Juventus adding an extra Derby della Mole to the schedule wasn't much of a surprise. It's a quirk in competing on all fronts, basically. Torino needed to beat Cesena and then a date with Big Brother a couple of weeks later would be a guarantee. That happened, and now we're just a day away from the second Turin derby in the span of about six weeks.
Turin derbies have become quite the land of excitement — and stress — in recent years. You need to look no further than the one that happened back on Halloween night, with Juan Cuadrado giving Juventus the last-minute win over their city rivals.
Now there's the latest chapter in the Derby della Mole book of fun and (hopefully) exciting Juventus wins. This one is a little different than the others, though, considering it's a one-off in the Round of 16 in the Coppa Italia. But it's got the same kind of goal attached to it. That shouldn't be all that difficult to figure out considering that a loss means Juventus' defense of its 10th Coppa Italia ends about 90 minutes after it officially started.
You can look around the other Coppa games this week and see Serie A teams matched up against Serie B teams, basically locks to win if they just take care of business on the field. (Look at Genoa not taking care of business on Tuesday night as Exhibit A of what not to do in the Coppa.) For Juventus, though, they've got more than just any random team to play to get to the Coppa Italia quarterfinals. Little Brother in granata-colored jerseys will be the opponent, with an upset being the perfect kind of tonic to cure the bitterness of that 2-1 loss on the final day of October.
Maybe Juventus vs. Torino: Coppa Italia Edition won't live up to the competitiveness of the others.
Then again, who am I kidding?
It's Juventus vs. Torino. Two teams that don't like each other playing for the chance to advance in a national tournament. That has all the making of another slim game where just about everything else can be thrown out the window. (But not the transfer window. We still have a couple more weeks before that's back in our lives.)
That's just what happens when these two teams play against one another. Logic shall not be applied here.
.@OfficialAllegri: "Both of tomorrow's teams are in good shape. It's a one-off game, meaning it will be different from a Serie A encounter."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) December 15, 2015
Juventus is playing its best football of the season right now.
Juventus is playing a team in Torino that has given them plenty of problems over the last few years. So thinking that Juve will just coast through to the quarterfinals is probably a little too wishful thinking. (Although I hope Juve coast to a win and through to the quarterfinals because that would be an awfully nice change for once.)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. There will be squad rotation. But how much will Max Allegri actually go forth with?
It's that time of year where the biggest unwritten rule in all of the Coppa Italia goes back into existence. Squad rotation is incoming. But how much of it? We don't know for sure. Allegri didn't give many hints on Tuesday as to who would actually be playing against Toro 24 hours later. It was more of a "Well, this guy or this guy might play in this spot..." kind of deal — which obviously left us hanging and waiting to find out what the starting lineup will actually look like. I don't doubt that the starting lineup will look different than what was rolled out there in Sunday's 3-1 win over Fiorentina. And with such a quick turnaround between games, it's the right kind of opportunity to shake things up a little bit before the holiday break. Yes, even with relegation battlers Carpi on the schedule this weekend.
2. Daniele Rugani in his first Juventus start.
This is a day a lot of us having been long waiting for. And now we know it's going to happen because Mr. Allegri has told us so at his pre-match press conference. Rugani's lack of playing time has been well documented at this point, so we won't go into that all that much at all. Allegri has said time and time again that the young defender is training well and will get his chance — and now he's about to. With only a couple of minutes under his belt this season, we don't truly know what kind of progress Rugani has made in training other than what Allegri has told us. Based on what he did at Empoli the last two seasons, there's no reason to think he won't step into the lineup and settle in quickly. For a 21-year-old kid, he's so incredibly composed and mature. Might he be a little nervous or hyped up to finally see the field for more than just a blink of the eye? Yeah, but I'm sure we're going to be just as amped up to see Rugani finally play.
3. Álvaro Morata's impact.
If both Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic start, I will be shocked. Morata is almost a lock to play even though Allegri hasn't exactly told us that he is. But you would think that if there's a spot for Morata to try and get back into the swing of things, a game that calls for squad rotation would be one of them. We know Morata is not in a good run of form right now. It's the first time in his Juve career where he's had a prolonged period of games where he hasn't found the back of the net. But as we also know about Morata, when he gets hot in front of goal, it's like a snowball gaining momentum downhill as fast as can be. The contract extension was a huge vote of confidence, but you gotta think that breaking this goal-scoring drought of his will get the ball rolling again. And what better way than to get that goal against your city rivals?
4. How Neto plays after such a strong layoff.
We used to say the same thing for the last five years when Marco Storari would make his first Coppa italia appearance of the season. Much like in Storari's case, Neto has played all of one league game through the first three and a half months of the season. Other than that, the most we've heard about Neto has been rumors over the last couple of weeks that he's unhappy with his lack of playing time and may look to leave Juventus sooner rather than later. Who knows if there's any kind of truth to those exit rumors, but we know that the Coppa will be where Neto plays. Let's just hope his lack of playing in league games doesn't mean that there's serious amounts of rust to shake off once he takes the field.
My starting lineup
Juventus XI (3-5-2): Neto; Martín Cáceres, Leonardo Bonucci, Daniele Rugani; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Sami Khedira, Claudio Marchisio, Stefano Sturaro, Alex Sandro; Álvaro Morata, Simone Zaza
TV: RAI Uno (Italy)
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