These sense of belief has been there all along, but it's more public than ever before. Juventus players has always shown it because that's the kind of people they are, but now they're not shying away from talking about the confidence currently surrounding this group. That's just what happens when you storm into the Champions League quarterfinals and hit the month of April playing some of your best football all season.
Juventus' season still has two months left to play, but with the Scudetto seemingly wrapped up, European glory is where the most damage can still be made. That's something easy to figure out. Just like the fact that Juventus can take a massive step forward with another one of their big-time performances in big-time games like they're done the past few weeks.
Less than one single day remains before the latest and greatest game that can be dubbed the biggest game of the season kicks off at Juventus Stadium in Turin. Less than 24 hours before the Champions League anthem is blaring on the Juventus Stadium sound system once more and hopefully not for the last time this season.
Juventus have made it to the quarterfinals of the Champions League since moving into Juventus Stadium. But that time, they were playing an immovable force that was stomping on opponents right and left and then tossing them onto the side of the road afterward. This time around, Juve's draw is much more favorable one, although no gimme by any stretch of the imagination. Those don't happen at this point of the Champions League.
But as we've seen from this Juventus squad lately is the ability to rise to the occasion when it truly matters. Needing a big-time performance against Borussia Dortmund? Check. Need a win in Florence against Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia? Check that, too. When they've needed to come through in the clutch, they have done exactly that. Max Allegri has guided this team to success both domestically and in Europe.
But we're not done yet. At least I hope that's the case.
Another one of those games and the loss at Parma over the weekend will be forgotten with the snap of the fingers. This is the latest biggest game of the year for every single reason that makes sense (and probably a few that don't, too). Now we're just a short snooze away from seeing it happen live.
Well this is something I didn't know before seeing it on the Twitter machine today...
Let's just go ahead and advance Juve right now, then! Who needs a stressful 180 minutes, right?
I'M NOT NERVOUS ARE YOU NERVOUS BECAUSE I'M NOT NERVOUS.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Which Andrea plays, Pirlo or Barzagli?
I bring this up simply because of what Allegri said at his pre-match press conference on Monday.
You can try to read between the lines all you want, and that's exactly what I'm going to do here. Which Andrea that is chosen by Allegri almost certainly dictates which formation is used in the first leg against Monaco. If it's Barzagli, then it's going to be a 3-5-2. If it's Pirlo, then it's s 4-3-1-2 or some variation of that. I would say, at least as a gut feeling, that Allegri is going to roll with Pirlo and the 4-3-1-2 over Barzagli. That's not exactly what I would prefer (as you can see by scrolling down), but if Allegri feels like Pirlo is ready to go in such a huge match after so many weeks out, then who am I to judge from thousands of miles away? But this is the decision Allegri has to make — and I'd say it's a pretty massive one at that.
2. The effectiveness of a rested Carlos Tévez.
The last time we saw Tévez on the field, he was celebrating his 17th Serie A goal of the season in Juve's 2-0 win over Empoli two weekends ago. But now there's no doubt Tévez will be on the field when Monaco visits Juventus Stadium, and that feels pretty good to type mainly because of how great Apache has been this season. The Tévez-Morata partnership is now established as a productive pair that continues to develop. But there's no denying that Tévez is going to be the No. 1 priority of Monaco's defense Tuesday night. With so much rest, partly with Monaco in mind, this is probably the most rest Tévez has gotten in between appearances since he returned to the Argentina national team roster and international breaks became not much of a break at all.
So I'll just throw this out there: Can you imagine how good Tévez's legs are going to feel with a week and a half worth of rest when he steps onto the field for pre-game warmups? If he has a little pep in his step, we'll know why.
3. Monaco's wingers vs. Juventus' fullbacks/wingbacks.
With some kind of decision to be as to which Andrea plays, we don't have to do the same in pretty much every area of the starting lineup. We know who will be starting on the wings for Juventus come Tuesday night — Patrice Evra on the left and Stephan Lichtsteiner on the right. As we looked at in the tactical breakdown of Monaco, the French side uses both a 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 depending on the in-game situation. Monaco's wingers are genuine wingers. They have speed, creativity and have rightfully played a big role in Monaco's European success this season. As we know, Lichtsteiner and Evra aren't blessed with a ton of speed, but they're playing well — and have been for a good amount of time this season. That's fairly important because...
5. Keeping Monaco off the scoreboard.
...when you keep the wingers (somewhat) quiet, the chances of not allowing a goal becomes that much greater. It ended up being a moot point considering how the second leg finished, but we all remember how things were knowing Dortmund needed one measly goal on its home turf to advance to the quarterfinals. Juventus basically ended all that chatter in a couple of swift kicks to the gut in Germany last month, ending what was a close encounter not too long into the second leg. But heading to Germany with a 2-1 aggregate lead was far from an easy situation to enter the second leg with. And no matter what people think about the odds of Juve advancing are, giving up an away goal in the first leg is far from ideal. Unless the Juve players score, like, four of five goals, then things would be okay with me.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Marchisio, Pereyra, Evra; Tévez, Morata
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 8:45 P.M. IN ITALY; 2:45 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 11:45 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST