The last time Juventus celebrated a Coppa Italia title, I was sitting in an elementary classroom learning about the basics reading and writing. That was 20 years ago. Yep, 20 long years since a Juventus captain has taken the Coppa Italia trophy and hoisted it over his head as his teammates celebrate around him.
They've had chances since then. The 2012 Coppa Italia in which Alessandro Del Piero said goodbye to Juventus is still fresh in some peoples' minds. That game, a 2-0 loss to Napoli at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, was the last time Juve had the chance to win their 10th Coppa Italia and add a silver star to their jerseys.
In two of Juventus' last four games this season, there will be trophies on the line. In one of the other games, this Saturday against Napoli, Juventus will be presented with their Scudetto and subsequently have a party because of it. So if you're in the mood to seeing Juve hang out with a bunch of trophies, then the next couple of weeks are probably your cup of tea.
Of Juventus' final four games, only two truly matter in the grand scheme of things. This is the first of those games. And I'm pretty sure everybody here can figure out what the second one is. (Apologies to Napoli and Hellas Verona, but your games aren't really all that important all things considered.)
Max Allegri setup his squad to win this game against Lazio, not the one over the weekend against Inter in the Derby d'Italia. He rested just about half of the squad that played their tails off against Real Madrid seven days ago. When was the last time we could say that a coach was preferring a Coppa Italia game — albeit this is a final — over a heated rivalry game like Juventus-Inter is? I can't remember one, at least in the last couple of years at the very least.
But winning the Coppa Italia is obviously a big objective for Allegri and his players. A lot of being able to rest so many regulars has to do with Juve having nothing left to play for in Seire A, but it's also a sign that they want their team to be in the best possible shape there is.
Lazio are a worthy opponent because they're probably the second-best team in Italy going right now. But who am I to bet against a Juventus team that is rested, playing some consistent and winning football who has also beaten Lazio twice this season already? I'm not, but that's just me.
It might not be to the level of Real Madrid's Décima, but a win over Lazio on Wednesday night and Juventus have their own Decima to brag about. I don't know about all of you, but I'm kinda tired of Juve sitting on nine Coppa Italia titles. And that silver star would look cool on the new adidas jerseys next season.
Claudio Marchisio out due to suspension. Álvaro Morata out due to suspension. I think we can say those are two of Juventus' best players right now. That's not good. Thank goodness for squad depth.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Could Marchisio's absence mean a 3-5-2?
And here is your almost-weekly quote about Max Allegri being unsure about who is going to be in his starting lineup. Or at least that's how he's going to make it look like.
The decision might not be an easy one for Allegri, but it's also a somewhat logical process in getting there. If he goes with a 4-3-1-2, then Roberto Pereyra would step in for Marchisio and push Arturo Vidal back into his more natural position in midfield. If it's a 3-5-2, then in comes Andrea Barzagli and that would be that. Seems simple enough, right? Marchisio's absence will be a big one because of how he has played this season. But if it's a 3-5-2, a midfield of Andrea Pirlo-Vidal-Paul Pogba is still enough to dominate a lot of teams. And getting Barzagli on the field is never a bad thing. That's pretty evident by how he's played since returning from that oh-so-lengthy injury layoff. He's so damn good.
2. The effectiveness of a rested Carlos Tévez.
While Juventus were celebrating their win over Inter at the San Siro over the weekend, I want to think that Carlitos was sitting at his place of residence in Turin with his feet up and some good food either already eaten or about to be. Tévez was part of the five-starter group that didn't even make the trip to Milan for Saturday's Derby d'Italia, which means he will be coming into the Coppa Italia final with plenty of rest to boot. Tévez is having an amazing season and he's obviously going to be the top priority of the Lazio defense. But whenever I think about Tévez facing an opposing team after having nearly a week's worth of rest, it's hard to imagine Carlitos not being spry and even more lively than usual. That usually ends up in Tévez doing some kind of celebration with his teammates. I personally request the robot if the situation calls for it.
3. The effectiveness of a rested Andrea Pirlo.
And while he's trying to convince he's uncertain about his starting lineup, at least Allegri has told us at his pre-match press conference about one person that will be starting tomorrow night at the Olimpico.
So we know that at the very least. And we know a couple other starters as well because that's just what our heads will tell us. (We aren't stupid around here.) But like Tévez, Pirlo wasn't even in the city limits of Milan when Juventus beat Inter over the weekend. And on the day after he turned 36 years of age, Pirlo will be back on the field attempting to win another trophy at Juventus. Pirlo has logged a lot of minutes since he made his own injury comeback, so you have to think doing absolutely nothing outside of watching his teammates beat Inter and having a glass of wine or two felt pretty good. And no matter which formation Allegri goes with, we know Pirlo will be at the center of it. We know the Rested Pirlo Theory has worked quite well in the past, so if Juve want to win Coppa Italia No. 10, it will have to enact its powers once more.
4. Juventus' fullbacks against Lazio's wingers.
It's only natural to throw this out there considering Felipe Anderson is at the end of a breakout season and Antonio Candreva is one of the top assist men in Serie A this season. On the other end of it, Patrice Evra is having a very consistent season and has proven a lot of us — /looks at self/ — wrong about how much he has left, and Stephan Lichtsteiner has continued to scream at referees every chance he gets. Between them, Felipe Anderson and Candreva have combined for 19 goals and 15 assists in Serie A this season. I'll just point out that Tévez has more goals on his own, but that's just a humble kind of brag right there, I guess. And if Felipe Anderson and Candreva are basically non-factors like they were when Juventus beat Lazio 2-0 in Turin a little over a month ago, then that scoreline could very well look the same. That's just me being optimistic, though.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Storari; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Evra; Tévez, Llorente
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