It probably won't take a science degree to figure out that Juventus' final two games before the previous international break went a lot better than the first time around this season. It's part of the reason why Juventus aren't exactly considered 'relegation zone inhabitants' like they were for the first month of the season.
Ah, but here's the thing: Juventus aren't suddenly fixed or out of this early-season funk for good. At least, that's what we're going to continue to think until they're ripping off wins galore before the next international break arrives and proceeds to bore the hell out of us all.
The start of that objective comes Sunday. And woooooo boy could it be a doozy between arguably the most-hated club in many of our respective minds. Juventus vs. Inter brings lots of thoughts to the brain, but not many of us expected the actual second-place team in Serie A to be in second place and the other one to be 10 spots behind. Maybe flipped, but not the way things are coming out of the international break.
Juventus is still in 12th place. But they certainly don't have the talent of a mid-table club. Nah, not even close to that. And this, for all intents and purposes, is not just Juve's latest chance to right the wrongs of the first few weeks of the season. It's also the chance to show many a folk that this Juve team can more than hold its own against a club that some are tipping to be in the title run until the very end.
And what better way to show you're still the team to beat than to beat the team that's currently sitting in second place?
There's no denying that Inter have been talking a big game throughout the week. And, judging by how confident they are, nothing would be more enjoyable than Juventus strolling into the San Siro, raising a little hell over the course of 90 minutes and coming away with three points. You know, kinda like what they did last season.
I think Álvaro is a fan of that, too.
JUVENTUS BACK JUVENTUS BACK
Post-international break injury roll call!
- Martín Cáceres
- Stephan Lichtsteiner
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Claudio Marchisio's impact.
We've already been over this in a little more detail, but now that the Derby d'Italia is almost here, we can talk about it a little more. Marchisio is officially part of the 23-man traveling squad for tomorrow's match, which is something we haven't seen much at all so far this season. But now he's back in the fold, which should sound celebratory horns from all the masses! (Or not, but it's definitely good news.) Everybody is expecting Marchisio, Sami Khedira and Paul Pogba to hold down the center of the park. That would mean for the first time this season the anticipated midfield we envisioned back in August. Marchisio's presence will clearly be a very important one knowing how Juve's midfield has been hit and miss this season. Just the simple fact that he's there would mean everything is now falling into place in terms of who Max Allegri can now depend on. And when it comes to relying on Marchisio to do good things, that's not exactly a bad thing.
2. Can Juventus contain Mauro Icardi?
Ah, this guy. This freaking guy who lives to score goals against Juventus. It seems like it's been tradition as of late — whenever Inter does score a goal against Juventus, it's Icardi doing the damage. You can make a big deal about Inter's summer signings all you want, but when it comes to who Juventus' defense needs to keep quite a few tabs on, it's most certainly Icardi and his propensity to score goals in the derby. He might not be off to the greatest of starts to the season, scoring two goals in six starts, but we've come to know that the reason to worry about Icardi is there. That's even more the case when he's playing against Juventus. Inter will be charged up to prove not only that they can beat Juve, but that this second-place standing entering the weekend is the real deal. And you know for a fact that if that does happen, Icardi could very well play a large part in it.
3. Can Paulo Dybala and Álvaro Morata continue to produce good things?
Mario Mandzukic may be back in the match day squad, but all signs point toward Juventus' young guns started alongside one another yet again on Sunday against Inter. That's the way it should be, too, considering how their rapport seems to be growing in recent games. (Nothing against you, Mario, I promise.) Both Morata and Dybala are coming off busy international breaks, though, with the former suffering a bone bruise in Spain's first game a week ago. The official diagnosis was day-to-day, and Allegri said at his pre-match press conference that he still needs time to truly decide if Morata is ready. But when it comes to those in the Italian press predicting Juventus' starting lineup for the Derby d'Italia, they all think the young Spaniard will be in there. So, there's that, and the fact that he's playing pretty darn well right now.
4. Felipe Melo vs. his former club.
There may not be a more perfect match out of all the summer signings this season. Felipe Melo, a player who seemingly lived to annoy us all during his two years with Juventus, signing for a club whose sole existence is pretty much piss us off. Melo will obviously be a little more jacked up than usual considering who he will be playing against. It will be one of those "Let's show em!!" kind of deals that every player goes through at some point. But with Melo, you never know. He's such a wild card — both in terms of his play and his emotions. The good thing is that Juventus' midfield is completely healthy, which is something we haven't been able to say all season. So no matter if Melo is lining up across from Khedira or Pogba, it's going to be an interesting and noteworthy matchup. Same goes for a lot of individual battles in the derby this time around.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Juan Cuadrado, Sami Khedira, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba, Patrice Evra; Álvaro Morata, Paulo Dybala