When I've rolled out the match preview that involved "Round 38" the last few seasons, it has usually come with the mention of something like "We'll see you all in a couple of months. Have fun with all the transfer rumors now!" It's pretty much the official declaration that the actual season is just 24 hours from ending and the absolute silly one is just a couple of hours away from getting underway.
Except this season's Round 38 post isn't the last preview of the season. Oh no, there's still one more game to be played after the 2014-15 Serie A season comes to a close. It's not for the Coppa Italia; we've already done that. It's much, much bigger than that.
Seven days from tomorrow, Juventus will embark on their biggest game since the 2003 Champions League final. And it's no coincidence that it's against one of the teams they beat the last time they made a run into the biggest game European football has to offer. It's no offense to Hellas Verona, really. They're just the final game before that game in the grand old city of Berlin on June 6.
Juventus vs. Hellas Verona is the final game of the Serie A season. But it's not Juventus final game of the 2014-15 season. See the difference? Good, because there's an obvious difference to identify. One game is against Hellas Verona, the other is against everybody's odds-on favorite to win the Champions League this season in Barcelona. (Gee, Juventus in an underdog kind of role in the Champions League. Where have we seen that one before...?)
Juventus have gotten their Scudetto celebration out of the way last week. Same goes for winning the club's 10th Coppa Italia. So all that matters is one thing — that same Champions League final next Saturday in Berlin. Juventus' trip to the Bentegodi is the last warm-up for that final against the Spanish champions. Just one, and that's it. Finish the Serie A season and then it's nothing but a week full of "CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL! CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL! CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL!"
My gut tells me that Juve are playing relatively well right now. And here's confirmation of that.
And you know what would be a good thing heading into the Champions League final? Yeah, extending that good run of form. Nobody wants to see Juventus lay an egg with such a monumental match just a week away. Well, maybe Barcelona, but that's just a guess on my part.
This isn't the las game of Juventus' season!
But it's the last Serie A game of the season. I've kinda liked this season, too. :(
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Luca Toni vs. Carlos Tévez for the Serie A scoring title.
Outside of the fact that Juventus will be playing in the Champions League final in eight days, this is the biggest storyline heading into the Serie A finale for both teams tomorrow night. It's not very common to see two direct competitors for the Capocannoniere play against one another on the final week of the season. And while Mauro Icardi is also in the race to win the Serie A scoring crown, he plays for Inter and therefore will be disregarded. (Sorry, not sorry.) Max Allegri said at his pre-match press conference that Tévez will play on Saturday, which means he'll have the chance to pull level or leapfrog Mr. Numero Uno on the final weekend of the season. And you know what Tévez did the last time he faced Hellas Verona? Yeah, he scored a brace in Juventus' blowout win in Turin back in mid-January. If Juve keep Hellas Verona scoreless, well then Tévez has a shot to tie Toni with 21 Serie A goals at the very least.
2. Who sits, who plays?
With the Champions League final a week away and no games to be played between tomorrow's Serie A finale and a week from Saturday, I wouldn't be surprised to see Allegri field a relatively Juventus A lineup compared to the Juventus B one we've seen the last few weekends. But we also know that regardless of what Max says at his pre-match press conferences, any kind of general, nondescript comment about the starting lineup should just be translated to something like "Yeah, just wait to see the starting XI tomorrow, folks." The luxury Allegri has is that he could give somebody like Andrea Pirlo or Patrice Evra two weeks off between games. That's not exactly something every manager gets to do on a regular basis. And when you take into consideration that Barca will be playing in the Copa Del Rey final on Saturday, it's not like they have a chance to do massive squad rotation.
3. Who starts alongside Tévez in attack?
It really is a toss up at this point. Allegri could decide to stick with the Tévez-Morata partnership with the Champions League final seven days away. Or, Mad Max could decide to give the young Spaniard most of the game off at the very least to ensure that he goes into the final as rested as anybody. Some folks are thinking that it will be Fernando Llorente starting next to Tévez, others have a hunch and are predicting it will be Alessandro Matri. At this point, it doesn't really matter. If Morata plays, then that's great. If Morata rests, then we'll know exactly why. And it's not like Morata hasn't been playing well lately. Out of all the Juventus players, Morata is certainly one of the most in-form ones — especially in Europe. Maybe we could ask some of his former Real Madrid teammates to remind us about that...
4. Can everybody stay healthy.
Dear God I hope so. The last thing Juventus needs right now is somebody getting hurt. And that's on top of the waiting game we're currently playing with Andrea Barzagli and his recovery from the thigh injury he suffered against Napoli last weekend.
My starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Vidal, Marchisio, Pogba; Pereyra; Tévez, Morata