As I sat here wondering how to open a preview for a Juventus game that is being played against a Hellas Verona side they just crushed like they were the Incredible Hulk a couple of days ago, I couldn't help but think back to an old Saturday Night Live sketch from my youth. It's probably because of the way Juve played Thursday night and the pleasant mood it put me in.
(Because wins are cool, you know.)
So I ask you all a simple question like the great Chris Farley would, with an obvious bianconero twist: Hey, remember that time Juventus played Hellas Verona in the Coppa Italia and scored six goals without much resistance at all? That was awesome.
And here's a follow-up question: Do you know who Juventus is playing Sunday night? ... Hellas Verona again?!
In all seriousness (as much as Chris Farley gifs are great and will never get old), the official midway point of the season is only 90 minutes away. And yes, Sunday night's game is against the same team Juventus played in the middle of the week during the round of 16 of the Coppa Italia and proceeded to beat to a pulp. That means just a mere three days after absolutely crushing Hellas Verona 6-1 in the Coppa Italia, Juventus get try to make it 2 for 2 in this current Verona-centric 11-day period in January.
This is the uniqueness of the schedule these days.
But playing the same team twice in four days' time in two different competitions? This is pretty new to me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has this line of thinking. Although, it's not like Juve are hosting Roma in Turin one day and then hopping on a train to head to Rome a day or two later for another crucial showdown. This is the cream of the crop in Italy going up against a team that is just a few points out of a full-on relegation zone avoidance battle.
.@OfficialAllegri: "Tomorrow will be different, we'd be crazy to think otherwise. We need to show the same approach as we did on Thursday."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) January 17, 2015
It's a different competition, for sure. Different outcome? Well, that's still to be determined.
Like the Mister said, though, Juventus showing the same approach as three days prior will be crucial simply because look how well it worked last time. The likelihood of a second straight 6-1 might as well be as small as Sebastian Giovinco suddenly becoming 6-foot tall, but that's beside the point. Juventus have responded well to their disappointing 1-1 draw to Inter at the beginning of the month, grinding out three points at the San Paolo and then dismantling Hellas Verona in the Coppa Italia.
So while we probably won't see another six-goal beatdown, we can at least hope Juventus plays well again, right?
Either way, remember that time Juventus won 6-1 in the Coppa Italia? Yeah, that was awesome.
You guys saw what happened the last time Juventus played Hellas Verona. I know I basically asked that already, but it's never not fun to mention a 6-1 win.
Also, positive injury news! Even though he isn't among the 21 players called up, well-known midfielder Arturo Vidal is 'a lot better' in his recovery from tonsillitis, according to Max Allegri at Saturday's pre-match press conference. Martin Cáceres, who left last weekend's win over Napoli with a shoulder injury, is back and ready to go, proving that while he plays with reckless abandon he is nearly indestructible.
Late add: Thanks, Palermo.
No Vidal, who is out of the hospital and trained with the team on Saturday, tomorrow night. That's bad news simply because he's been playing so well to begin the new year.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Can Juventus put anything close to the kind of game together like they did in the Coppa Italia?
Juventus were great on Thursday night. That's not just because they won 6-1, either. It was a truly wonderful game to watch for a wide variety of reasons — Simone Pepe's comeback, Sebastian Giovinco's brace, Paul Pogba's shear awesomeness and continued destruction of opposing defender's ankles, Kingsley Coman's first Juve goal all up there. It was a game to remember without any kind of argument to the contrary.
Yet, the question that is on the tip of a lot of tongues is: What will Juventus do for an encore? The starters — outside of Vidal and his sickness — who didn't feature on Thursday are almost certainly be back in Allegri's lineup. That means the likes of Gigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tévez and (probably) Fernando Llorente replace the second-stringers who played on Thursday night. Expecting another six-goal outing is just crazy talk, but the hope is to keep the train rolling right along and pick up three points against a side Juve has already shown they can dominate.
2. Paul Pogba's continued brilliance.
I said it after the win Thursday, but it needs to be repeated: Pogba is playing his best football of the season right now, and is just simply on fire these days. He is not just providing wonderful individual instances of his insane skills, but his total game just seems to be taken up a level in recent weeks compared to a couple of months ago. Pogba is taking games over and showing a tendency to take over the game at times. While the rumors and jokes about his future transfer fee going up a couple million euros every time he has a huge game will dominate our life this month, Pogba is truly becoming a force on this team. Not like a seriously talented youngster who has potential. He's becoming a true leader. At the age of 21. That's just crazy to think about.
3. Roberto Pereyra's impact playing behind the strikers.
With no Vidal in the squad, Pereyra is the logical choice to take over at trequartsta against Hellas Verona. Like basically the entire team, Pereyra is coming off a really nice game in the Coppa Italia Thursday night — one that included his first career Juventus goal, a very sweet finish as that. But a lot like Vidal pre-2015, his performances behind the strikers has been a mixed bag of results. Maybe playing against a team that he helped destroy days prior will do a bunch for his confidence entering Sunday's game. I hope that's the case. Why? It's simple: Pereyra plays well, he'll help create goals. And with those chances, Carlos Tévez and Co. will have the chance to do awesome things. And I like the Juventus attack doing awesome things.
4. Martin Cáceres or Stephan Lichtsteiner at right back?
Cáceres is healthy again, and as he showed last weekend against Napoli, he can be a pretty solid fullback despite not playing there (in a Juventus jersey) for quite some time. His shoulder injury that forced him out of the Napoli win won't be keeping him out at all, Allegri said at his pre-match press conference. That means Allegri has a decision to make. Does he give Lichtsteiner his second straight start against Hellas Verona? Or does he give Cáceres his second straight Serie A start? This one isn't easy, mainly because both players are playing quite well these days. Maybe Allegri has some kind of rotation thing that he envisions going on to keep both content and relatively fresh. We'll see. This is as much of a complete flip of the coin as any spot on the field right now.
My starting XI (4-3-2-1): Buffon; Cáceres, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba; Tévez, Coman; Morata
...okay, fine. I'll snap out of fantasy world.
My REALISTIC starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Cáceres, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba; Pereyra; Tévez, Llorente
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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