The good thing is that even with Juventus struggling domestically, we can still say that Max Allegri's squad is at least on the top of one table to begin the season. That may come as a surprise to some who just look at the Serie A table and have to scroll down pass the 10th-place spot to actually find where Juventus currently sits.
But when Juventus take the field on Wednesday night in Turin, they will be the only team in Champions League Group D to have won both of their group stage games. The other three teams have either split the two matchups or lost both of them entirely. While other groups may be starting to look like a complete mess after two or three games, there is starting to be a clear and distinct order developing in Juve's group.
Juventus vs. Borussia Monchengladach is indeed a top-of-the-table vs. bottom-of-the-table situation. And, for all intents and purposes, if Juventus do win on Wednesday night, they will be sitting pretty atop the group with nine points — exactly what you want after three Champions League group stage games and two of the next three away from home.
That sounds like a pretty good spot to be in, doesn't it?
Easier said than done, sure, but as we have come to know about this version of Juventus, they certainly look the part when playing against European competition. That might not always be the case in Serie A — although Sunday's derby draw was a step in the right direction — but it's been true in the Champions League. They got the job done on the road at Manchester City. They dispatched of Sevilla rather easily, and now we look for them to get three more points at home against the only club in the group yet to win a game.
In terms of games where Juventus are the favored team, I'd say this is one where that's exactly the case.
And when it comes to Juventus management and players knowing how important this third of six group stage games is, they won't shy away from addressing said subject.
Very true, Max, very true. If Juventus go 3 for 3 to start the Champions League group stage, I don't know what I'll do. Well, other than celebrate it.
Let's just go ahead and take a look at Group D after the first two rounds of the Champions League group stage, shall we? Yes, we shall...
|Team||Games played||Wins||Losses||Draws||Goal differential||Points|
That looks cool. I can appreciate that after two rounds. And if Juventus win Wednesday night, it will look even better. I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking that.
Because Juventus are actually doing well in the Champions League, there isn't too much to be angry about. Unless you miss Stephan Lichtsteiner bombing up and down Juve's right wing, that is. So I guess that is some bad news. So please hurry back, Stephan, we miss you and your crazy Swiss on-field antics.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. How Juventus does on short rest.
It's pretty safe to say that Sunday's Derby d'Italia was a pretty physical one. And that's even before you take into consideration that there were a combined 37 fouls and seven yellow cards shown in the scoreless draw Sunday. The turnaround between Inter on Sunday and Gladbach on Wednesday isn't ideal. Basically Juve have had two training sessions and that's it. Throw in the fact that there's expected to be very little change in Allegri's starting lineup, and many of those players who logged a full 90-minute match two days ago will be back out on the field 72 hours after the fact. Knowing the schedule is busy this time of year is pretty much a given. But how Juve actually deal with it, especially with a relatively unchanged starting lineup from one game to the next, still remains to be seen.
2. Who starts up front?
Álvaro Morata is available. Paulo Dybala is available. Mario Mandzukic is available. Simone Zaza is available. All four Juventus strikers are available. We haven't been able to say that a whole lot this season, mainly because injuries are stupid and it will forever be that way. You would think Morata is a lock to start because he has turned into Juventus' version of Mr. Champions League, scoring goals in Europe at a rate we haven't seen from a Juve striker all that often before. But who starts alongside the young Spaniard is a complete guess at this point. Many want Dybala to get some European game time from the opening kickoff, and I'm not the only one in that group. But if Allegri feels like a striker with Mandzukic's characteristics is the right direction to go in, I wouldn't be surprised, either.
With that being said, there's also this...
Does that mean Mandzukic for 50-60 minutes and Allegri will unleash Dybala on a tiring Monchengladbach defense for the remaining minutes in the second half? It's not like Allegri hasn't done it before. We'll find out tomorrow.
3. Can Paul Pogba be a European giant again?
Pogba's form this season has been as hit-and-miss as anybody on the Juventus thus far. But when it has come to his performances in the Champions League, they've actually been pretty good. Is it the fact that he know it's the big stage and therefore shines when the lights are at their brightest? Hell, I dunno. I'm not going to try and get into the head of a 21-year-old footballer. But, at the same time, you wonder what has caused Pogba — a player Allegri has said he demands a lot out of these days — to be so good in Europe and pretty much meh in domestic play. But now that Juventus' starting midfield is complete again, one would think if Pogba were start putting consistent performances together, it would be because he's not shouldering as much as the responsibility as he was before Sami Khedira and Claudio Marchisio returned from their respective injuries. But that's just applying some kind of logic to a situation where we don't truly know what's going on. What I do know, though, is that if Pogba wnats to be a complete badass against Gladbach tomorrow night, I would be totally okay with it.
4. Will Gladbach show any signs of life in Europe?
In two Champions League games, Gladbach have scored one goal and given up five. So when it comes to their current European prospects, it's not looking too good. But the thing they're hanging their hat on is the fact that they've won four straight Bundesliga games and enter with as much positive vibes in their camp as they've had all season. Can the domestic success of late translate to the Champions League? Who knows. It's almost a reverse-Juventus kind of deal. We want Juve to play like they have in the Champions League when they face a Serie A opponent, while Gladbach are trying to turn a good run in the Bundesliga into more European success. It's an interesting situation that each team find themselves in. And when it comes to Wednesday night's game, I'm hoping Champions League Gladbach shows up instead of Recent Bundesliga Gladbach. But that's just me.
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