a club that hasn't beaten the Old Lady in Bergamo since 2001. And it's not like Atalanta has been lighting things up this season, scoring all of two goals in their first four Serie A games. They've been shutout by both Fiorentina and Inter in a 72-hour span, and if you bet money on things, the odds are probably pretty heavy in Juventus' favor that another clean sheet could be on the way for the boys from Bergamo.
2. Who starts, who sits?
We're not talking about full squad rotation, but maybe just a return to what we've seen before Juve faced Cesena? I'm not sure what Allegri has in store when it comes to his starting lineup. Even with Atlético Madrid and the Champions League on the horizon, it seems like the starting lineup will be more or less what we've seen sans-Cesena on Wednesday night. Allegri was rather coy on the matter when asked about it at his pre-match press conference on Friday, so it's not like Max was helping us figure out what is going on. But if Cesena was the game where some of the regulars got a rest, then doesn't common logic tell us those who were rested will return to the starting lineup? Maybe that's just me thinking out loud here.
3. How a rested Carlos Tévez plays.
While his team was dominating Cesena, our dear Carlitos looked a little ... tired? Bored? Maybe wanting to go out and play with his friends like a little kid would? Or maybe it was something else, I dunno. Either way, it seems as though it's all but certain that Tévez will return to the Juventus starting lineup on Saturday night. Before he got some rest midweek, Tévez was absolutely rolling, scoring four goals in four games in all competitions. Pretty good, huh? Yeah, that's pretty good. No matter who starts alongside him against Atalanta, Tévez will be taking the field in great form and well rested. That sounds like a pretty good combination to me.
4. Can Fernando Llorente break his Serie A duck — if he plays?
The last time Juventus made the trip to Bergamo, Llorente had officially shaken off the rust of not playing much at all for Athletic Bilbao and was in damn good form. He recorded a goal — a lovely one at that — and an assist in Juventus' 4-1 win over Atalanta last December. Things are a bit different for Fernando this time around. It's not like he's playing poorly, he just hasn't found the back of the net in five appearances (five starts) this season. That's not reason to panic, especially since he's contributing in other areas, but it might be a factor in Allegri potentially giving Llorente a rest and hand Álvaro Morata his first Juventus start. I mean, Allegri did say Morata "needs minutes under his belt" at his pre-match press conference. And if my memory serves me right, there's only one true way to get somebody a big chunk of minutes
5. Keeping an eye on Richmond Boakye.
In the understandable fervor surrounding Juventus-owned strikers like Domenico Berardi, Simone Zaza and Manolo Gabbiadini, spending a year on loan in Spain might have caused Boakye to fly a little under the radar. Now that he's back in Italy, it's obviously much easier for all of us to keep tabs on the young Ghanian striker, who has one of Atalanta two goals this season. Boakye spoke about his desire to come back to Juventus at some point and do great things in the lead up to Saturday's match. One way to improve the club that still owns your contract? To play well against them. Pretty easy to figure out, huh.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Ogbonna, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Pereyra, Marchisio, Pogba, Asamoah; Tévez, Morata
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
- Ugly Ducklings: Angelo Ogbonna, Roberto Pereyra proving themselves to be Juventus quality
- The seven early wrinkles of Massimiliano Allegri
- Juventus 3 - Cesena 0: Initial reaction and random observations
- Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. Cesena
- Juventus vs. Cesena Preview: Round 4 — She sells sea(horses) by the seashore