When this current post-international break set of games began, we talked about the importance of not just picking up positive results, but also getting them in a consistent kind of manner. We knew about the Milan showdown, we knew about the critical nature of Manchester City's visit to Juventus Stadium just a few days after that. These were games that Juve needed to find success in — and that's exactly what has happened.
All of it has come up roses for Juventus coming out of the international break. Maybe not in terms of injury news — there's always going to be that stupid part of the equation because it never goes away — but when you look at the nuts and bolts of it all, Juventus has gotten the max amount of points in their last two games. That's putting it in the simplest of terms. In two of its biggest games of the season to date, Juve has done exactly what needed to happen. And that's win 'em.
The main question now: Can Juventus continue this upward trend in the Serie A table and continue to make this season worth something domestically?
Entering Sunday's game on the road against Palermo, Juve sit all of two points behind fifth-place Milan — which beat Sampdoria easily on Saturday — for fifth place. A month or two ago that might have seemed like a legitimate possibility. But now that Juve are on the brink of cracking into European territory in the standings, the words from Stephan Lichtsteiner earlier in the week ring ever more true.
"As for the title, you should never stop believing so all we can do is pick up as many points as we can between now and Christmas and see where that takes us."
So as this team slowly rounds back into consistent form, that quote above can't be forgotten. And seeing as Juventus will be playing a few teams that are ahead of them in the standings before the holiday break arrives, the chance to leapfrog a couple of competitors and move up the Serie A table will be ever present. Now it's just a matter of taking care of business.
Let's hope that continues in Sicily. It sure would be nice to head into the new week in the top quarter of the table.
Juventus has now won three Serie A games in the row. This is something that's new to us — for this season at least.
Injuries, mainly no Sami Khedira for at least another game or two.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Paulo Dybala's return to Sicily.
Besides Juventus having another chance to move up the table, this will be the biggest storyline heading into Sunday's game. It makes sense, too, seeing as Dybala made his name in the pink shirt of Palermo the past few years before his big-money move to Juve over the summer. Seeing as how Dybala is playing to begin his Juventus career, there will be even more of a spotlight on the young Argentine, too. No matter what interview you have read over the course of the week, they've all been extremely complimentary of Dybala, who has scored six goals in Serie A this season. And while Dybala may be as classy as it gets, helping Juventus get the win over his former team will be a special kind of thing for him. Or maybe just playing against Palermo in general will be a special moment.
2. Will there be any squad rotation?
It's always in the cards after a Champions League game — especially if the opponent the next weekend is one that isn't doing so hot in league play. Does Palermo sitting toward the bottom of the Serie A table give Allegri some ideas when it comes to squad rotation? Maybe, and seeing as there hasn't been much squad rotation the last handful of games, it would be the first time we've seen it. But with Juventus not playing until Friday next week, if Allegri choses to go with most of his regular starters, then they'll have plenty of time to rest up after a busy, busy week. And it's not like Juve's second-year manager gave us any kind of hints at his pre-match press conference on Saturday. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what Allegri decides to go with against Palermo. Then again, we can say that a lot of the time when it comes to starting lineups, right?
3. Patrice Evra or Alex Sandro on the left?
Allegri really can't go wrong here. We know what we're going to get from Evra seeing as he's the model of consistency on the field. But the thing that will make this a difficult decision is the way Alex Sandro is playing right now. Juventus' Twitter account dubbed him the 'assist king' following the win over Manchester City on Wednesday, and it's not like he's doing anything to disprove that point. Three assists in his last four games will be the thing that pops off the page, but the overall quality of his play against Milan and Man City was as good as it can get. This is why Alex Sandro deserves more palying time in the coming months. The only thing is, though, he's got a really good player in Evra competing for playing time at the same position.
4. Can Juventus' defense keep Franco Vazquez?
We've talked about Dybala, and now here's the other half of the attacking duo that made Palermo so dangerous last season. Of course, Dybala is in bianconero now, so things aren't exactly going as well as they did a year ago. But the fact still remains that Vazquez is arguably Palermo's most dangerous weapon, even if the goal-scoring stats might not be as glamorous as they were when he had Dybala alongside him. Regardless of the formation or who has played, Juventus' defense has gotten better the last couple of games, with those crucial mistakes not showing their ugly face. And when you're playing a team that has scored just 13 goals in its first 13 games of the season, you know that if you keep things locked up, that finding the net will be just that much more difficult.
My starting lineup
Juventus XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Daniele Rugani, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Juan Cuadrado, Stefano Sturaro, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba, Alex Sandro; Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala
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