Juventus' last visit to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris should bring back warm and fuzzy memories. Anybody who thinks otherwise is either just plain forgetful or just doesn't like Juventus. Both of those are entirely possible, with the latter probably more likely than the former knowing how the calcio landscape is.
Sure, Juve wrapping up the club's 33rd Scudetto was a mere formality rather than some grand and unexpected event. Roma had been out of the picture months earlier. And the only thing that Juventus needed to do was simply keep the train rolling right along and pick up the final three points to seal the title up.
So, in case you want a refresher on what happened back on that lovely day known as the second of May, here it is. I personally enjoyed Max Allegri and his limbs flailing around as players tossed him into the air after the game.
Things are a tad different this time around. Not to say they're all bad, just different.
Obviously, the fact that the video above was at the end of the 2014-15 season is the biggest difference. A close second would be the starting lineup Allegri rolls out against Sampdoria this time around will look a lot different than the last time the two teams played. Sunday night's showdown at the Marassi will be the final game in the first half of the 2015-16 season, one that has now seen Juventus storm up the Serie A standings and get back right into the race for a historic fifth straight title.
Even with their solid standing in the top four (mainly because Roma can't help but be Roma 24/7/365), there's still plenty of work to do as the first half of the season officially comes to an end.
With Juventus playing the final game of the weekend, they will know the result of every single team that is currently in front of them. There's a chance Juve could pull even with Inter Milan, there's a chance they could be in first place Napoli doesn't pick up a win against a struggling team just like Fiorentina failed to do Saturday. Just like last time out, though, there's another chance for Juventus to pick up three points and extend the winning streak.
I'll let you all decide which is the most important thing of those above.
Fiorentina lost to Lazio. Roma drew with Milan. Good things happened hours before Juventus even showed up for Sunday night's game against Samp.
Thanks to his yellow card against Hellas Verona midweek, Claudio Marchisio will be suspended for tomorrow's trip to the Marassi. Based on how he's played this season and proven to be so incredibly valuable, yeah, that's some bad news.
And, just like against Hellas, Andrea Barzagli and Mario Mandzukic both miss out due to injury.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. What will Juventus' midfield looks like without Claudio Marchisio?
So far this season, when Claudio has played a Serie A game, Juventus hasn't lost. He's a good player. A really, really good player, actually. But with no Marchisio, it's decision time for Allegri. Just by a process of elimination, it seems as though it has come down to Stefano Sturaro or Hernanes for the open spot in midfield. I don't think it would take too long to figure out who would be the pick to fill in that spot amongst all of us. Sturaro played quite well when he filled in for Sami Khedira, while Hernanes has been, well, basically the opposite of that in his limited action so far this season. If Allegri feels like Khedira is capable of playing in Marchisio's role, then it's probably going to be Sturaro playing. But if Allegri deems Hernanes more capable of playing in front of the defense in the center of the midfield, then the Brazilian will get the start. If it's as simple as that, then there you have it, folks.
2. Can Álvaro Morata kick things into gear?
You see, it's a pun, because he's a striker and he needs to score goals.
But, as we know, things are coming easy for Morata right now. His pre-holiday break fun carried over to the 2016 opener against Hellas Verona — which thankfully didn't come back to haunt Juventus mainly because Paulo Dybala is an absolute force of nature these days. Morata is still stuck on one Serie A goal this season. it's been that way since the first weekend of October when he scored in Juve's 3-1 win over Bologna. He's obviously had chances to break his scoring drought, but nothing has come of it. Morata is the one most Italian media outlets are predicting to start ahead of Simone Zaza — the latest chance to get something going alongside Dybala. And for a player who has proven to be streaky like Morata has in his year and a half with Juventus, maybe one goal quickly turns into two and three and four and so on...
3. Can Paulo Dybala continue to be his wonderful self?
If you were to name the most enjoyable players to watch in Serie A right now, the 22-year-old Dybala is certainly toward the top of that list. Don't look now, but Dybala entered the weekend No. 5 on the league scoring charts with nine goals. Throw in his four assists — including that pearl of a free kick that set up Leonardo Bonucci's header against Hellas Verona — and he's played a pivotal role in nearly half of Juve's 31 goals this season. There are few things that Dybala isn't excelling at right now, and watching him play is quite fun these days. It doesn't matter the opponent, the quality of defense or the score in the game, Dybala is just ballin' and continuing to prove he was worth that hefty transfer fee over the summer. And against a Sampdoria defense that is one of the worst statistically in Serie A, you gotta think that Dybala's eyes are going to be quite big while thinking about what his next trick may be.
4. Fat Cassano vs. Juventus' defense.
If you watched the Derby della Lanterna earlier in the week, you probably noticed a couple of things. Antonio Cassano is rather, um, rotund these days. And yet, secondly, he absolutely balled out as Sampdoria beat Genoa 3-2 on Tuesday. That's part of the deal with Cassano — he may look like he can't even hang with a Sunday league team physically, yet you get him in a Serie A game and he still has the chance to be one of his team's most dangerous players. Cassano isn't Samp's only attacking option, but as he proved in the derby against Genoa, when things are ticking, he can still lead the line and create plenty of scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. But if Juventus' defense plays anywhere close to how well they did in the midweek return to game action, then Sampdoria's offense might be left scratching their heads just like Hellas Verona was on Wednesday.
My starting lineup
Juventus XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Daniele Rugani, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Stefano Sturaro, Sami Khedira, Paul Pogba, Alex Sandro; Paulo Dybala, Alvaro Morata
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