The city of Verona has been very kind of Juventus over the last 10 days or so. Just how kind? Let's try on 10 goals in two games within four days kind of kid. That's just how well things went for Juventus on Jan. 15 and Jan. 18, respectively. The first win was fun — and then the good times seemed to only carry over into the weekend.
(Luckily we're not talking about the beginning of the college semester, so there's no need to worry about any kind of weekend hangover here.)
The only thing is, though, Juventus won't be playing Hellas Verona on Sunday afternoon in Turin. Or any time soon, really. It won't be until the final game of the season on the last day of May Nope, it will be Hellas' inner-city rivals, Chievo, that is visiting Juventus Stadium this weekend. Mark it down as the third of three straight Verona-centric games in Turin for Max Allegri's squad, which they've certainly taken advantage of thus far.
So as we officially enter the second half of the Serie A season, what does Allegri has to say?
.@OfficialAllegri: "Every game is important from now until the end of the season. We can't afford to put a foot wrong, many wins to go."
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) January 24, 2015
Let's just go ahead and consider that to be especially true against a Chievo side that is just two points out of a relegation spot entering Sunday's action.
Yes, Chievo — which Juventus 1-0 at the Bentegodi in Allegri's official debut as manager back in late August — is actually lower in the Serie A table than their city rivals. Does this mean much? Maybe, maybe not. But think about what Juventus did to the team currently 14th in Serie A for a second. It might be the same, it might be another grind-it-out kind of win like the first time Juventus played Chievo.
If Juve want to go ahead and do what they did to the other side from Verona, you won't see me complaining.
Although, barring a miracle, I think the Juventus-Hellas Verona goal differential has killed the Juventus-Chievo goal differential.
Hey, can't win them all, right?
(Well, technically Juventus has, but don't push it.)
...okay, he's not expected to start — or even play — against Chievo, but it's nice to see him in the matchday squad again. It's been too, too long since we've been able to say Barzagli is indeed healthy and part of the regular group.
While one Andrea returns to the call-up list, another one misses out on Chievo's annual trip to Juventus Stadium. Andrea Pirlo was one of a handful of players to have battled the flu over the last week. But unlike Gigi Buffon, Pirlo has been deemed not healthy enough to be part of the 22-player squad list for Sunday's game against Chievo.
Thank goodness for Claudio Marchisio. Always and forever.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Keeping the good times going.
When you're averaging over four goals a game in your last three outings, you know you're doing something right. Therefore, Juventus is doing something right in their wins Napoli and Hellas Verona. Not exactly earth shattering news, I know, but when your team is scoring a lot of goals, it needs to be pointed out. Now, Chievo's defense isn't terrible by any means, allowing 22 goals in the first 19 games of the season. That's something 12 other teams in Serie A can't say. You know, squads like Inter and Napoli, Genoa and Palermo that are all in the top half of the table. So maybe, just maybe, Juventus can do more with their 4-3-1-2 formation than they did with a 3-5-2 earlier this season. Seems like a pretty good idea to me.
.@OfficialAllegri: "Tomorrow won't be easy. Chievo are in good physical shape, very dangerous on the counter and have a smart coach."
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) January 24, 2015
2. Arturo Vidal coming off his own health issues.
Other Juventus players have been sick over the last seven to 10 days, but none of them had to visit the hospital like Vidal did. But he has been training all, and is expected to start against Chievo. Before he got sick, Vidal had put together a really good start to the 2015 portion of Juventus' schedule. How much will Vidal's stay in the hospital effect his production? Obviously that's still to be determined. But there's no denying that he's well rested after not playing in either game against Hellas Verona last week. And if he comes out like he did the last time he had a good amount of time off this season, then everything will be pretty good to go.
3. Stephan Lichtsteiner or Martin Cáceres at right back?
With no midweek match making his decision rather easy, now Mr. Allegri has to choose which player he rolls with from the start on the right side of his defense. I mean, neither player is the wrong decision, so in that sense it's a pretty nice problem to have. Lichtsteiner has been playing well for the last few months since Allegri went to a four-man defense, and there's no denying Cáceres has been absolutely great in his two games since returning from injury. As you can see below, my preference is for Cáceres to get the nod, but that's because I have a thing for high socks. A lot of the predicted starting lineups are going with Lichtsteiner, which is totally okay with me. Like I said, this is a nice problem to have — especially when you consider how packed Juventus' schedule is going to be over the next month.
4. Will Fernando Llorente reclaim his spot in the starting lineup?
I think it's safe to say Álvaro Morata made the most of his opportunity to play from the start in both games against Hellas Verona last week. He grabbed a goal in one, an assist in the other, and really just played two strong overall games. But, as we've come to know this season, it doesn't really matter what Morata does to ensure he gets consistent minutes week in and week out. Why? Because Allegri prefers Fernando Llorente, and there's nothing to tell us otherwise. In my mind, it would be more surprising to see Morata get a third straight start than to see Llorente make 16th Serie A start of the season. I don't wanna assume, but I'll just go ahead and assume.
My starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Cáceres, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Vidal, Marchisio, Pogba; Pereyra; Tévez, Morata
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 3 P.M. IN ITALY; 9 A.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 6 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST
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