It wasn't all that long ago that Juventus headed to Florence in need of a win to advance in a competition. That was the Europa League, not the Coppa Italia like in present day. But it's a reminder that just about this time last year, Juventus stepped onto the Franchi field needing something — and they delivered.
This season's bonus trip to the land of Viola and wonderful scenery has Juventus trying to overturn a 2-1 aggregate scoreline in the span of at least 90 minutes at the very minimum. Unlike when Juve were playing a two-legged tie a few weeks ago against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, a 1-0 score in favor of the good guys won't be enough to see Max Allegri's team through to the Coppa Italia final.
The First Leg
The First Leg
The end game and/or objective for Tuesday night in Florence isn't a simple one, nor was it ever going to be. Juventus made their bed during the first leg early last month and now have to find a way to flip the script. It might not be a mission impossible, but it's mission-kinda-possible-but-not-totally-possible, if that makes any kind of sense.
But if there was ever a time for Juventus to channel memories of last year, they'll have to win by at least two goals, not one. That's just what happens when you allow Fiorentina to not only grab the win, but get a couple of crucial away goals in the process.
As much as Allegri and the squad say they want to advance in the Coppa Italia and end the club's 20-year drought in the competition, there's only one way to try and have that happen now. It's possible. It won't be easy, but it's possible. Well, just as long as Juve don't play like they did in the first leg, that is.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Claudio Marchisio's impact.
Just like we all thought when the initial news of Marchisio being injured came out, Juve's No. 8 will be playing ... less than two weeks after the fact?! Yeah, it's been an interesting time ever since the ACL tear that wasn't really an ACL tear took place during the international break. What we know is that Marchisio is healthy and back training — a clear sign that his return to the lineup (even though the absence really wasn't much of one) is about to take place. And with no Andrea Pirlo, Marchisio is almost a certainty to slide into the regista spot that he's excelled at.
2. With Marchisio potentially back in the starting lineup, who sits in the center of the midfield?
With Allegri saying that a four-man defense is happening Tuesday night, it's pretty easy to figure out where he's going tactically. Juventus, in all likelihood, will go with a 4-3-1-2 formation, but there will be the chance of a 4-3-3 if Juventus' first-year manager wants to include Simone Pepe in some kind of trident up front. But I'll just go ahead and put my money on Allegri doing what he said he was going to do — "playing my best possible team tomorrow" against Fiorentina. I'll take that as Marchisio, Arturo Vidal and, based on how he played over the weekend, Stefano Sturaro with Roberto Pereyra behind the strikes. But that is just one guy's opinion. Maybe Allegri will surprise and do something super fancy. We all know that Juventus are going to need goals in the second leg against Fiorentina.
3. The continued brilliance of Carlos Tévez.
Just when you thought he might get a little bit of rest after coming back from the international break, Carlos Tévez goes and scores another goal to remind us — like we really needed it — how awesome he is. Allegri says he will field his best lineup, and that means Tévez will be starting alongside Álvaro Morata in all likelihood. That combination has been so good since it became Juve's No. 1 partnership up front for Allegri to go to. We know Juventus needs goals Tuesday night, and more than just one. Having Tévez on the field with Morata will be Juve's best chance at flipping the scoreline in their favor. And if Tévez can replicate anything close to how he's played for much of the season, Juve have a chance. Why? Because there's always a chance of seeing a Juventus goal whenever Tévez is on the field. He's just that damn good.
4. Slowing down the Mo Salah Express.
You want the biggest individual reason why Juventus is down 2-1 on aggregate, here you go. Salah has been simply superb since arriving on loan from Chelsea in the winter transfer window. You know, seven-goals-in-12-games kind of good since donning the Viola jersey. That's a goal-to-game ratio you figure Tévez would be racking up — which he has this season — while leading Juventus to another Scudetto. Salah's goals are a big as to why Fiorentia currently sits in fourth in the Serie A table right now. And, more importantly to the matter right in front of Juventus, Salah's played a massive part in why Fiorentina are just 90 or so minutes away from the Coppa Italia final. It doesn't really matter what formation Juve trots out there, the No. 1 priority has to be keeping track of Salah. If they don't, they'll see the 22-year-old Egyptian striker celebrating more than another goal or two against Juventus on Tuesday night.
My starting XI (4-3-1-2): Storari; Lichtsteiner, Bonuccii, Chiellini, Evra; Vidal, Marchisio, Sturaro; Pereyra; 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