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Juventus vs. Atalanta Preview: Round 24 — Friday Night Lights

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As I sat and watched Juventus play out their disappointing 2-2 draw against Cesena this past weekend, the thoughts running through my head were quite plentiful. Some are able to be published — and have been — on this website, some will need a parental advisory label attached to them before there's a public viewing. That's just how things went for Juventus four days ago.

It wasn't the momentum-building type of game so many of us hoped for with Borussia Dortmund on the horizon. Instead, Juventus struggled to impose their will on the game whatsoever against a team that will almost certainly be trying to avoid regulation come seasons end.

That was the first chance, come Friday night at Juventus Stadium is the second and final one before the Champions League anthem is heard once again as Juve takes the field.

Juventus will once again be facing a team that's fighting to stay in Serie A at the end of the season. Atalanta aren't officially in the relegation zone, but they're pretty darn close to it — three points ahead of 18th-place Cagliari entering the weekend's set of games. Does that mean much? Well, if we've learned anything from Juventus playing out their frustrating draw against Cesena, sometimes the table location

That doesn't mean Juventus shouldn't be able to beat Atalanta, because they should. And not by some bite-your-nails-off result, either. But if Juve play anything like they did against Cesena, then it will be a struggle yet again.

Translation from the Max Allegri quote above: Don't do what you did against Cesena ever again, fellas. Seriously. Don't do it.

And, to be honest, Allegri has every right to say that. Like a lot of us watching from our couches or recliners, Allegri was frustrated as all hell with the result over the weekend. It's not just because Arturo Vidal missed a penalty that would have given Juve a 3-2 lead with less than 10 minutes to go. It was because of the entire package — one that offered little to build any kidn of notion that Juventus are playing well heading into Tuesday night's first leg against Dortmund.

You know what might, though? Playing well against Atalanta in front of the hometown crowd. It's not the best team Juve will play over the huge four-week period, but it's still important. Both for what's in front of them and what's awaiting them in the distance that's not so far away.




While Martin Cáceres and Alessandro Matri have been called up by Allegri for tomorrow night's game, the same can't be said for Vidal. There were rumblings Thursday morning that Vidal tweaked his thigh muscle in training, and this seems to be confirmation of that. Might this prove to be the chance for Stefano Sturaro to make his Juventus debut?


1. Will there be serious squad rotation going down?

There seems to be a different vibe around the squad when it comes to resting players considering what happened against Cesena. Usually there's at least some talk about having a couple of important players be rested with an important game — Champions League or otherwise — on the horizon. This time, though, there's not much talk about a significant squad overhaul or anything like that. Outside of Carlos Tévez coming back into the starting lineup and maybe one or two other rumored moves, that's about it when it comes to Allegri switching things up with Borussia Dortmund next up on the schedule. Can't say I blame him, either. He wants his top guns playing well and with confidence heading into such an important European fixture. And there's only one way to do that — roll 'em out there.

2. All eyes on Juventus' defense no matter who plays.

Across the board, Juventus' defensive performance in the Cesena draw can be described in two simple words — absolute mess. Juve were disorganized at the back more often than not and just let a Cesena side that did its fair share of attacking put Gigi Buffon under serious heat. Obviously Leonardo Bonucci was the headliner in a bad, bad, bad performance, but nobody truly played well last Sunday. It wasn't close to inspiring to see Juventus play the way they did defensively when you consider the kind of attacking options Dortmund have at their disposal. Who knows if any potential Allegri has in mind involves those playing in defense. But if it's basically the same unit that struggled against Cesena, you know for damn sure they're going to want to bounce back when Atalanta rolls into Juventus Stadium.

3. The continued good form of Álvaro Morata.

Things aren't slowing down for Morata when it comes to his production. His goal against Cesena was his fifth in the last seven games. His six goals this season have him tied for the team lead amongst players not named Carlos Tévez. Morata has settled in as well as he possibly could have — and doesn't appear to be changing that, either. With Tévez expected to start alongside him Friday night, Juventus' top two strikers will be reunited again. The last time they were in the starting lineup together, Juve put in one of their better games in recent weeks, beating Milan 3-1 in Turin. Is this just a friendly coincidence? I don't think so. Morata and Tévez are being quality compliments to one another. And if the young Spaniard continues to produce goals — both for himself and teammates — then he will be continuing his fine form at a time when Juventus desperately needs its best players to play like it.

4. Can Juventus avoid looking ahead to Borussia Dortmund?

If this was the NBA or NFL, people would be describing Juventus vs. Atalanta as a "trap game." You know, the game before the big game where the one playing in said big game is overlooking the game that's right in front of them. You got all of that with one read through? Good, good. It would be easy to Juventus has their eyes on the Champions League in just a couple of days, but that's not their immediate responsibility. If Juve want to seriously use this as a game to get their mojo back, then it's now or never, really. Can they? They've been so inconsistent these last few weeks, we won't know until the ball is kicked off Friday night. They sure as hope so or else Dortmund's visit to Juventus Stadium is going to be a rather interesting one to say the least.

My starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Cáceres, Ogbonna, Chiellini, Evra; Sturaro, Marchisio, Pogba; Pereyra, Tévez, Morata