You see, the thing about Juventus' scoreless draw to Borussia Monchengladbach two weeks ago was that it didn't come close to killing their chances of advancing to the knockout stage of the Champions League. It might have slowed things down a little bit, but it didn't completely get knocked out the rails in the same kind of fashion that some view the first 11 games of the Serie A season.
But just as much as two weeks ago didn't totally kill Juve's chances of advancing in Europe's premier club competition, a win in Germany on Tuesday night would only behoove their chances of moving forward. Juventus' lead might have gotten a little tighter atop the standings with Manchester City beating Sevilla at the very end, but that's okay. When you look at the standings right now, the same club that has been up there since the opening day of fixtures.
And that's Juventus. So we should be happy about that.
.@OfficialAllegri: "Let's take one step at a time. Our main aim for the time being is to reach the knockout stages." #BMGJuve #UCL— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) November 2, 2015
Ah, man, it's cliché as all hell, but it's the right way for Max Allegri to approach things right now.
I don't need to delve into great detail about how Juventus' form guide this season looks like a jumbled mess of Ws, Ls, and Ds that extend from one side of the page to the other. It's been an interesting time, to say the least, one that has us experiencing quite a wide range of emotions about our favorite football club.
But come Tuesday night, the second half of the group stage will have officially arrived. With that comes the fact that the opportunities to wrap up a spot in the knockout stage become fewer and fewer. Juventus sit in good standing right now — of course, because it's never a bad thing to be atop the group — and it can get even better with a third win in four group stage games.
Of course, that's easier said than done — especially when you throw in how Juventus played against Borussia Monchengladbach, a game that left Allegri rather, umm, rather pissed off about how his team played.
The ideal scenario is that Juventus take the last-second win over Torino and turn it into something great. We've been saying this after every positive result this season, though, so take it as you want. "Let's hope Juventus' win/good showing against (insert team) can be built upon against (insert other team here)!" It's been a vicious cycle of endless logic that hasn't been seen out by Juve at any point this season.
So, for what feels like around the 10th time this season, please build off your last game, Juventus. It would be really, really nice to see for a change simply based off how the season has gone thus far.
.@OfficialAllegri: "@borussia_en are in a rich vein of form. Tomorrow's game is very important in terms of our last 16 hopes." #BMGJuve #UCL— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) November 2, 2015
Just how good? W-W-W-W-W-W in their last six Bundesliga games kind of good. Here we go. Let the fun — hopefully — begin. Or resume.
No Sami Khedira, whose injury isn't as serious as we might have feared but has caused him to miss the trip to his homeland and not take part in the game against Borussia Monchengladbach.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Can the Juventus midfield look okay without Sami Khedira?
Not to say "okay" will get the job done, but stick with me here. Even though he's played six games with Juventus, Khedira's presence has already made quite an impact. So, what's going to happen now that we know Khedira won't be playing in what would have been his return to Germany? Shoot, I dunno. Claudio Marchisio, barring any kind of crazy flu-like symptoms again, will be back, so things aren't a total loss. But Khedira being injured — even though we expected it to be this way — is still a blow. And it's not like the sample size, albeit it incredibly small, without Khedira in the lineup has told us that Juve can survive when he's not there. Just when it looked like he was really settling in and finding a groove, he has to go and get hurt again. This, for as much as we wanted him to shed the injury-prone label for over the summer, doesn't exactly help. So there's that. And also the fact that Juve will be without one of its best players in an incredibly important game away from home.
2. Who actually steps into the lineup for Khedira?
This obviously, will be based on which formation Allegri decides to go with. A lot of the Italian media folks seem to be leaning toward a 3-5-2 because of Khedira's absence in the starting lineup. I won't go on a tangent about the three-man backline or what it does to any other part of the squad, but just passing along what I've seen. And based on how he played in the Turin derby, I'd probably say that Hernanes is the favorite to take Kehdira's spot in the center of the midfield. Does that mean a 3-5-2 with Hernanes in the middle of it all? Maybe. It would free up Marchisio to make some of those wonderful forward runs he makes when he's not deployed as a holding midfielder. It would also give some more experience on the field compared to the other options, Stefano Sturaro and Mario Lemina. But that's just me thinking while also writing a preview, so yeah.
3. Who's starting up front?
Throw all four names into a hat and pick two or three of them out, right? Well, sure, that might be just as easy as trying to guess who Allegri will roll with come kickoff against Gladbach. If it's a 3-5-2 Allegri goes with, then who you got? This is where some choices make sense, but when it comes to Allegri's starting striker choices these days don't always go along with what we like to call 'The Logical Path.' The Dybala-Morata partnership would be cool because that's the two best strikers Juventus has right now, but it's not exactly like Allegri has played them alongside one another a ton this season. Do you go with potential or something else? This is the inner-conflict going on around Allegri's mind these days. If anything, he didn't give any hints at his pre-match press conference — which isn't surprising because he rarely does. Oh well.
4. Paul Pogba's impact.
I know, I know. It's easy to single out Pogba all the time. But when you're Juventus' No. 10 and your form has been all over the place this season, it's something that I'm allowed to go back to at my own discretion. Pogba's Turin derby performance can be summed up like this: A couple of moments of 'WOW!' with pretty much mostly meh there the rest of the time. That goal, that play to set up the other goal, then ... meh. We can try and dissect why Pogba is so hit-and-miss this season, or we can just say that with no Sami Khedira, Pogba needs to be more WOW! andh MEH. It's a simple way to think of it, but it's also what needs to happen. You know that Pogba that showed up against Manchester City to open up group stage play? Yeah, that's the Pogba that needs to stick around for a good amount of time. Maybe the bright lights of the Champions League will be the trick. I sure hope so.
My starting lineup
Juventus XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Juan Cuadrado, Claudio Marchisio, Hernanes, Paul Pogba, Patrice Evra; Álvaro Morata, Paulo Dybala
TV: ESPN2 (United States)
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