Through two weeks, the Serie A table looks kind of ... not what we expected it to look like. Glance down at who is in first place, who is in second place and then who is sitting in 17th. That's what you can unpredictable. There are also probably a few more words we all want to use to describe this, but we can keep those to ourselves for now.
See? That's not what we were expecting.
Round 3 of the 2015-16 Serie A season sees the team that absolutely nobody expected to be atop the league table after two rounds face the team that absolutely everybody expected to be atop the league table, not sitting all of one point above the drop zone. Sometimes the narrative just writes itself. (Hey, do some work, you lazy journalist!)
Juventus' opening two rounds didn't go as anybody hoped they would. Well, those of us who root for Juventus, that is. I'm sure the rest of Serie A is loving the fact that Juve are where they are through the first two rounds of the season. "Ha, those jerks have been in first place for so long they're getting a taste of their own medicine!" is what some might say. Or they're thinking something completely non-family-friendly entirely.
It's also a pretty darn beginning to post-international break play for Chievo, who face Inter, Torino and Sassuolo before the Derby della Scala against Hellas Verona on Oct. 3.
But this is a Juventus blog so we will focus on the team we always focus on.
With how many new pieces to the puzzle there are, it wasn't going to immediately click for Max Allegri and his squad. But, at the same time, it's not like all those new parts were playing in Juve's first two games this season. Yes, we saw Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala, we got a debut from Juan Cuadrado, but we also had SImone Padoin playing in the center of the midfield and a good amount of injuries that caused PadoMania to happen in the first place.
Let's just hope all of that was sooooo two weeks ago.
Saturday brings us just your average day when first place meets 17th place. Except we pretty much didn't expect first place to be in first place, or 17th place to be in 17th place. So maybe not so average. Ah, Serie A, you never disappoint with your uniqueness and unpredictability.
Federico Mattiello is part of Chievo's traveling squad to face Juventus. This is not just good news, this is great news considering the kind of injury he suffered earlier in the year. Welcome (almost fully) back, kid.
JUVENTUS IS IN 17TH PLACE AFTER TWO GAMES PANIC.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. How Juventus come out of the international break.
We know how Juve went into the international break — stumbling in their first two games of the season and going 0 for 6 when it comes to claiming points available. No, two games won't dictate how the entire season will go, but it's not like Allegri's squad wowed us against Udinese or Roma. So what are they going to look like two weeks after their craptastic showing at the Stadio Olimpico? That's the million dollar question, boys and girls. What we do know is this Juventus squad is going to look a little different than the one that played Roma. Alex Sandro is going to get his first Juve start with Patrice Evra being suspended. Hernanes is also expected to make his Juventus debut after signing with the club on deadline day. Does that mean a switch to Allegri's favorite 4-3-1-2 formation turn the tide on Juventus' early-season success? For the sake of change, I sure hope so.
2. Alex Sandro's impact.
Slowly working in a new signing isn't a foreign concept since Allegri took over as Juventus manager. But with Evra being shown red against Roma, Juventus' €26 million man is going to be getting his first start at the club no matter what. We know all the qualities that Alex Sandro possesses — he can run like hell, he can cross, he can continue to develop into one heck of a left back and make us all forget about how much Juve spent on him. The perfect scenario would be to see Alex Sandro flying up and down the left wing sending in picture-perfect crosses and just living up to the lofty billing he arrives from Porto with. The best thing is that he's been able to stay in Turin during the international break and work with Allegri and his new teammates. (Well, the ones not away on international duty, that is.) That will certainly help him settle in even if he isn't completely set within Juventus' squad.
3. Claudio Marchisio's impact.
Can I just say that I've missed you, Claudio? Because I really have missed you.
With all due respect to Padoin and the effort he put in to try and fill Marchisio's shoes, the quality in Juventus' midfield has just gone up quite a lot. Like, a welcome change, for one. Now that Marchisio is back in the starting lineup — something that Allegri was happy to let us know about during his pre-match press conference on Friday — Juventus' midfield will begin to look whole again. That's because Marchisio will be in the center of it all and playing in a position where he was better than Andrea Pirlo last season. And you know what will stop all of the talk of "Can Juventus replace Andrea Pirlo in the center of it's midfield?" that match announcers have been trotting out the first two weeks of the season? The man who is playing the same position bringing the kind of stability and class to the position that he did a season ago.
4. Can Paul Pogba look like Paul Pogba again?
The last time we saw Pogba in a Juventus jersey he was maybe as visibly frustrated on the field as we've ever seen him. He was yelling at himself, he was yelling at teammates, he was obviously feeling the heat with his team struggling to do much of anything at all. But the return of Marchisio obviously means that Pogba won't have to feel the brunt of the responsibility in Juventus' midfield, and hopefully free Pogba up to do more Pogba things that we're used to. I mean, there's no doubting that Pogba will be under pressure regardless of who is playing next to him in midfield — he's wearing the No. 10 now, he's arguably the best young player in the world. But that's the norm for Pogba now. And the hope is now that he does a little less screaming at his teammates and a little more sending of screaming shots into the back of the net.
My starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Barzagli, Alex Sandro; Sturaro, Marchisio, Pogba; Hernanes; Dybala, Morata