Just because Juventus has learned who they will be playing in the Champions League semifinals early next month, it doesn't mean their schedule will suddenly slow down. In fact, as we're about to learn, with Juve continuing their European journey, the schedule is just as busy as always.
Three games in the span of seven days is what stands in front of Juventus even before they see Real Madrid roll into Juventus Stadium for the first leg of the Champions League semifinals on Tuesday, May 5.
The first of those games just so happens to be the Derby della Mole against city rivals Torino at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday afternoon. It's the latest and potentially one of the final steps in the assumed quest for another Scudetto simply because the finish line is in sight. The points need to clinch the title can be counted on two hands. This is not just a countdown to the Champions League semifinals arriving at Juventus Stadium. This is a countdown to the day Juventus can officially clinch their fourth straight Serie A title and subsequent Scudetto parade.
And everybody around here knows how much I, along with a lot of other people, like a Scudetto parade as the weather is warming up.
Tough game, sure, but when are games between city rivals or heated derbies ever easy? (Outside of the last Milan derby, of course. That was just pure torture for everybody who chose to watch it.)
Juventus have the chance to get the Serie A title out of the way before even thinking about Real Madrid and only Real Madrid. That should be the focus right now. While it's virtually a formality at this point, getting the title wrapped up and done will make the decisions for Max Allegri a little easier compared to leaving things hanging when Carlo Ancelotti and the boys arrive in Turin in less than two weeks.
And let's be honest, seeing Juve celebrate another is going to be fun — no matter when it happens.
Juventus kinda own their little brother, don't they?
Although it's a derby, so maybe form and everything doesn't matter.
We know about the long-term injuries simply because they've been there for about as long as we've been writing match previews this season. But Max Allegri has the added task of replacing Claudio Marchisio, who will be suspended for the match against his lovely wife's favorite team.
WAHT TO WATCH FOR
1. Can Juventus avoid a Champions League hangover?
No, not because they celebrated too hard after the scoreless draw against Monaco. (Although I'm sure the players and coaches had a glass of vino or two on the flight home.) This is about how Juventus recovers after exuding so much energy and effort against Monaco no matter what the overall performance tells us. Juve worked their socks off on Wednesday night — especially in the defensive third. No matter how you look at it, it was the kind of game that had to take a lot out of the players. And now, just a few days later, they have to try and rev things back up again to try and take down their city rivals. Not the easiest thing to do, but there's definitely no need for Allegri to go searching for any kind of extra ways to motivate the squad before kickoff on Sunday.
2. Matteo Darmian vs. Stephan Lichtsteiner.
If there is one person and one person only I want to see move to the other side of Turin and play for Juventus next season, it's Darmian — by a pretty comfortable margin, too. Sure, Patrice Evra has been solid since becoming a regular in the starting lineup, but Darmian is, well, Darmian has a bright future written all over him at the age of 25. But I'll stop thinking about a transfer I would love to see happen this summer and pay attention to the current day Juventus. That involves Darmian, at left wingback going up against Lichtsteiner at right back. It's not exactly the star-studded matchup like we'll see against Real Madrid, but Darmian vs. Lichtsteiner is one of the top individual battles we're going to see in the Turin derby. It will be the chance for Darmian to prove his worth, while at the same time a spot for Lichtsteiner to get back on track after a so-so showing against Monaco in the middle of the week.
3. How much will Claudio Marchisio's absence change the midfield setup?
Allegri has been forced the shuffle both personnel and tactics because of who's been absent in the midfield all season long. If it's not one guy, it's another guy; if it's not one reason, it's another. That's been especially true in the last month, with both Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba suffering long-term injuries. We know Marchisio will be back when Juve play Fiorentina in a couple of days, but his absence means Allegri has decisions to make once more. Does he just do a straight swap in a 4-3-1-2 and start Stefano Sturaro? Or does the first-year Juve manager simply stick with the 3-5-2 from midweek and play the Vidal-Pirlo-Pereyra trio? Both formations have worked, both can be effective without a doubt. And as we've seen with Allegri time and time again lately, the situation will dictate which formation he ultimately goes with.
4. The revenge of the Quags: Part II.
Out of the top 10 scorers in Serie A this season, only three have scored a greater percentage of their team's goals than Fabio Quagliarella has for Torino. And unlike the last time Quagliarella played against his former team, he's actually been scoring goals as of late. That's why he's currently sitting on 12 goals in Serie A this season — which currently sits him in seventh in the scoring chart, one behind a certain Juve transfer target named Paolo Dybala and a certain co-owned Juve forward by the name of Domenico Berardi. We know Quagliarella has the ability to score insane and unpredictable goals from seemingly anywhere in the attacking third of the field. And when you consider the other striker Torino is expected to start, Maxi Lopez, has all of three goals to his name this season, it's easy to figure out who's the No. 1 priority for the Juventus defense.
My starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Bonucci, Padoin; Vidal, Pirlo, Sturaro; Pereyra; Tévez, Morata
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 3 P.M. IN ITALY; 9 A.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 6 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST