For pretty much the entire existence of this website and long before that, the match preview writer's preferred starting lineup has been one of the last things you've read in each match preview. The template has rarely changed, if at all in the past couple of years. Much like when it comes to your favorite footballers, I think consistency is pretty dang important.
Today, however, we will change things up because the situation clearly calls for it. That reason will be pretty easy to figure out after the starting XI is announced. At least my starting lineup, that is.
My starting XI (4-3-3): Storari; Padoin, Barzagli, Ogbonna, De Ceglie; Pereyra, Marchisio, Sturaro; Pepe, Matri, Coman
It's nice to shake everything up every once in a while, right? Let me count how many of those 11 players above actually started against Real Madrid this past Tuesday ... That would be all of two — Marchisio and Sturaro. Squad rotation, believe in it!
Think about this: Juventus clinched the club's 33rd Scudetto last weekend with a 1-0 win over Sampdoria, so there's nothing more to play for in the league other than some pride. On top of that, Juventus has the second leg of their Champions League semifinal to be played in the middle of next week. Juventus doesn't need to win in Madrid Wednesday night, but they sure as hell know the defending European champions will be coming at them full force trying to flip the 2-1 aggregate scoreline.
Hmmm, I wonder which one has a higher priority right now...
Cagliari's visit to Juventus Stadium will be a party-like atmosphere because of what Juventus did in the Champions League a few days ago. And because of the game against Cagliari being sandwiched in between the two Champions League fixtures, the squad rotation is going to go down at incredibly noticeable levels. That's what happens when you wrap up the league before the big-time European games come your way.
.@OfficialAllegri: "I'll change things up tomorrow. It was an energy sapping game on Tuesday, so we'll give others the chance to play."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) May 8, 2015
I'll just take "we'll give others the chance to play" as a way to say "squad rotation is coming, fellas!" So while every person in the stands is celebrating the recently-won Scudetto, they can also celebrate Simone Padoin and Simone Pepe being on the field at the same time. See? Win-win situation for everybody involved.
You see what round of Serie A games it is? There's only three more rounds after this one. Then we're going to be stuck with transfer rumors for two or three months. That ... doesn't sound very exciting.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Does Paul Pogba get some minutes?
Max Allegri has called up everybody who is healthy for tomorrow evening's game against Cagliari. As stated above in two wonderful words, Pogba is one of those 26 players who have been called up. He's back training with the squad as of Thursday, and will obviously be a person to keep track of no matter how many minutes he plays on Saturday. The question is, does he actually play?
Man of Mystery Max is up to his old tricks again. So much for the "Ancelotti will play a back four? Well so will we!" type of line we saw before the first leg against Real Madrid. But if Allegri feels like Pogba is ready for some minutes against Cagliari after just a couple of training sessions, then so be it. I think Allegri is the best judge of how a player feels compared to somebody like me who is thousands of miles away from Turin. Not many folks are thinking Pogba will start, but a cameo appearance in the second half seems like a logical step if Allegri feels Pogba is able to play. And if Pogba goes out there and looks like the Pogba of old, that will definitely send off a bunch of alarms in the general vicinity of Madrid. So they've got that going for them, which is nice.
2. Alessandro Matri or Fernando Llorente?
Allegri has already announced that Carlos Tévez will be rested on Saturday, and I think it's safe to assume that the same will go for the other striker who scored against Real Madrid on Tuesday, Álvaro Morata. That means there's the three other strikers on the Juventus roster will be in contention for playing time. Some Italian outlets are suggesting Allegri will go with a 4-3-3 formation against Cagliari, therefore with a true target man will work well with two wingers hopefully sending in some crosses. Who do you pick, Matri or Llorente? The Gazzetta dello Sport says it will be Matri starting against his former club. He seems to play pretty well against Cagliari, I must say. But Allegri could choose to go with Llorente for the simple fact of keeping him fresh just in case he wants the big Spaniard to be an option off the bench against Real Madrid. Either way, I feel pretty safe in saying we won't be seeing Morata and Tévez starting against Cagliari on Saturday night.
3. Does Kingsley Coman get some serious minutes?
And here you have another benefactor of both the expected squad rotation and formation shift to accommodate it. The last time Coman played significant minutes — and I'm talking more than a late-second-half appearance — was just about a month ago in Juventus' 1-0 loss at Parma. Other than that, it's been sporadic appearances off the bench for the 18-year-old Frenchman. We're still awaiting Coman's first Serie A goal. And that one assist he has recorded this season seems like so long ago, too. I would love to see Coman go out and just straight ball simply because he's capable of it. But who knows how much the rust will be there because he just hasn't played many minutes at all over the last couple of months. (Or the entire season, to be honest.) I'm sure I'm not the only one who is looking forward to see Coman play on one of the wings in a 4-3-3 and then accelerating to get past a Cagliari defender. The kid is pretty quick, you know.
4. Which Cagliari actually shows up.
With four games left to be played, Cagliari finds itself six points behind 17th-place Atalanta and the final spot that's outside of the relegation zone. They've been through quite a roller coaster this season, debating the age-old dilemma "To Zeman, or not to Zeman, that is the question." After two different trips to Zemanlandia this season, they decided that all-offense, no-defense was the wrong way to go about things. Can they make up those necessary points in such a small number of games? The odds aren't pretty. They'll likely need some help from other teams as well. But Cagliari are likely to come to Turin with some wind in their sails after battering Parma 4-0 last weekend. And considering Juventus is probably going to turn over the vast majority of its starting lineup, they'll probably think there's a chance to crash the Juventus Stadium Scudetto party.
My starting XI (4-3-3): Oh, we already did this. Nothing to see here!
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 6 P.M. IN ITALY; HIGH NOON ON THE EAST COAST; 9 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST