I don't want to sound overconfident or anything, but life in Juventus land is pretty good right now.
These days, things are understandably very pleasant and cheerful around the training grounds at Vinovo. Juventus are cruising to another Scudetto, have gotten a relatively favorable draw in the Champions League quarterfinals, and can only extend their Serie A lead further with a win Sunday afternoon. Doesn't that just sound like a wonderful thing?
Just think about it for a second: With a win over Genoa on Sunday, Juventus would push the Serie A lead to a completely ridiculous yet wonderful 17 points. With draw-happy Roma playing Cesena later in the day, it may not stay there for very long, but as we've seen with Rudi Garcia's squad lately, anything is possible.
Well, except picking up three points on a consistent basis — especially against low-table teams just about everybody around the country assumes they will beat.
(Too soon? Nah...)
You know how you keep that moment going into the international break? By getting some sweet, sweet on Genoa.
The same Genoa team that beat Juventus thanks to Luca Antonini's goal with about 10 seconds to spare in stoppage time back in late October at the Luigi Ferraris. The same Genoa team that saw Juventus put in one their worst performances of the season. It was one of the final games in which Max Allegri used the 3-5-2 formation as his default tactical layout.
What would enacting revenge mean to the Juventus squad? Considering that the loss to Genoa was one of the low points of the season, I would like to think they want to show Genoa just how far they've come since that day.
It'd be just another day in paradise, right? Well, that is if the forecasted rain lets up a little bit. But other than that, things are feeling pretty grand in the Juventus part of the world.
Same it with me now: Fourteen-point lead atop the Serie A table. Fourteen-point lead atop the Serie A table. Fourteen-point lead atop the Serie A table. Fourteen-point lead atop the Serie A table.
I'll just tell myself this because...
...I am about to list the players who will miss out on Genoa's annual visit to Juventus Stadium tomorrow night. Here goes nothin':
- Andrea Pirlo
- Paul Pogba
- Kwadwo Asamoah
- Luca Marrone
- Martín Cáceres
- Paolo De Ceglie
Oh, and Álvaro Morata is suspended. Just because, you know, the strikers all agreed that they wanted to get in on all the action when it comes to players missing out on Genoa's visit to Juventus Stadium.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Will there be a Champions League hangover?
With a huge and comfortable 14-point Serie A lead, these kinds of things are probably little more forgivable compared to a close race for the Scudetto. But still, Juventus' win over Dortmund on Wednesday night was thrilling and certainly didn't lack when it came to physical exertion. There are so many injuries within the Juve ranks right now that squad rotation after the Dortmund win is pretty much non-existent outside of a few selective positions. There will obviously be a Fernando Llorente sighting because of Morata's suspension, maybe a different defender or two in the starting lineup, but not much else because of all the limited options Allegri has at his disposal. That means a lot of the same players who were on the field on Wednesday will be starting against Genoa, boys and girls.
2. What formation is Max Allegri going to use?
Allegri hasn't been shy this season about switching formations based on the players available to him. But what he hasn't experienced yet as Juventus manager is this kind of injury situation at one position like is currently going on in the central midfield. No matter if it's 3-5-2 (the most likely formation at this point), 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-3, there will be the need for at least three midfielders to play in the center of the park. Luckily for Allegri, he's got a couple versatile players to turn to and an extremely friendly 14-point lead to ease the pain entering the final game before the first international break of the calendar year. With Claudio Marchisio recovering from the flu, I'll put my money on Allegri rolling with a 3-5-2 based on the fact that the team's centerbacks are pretty much all healthy sans Cáceres. He's done it once before, and he's likely to do it again. (You've been had, Max!)
3. Slowing down Genoa's success away from home.
You don't need to tell Max Allegri twice when it comes to how well Genoa have played away from their home ground this season.
Why yes, all of that is true. In fact, there are only five teams in all of Serie A who have been better away from home than Genoa has this season. Out of their 37 total points, 20 of those have come on the road. The only other teams who are better than Genoa in that aspect of things are either going to be playing for Europe next season or are at least in contention for a top-five finish. That's part of the reason why Gian Piero Gasperini's squad were hanging around one of those European places earlier this season. While they've cooled off a little bit since then, Genoa are far and away the more rested side between themselves and Juventus, like Allegri said at his pre-match press conference.
4. Will Mattia Perin go H.A.M. against Juventus once again?
WhoSocred's Opta-based rating system isn't really oriented to show you the full impact of a goalkeeper, but Mr. Perin sure does know how to make the darn thing love him. Since putting on a Genoa jersey, Perin has finished with ratings in the 8s and been named Man of the Match once in three games against Juventus. Of course, the WhoScored ratings aren't the be-all, end-all figures for evaluating players, but I can tell you this — Perin is good, and especially so when he plays against Juventus. And at the tender age of 22 years old, there's no reason to think he won't get better as the months and years go by. Maybe it's because one of his idols, Gigi Buffon, is in the other goal, but Perin doing insane things in goal against seems to be a common occurrence. It's like the teacher watching the student do exactly what he taught him to do, only with Perin looking like a member of the Beatles or something.
My starting XI (4-3-3): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Bonucci, Evra; Padoin, Vidal, Pereyra; Coman, Llorente, Tévez
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Marchisio, Pereyra, Padoin; Tévez, Llorente
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 3 P.M. IN ITALY; 10 A.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 7 P.M. ON THE WEST COAST
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