In the hours following Juventus' 3-2 win over Fiorentina on Wednesday, I decided to go back into the BWRAO archives. It wasn't anything from the distant past, more like something from over the summer. I was feeling nostalgic, I guess, and was in search of something that was relevant to what is on the brink of happening in Juve's next game.
What I was looking for didn't take long to find at all. And what I was looking for was the 'OFFICIALLY OFFICIAL' post after Max Allegri was hired to replace Antonio Conte as Juventus' manager back in the middle of July. I concluded the post with what journalism folks call a 'kicker,' the paragraph that wraps everything up in a nice bow without spewing out a couple hundred more words. This kicker was all of two sentences that added up to a grand total of about nine words.
Here's to the future, Max. Don't screw it up.
So simple. So honest. So ... not very optimistic at all. (This coming from a self-proclaimed eternal optimist.)
Allegri's appointment was not accompanied with any kind of fanfare or massive amounts of optimism from the vast majority of the masses around here. It was a lot more of the opposite, as people wanted Juve's newest manager to not screw things up and not have the club take a serious step backwards more than anything else.
Today is the first day in May, a month where titles are clinched and seasons come to an end. There's still plenty to be written in this 2014-15 campaign for Juventus. There's some Champions League business to take care of in a few days. But first there's the matter of the Scudetto, something we've been waiting on for weeks and weeks.
Just like we all thought would be the case on the day Allegri was hired, right? ... RIGHT? ... RIGHT?
Juventus needs to get all of one point Saturday evening against Sampdoria and Scudetto No. 33 will officially be theirs. One measly point. Juventus don't even need to beat Sampdoria tomorrow, dammit! The inevitable is as close as it can possibly be without actually taking place in front of us. They've needed some help from Lazio's opponents the last two matches, but now it's all in Juventus' hands this weekend. No need for help anymore.
But one point, one single solitary point will make the eventuality an actuality. And, at the same time, be the latest thing that convinces everybody that maybe Mad Mex wasn't such a bad choice to replace Conte after all.
Sorry about being so grumpy all those months ago, Max. I take it back. You definitely haven't screwed things up.
Have I mentioned that Juventus is one point away from clinching a fourth straight Scudetto? Yeah, I think I've mentioned it, but it doesn't hurt anything to say it again mainly because it's the damn Serie A title.
We're getting close to being able to count how many Juventus games that are left to be played this season (in all competitions) on one hand.
(I guess that's better than reminding all of you about who's injured and won't be traveling to Genoa tomorrow, right?)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. What kind of squad rotation will there be with Real Madrid looming next week?
With all the Scudetto talk surrounding the team the last two days — and rightfully so, I might add — there's still a whole lot on the line just a few days from now. I think everybody expects Allegri to be rotating his squad against Sampdoria. But how much squad rotation will there be? It's hard to say. We know Simone Padoin is basically a lock to start at left back with Patrice Evra suspended and not part of the 23-man traveling squad. I'm thinking the odds of Andrea Pirlo getting rested are also rather favorable. Same goes for a certain Argentine striker (more on that later). So if we see four or five changes from the starting lineup that beat Fiorentina 3-2 in the middle of the week, would it be that much of a surprise? I don't think so. That's just what happens when you're comfortably ahead in Serie A and there just so happens to be the defending European champions coming to town in a couple of days.
2. Will there be an all-Spanish striker combination?
Of all the spots to rest Carlos Tévez, this seems one of the most logical ones in the entire season. Maybe he'll get some time off the bench in the second half, but with Real Madrid on the horizon, there's really no reason for Carlitos to be logging heavy minutes on Saturday night. I'm sure Tévez wants to play, but let's think big picture here. What's the benefit of Tévez playing against Sampdoria other than giving him a chance to build on his Serie A goal tally? Maybe Fernando Llorente scoring against Fiorentina will make the decision an easier decision for Allegri than it probably already is (or should be). I guess what I'm trying to say in all of this is that there are few things Juventus can really risk to have happen than Tévez picking up a knock against Sampdoria and putting his status for Real Madrid in question.
3. Which Sampdoria will show up?
In their last five matches, 'Doria has only gotten three points, drawing three and losing the other two. Luckily for them, they are still in a European spot and those above them in the standings not named Lazio haven't exactly been lighting the world on fire, either. Sampdoria's one saving grace in all of this as they enter a game against the soon-to-be champions? In their last 16 games at the Ferraris, Samp has lost all of zero of them. The only other team not to lose a Serie A game at their home stadium this season? That would be Juventus. In those 16 games, Sampdoria has allowed only 11 goals. Compare that to the 25 goals they've allowed 17 games away from home and you can instantly see just how much better Sampdoria are on their home turf. Maybe, just maybe, Juventus will be the last undefeated-at-home team standing come the final whistle Saturday night.
My starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Bonucci, Padoin; Vidal, Marchisio, Sturaro; Pereyra; Llorente, Morata
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 6 P.M. IN ITALY; 12 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 9 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST