If Juventus' 1-0 loss to Udinese on the first weekend of the Serie A season was any kind of wake-up call for Max Allegri's new-look yet extremely talented squad, there will be no better chance to prove exactly that than what is happening in the Italian capital on Sunday.
Juventus got their early-season clunker out of the way in a hurry last weekend. Or, at least, that's what we all hope is the case. it wasn't as bad as some of the doom-and-gloomers say, but Juventus could have won and probably should have won simply based on the sheer volume of scoring chances they had seven days ago.
But the beautiful thing about this sport we love is that you're only able — or forced — to dwell on a meh game for so long. Juventus doesn't have just any game this weekend. Nope, it's against what many people feel like is Juve's closest competition once again this season. Sound the horns because it's Showdown Weekend, featuring Juventus and Roma.
Both clubs are coming off disappointing results in the opening week of the season. And because of that, Juventus aren't the only ones who are motivated to write the wrongs of seven days earlier. Roma continued their draw-happy ways against Hellas Verona last Saturday, which as pointed out in our Q&A with the Chiesa di Totti folks, is a worrisome sign for a club that really wants to challenge Juventus for the Scudetto this season.
But since this is a Juventus-centered place of the internet, we will keep it focused on Juventus.
Juventus had one of those games where half our photo tool here at BWRAO includes pictures where hands are on heads in utter frustration as to what just happened moments earlier. Paul Pogba was frustrated, Mario Mandzukic was frustrated, Max Allegri was frustrated, they were all frustrated with how things developed. That's pretty much what we all felt, too, so now worries there. They won't only need to be better in front of goal and no have one defensive breakdown kill them, they will need to play a much more complete game if they want any chance of beating Roma on their home turf.
Having an international break after two weeks of the recently-started season is stupid, but there's no denying that Juventus need to go into the next two weeks without games with good vibes in their heads. They don't need hands on their heads, they need hands slapping hands after goal celebrations. Juventus goals mean wins, and Juventus wins are pretty okay in my book.
Amen, Max, amen.
Draw-happy Roma proved to be the same draw-happy Roma of last season. That's pretty good news, I'd say.
No Claudio Marchisio (injured). No Sami Khedira (injured). No Kwadwo Asamoah (injured). This has been your Juventus injury update.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. How the likely Paulo Dybala-Mario Mandzukic tandem works up top.
Max Allegri doesn't have Kingsley Coman to start for a second straight week, so that sound you hear right now is that option being thrown out the window and crashing to the ground. That leaves us with two options (no offense, Simone Zaza) — Paulo Dybala and Álvaro Morata. Let's ask Max what he thinks about choosing between the young Argentine and the young Spaniard, shall we?
Okay, I guess that settles that. Or maybe Max will surprise us all and goes Dybala-Mandzukic-Morata in a wild 4-3-3 that will take the Olimpico by storm. Doesn't that sound just grand?
We figured Mandzukic would start, but Dybala hadn't been predicted to play from the opening whistle until Allegri told us so at his press conference on Saturday afternoon. This will be Dybala first official start in a Juventus shirt, and we all know how he has shown flashes of his talent thus far. Allegri unleashing Dybala could prove to be just what the offense needs to kick-start itself right into the international break. We saw what happened once he came onto the field in the Supercoppa. That game turned out pretty well, if you ask me.
2. Juventus' finishing in front of goal.
Ah, the "fun" part of last Sunday's season-opening loss. We have seen games where Juventus' attackers are as clinical as clinical gets. And we've seen games where those same players seem to basically forget how to finish their scoring chances. Against Udinese, it was pretty easy to figure out which Juventus showed up at Juventus Stadium. Having it happen every so often is somewhat easy to understand, but against a better team that won't just sit back and put 10 men behind the ball, you figure there should be a goal or two scored at the minimum.
3. Edin Dzeko and Mo Salah vs. Juventus' defense.
We know how Salah did against Juve last season when he moved from Chelsea to Fiorentina in the winter transfer window, but Dzeko is a different commodity. This will be the first time the Bosnian striker lines up against the Juventus defense otherwise known as BBC. (And yes, it's going to be a 3-5-2 because of the midfield injuries.) Dzeko will undoubtedly be at the center of Roma's attack. That's exactly why they signed him on a Beppe Marotta Special of a loan with an option to buy. He's the prima punta Roma thinks will be the difference in them closing the gap between themselves and Juventus. But playing against Juventus' Leonardo Bonucci-led defense is a little different than trying to break down Hellas Verona. That's just to be expected, folks.
4. Simone Padoin's second straight adventure as a holding midfielder.
I was prepped to write about Stefano Sturaro right here. But then Max decided to tell us this little piece of information at his pre-match press conference.
Thanks for screwing with my plans, Max. Now stop doing that so I can get these previews done quicker.
I wouldn't expect Max to come out and say "Padoin isn't a holding midfielder, but I'm forced to play him here, so back off. He wasn't great, so again, back off, people." or anything like that. I don't know if Padoin played as well as Allegri is giving him credit for, but obviously he thinks it's the best solution until Marchisio returns, so we're just going to have t olive with it. And like I said, it's not that Juve played utterly terrible against Udinese, they just couldn't find the back of the goal to save their lives. Maybe if they score a couple of goals it will mask the fact that a player who has no business being a central midfielder is playing right smack dab in the middle of Juventus[ midfield.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Pereyra, Pogba, Sturaro, Evra; Mandzukic, Dybala