Within the next five or six weeks, the only team Juventus will be seeing more than Bayern Munich will be that of their arch-rivals, Inter Milan. While there's second Serie A matchup still to play, we get the added bonus of two added Derby d'Italia showdowns because of both teams progressing to the semifinals of the Coppa Italia. Weird schedule quirks take pace, and that's just what you have to deal with when you continue to advance in the annual domestic tournament Italy offers up.
Ah, how exciting, right?
It depends on how you look at it.
Juventus is still competing on three fronts. The chance to defend the Coppa Italia is still out there. And while there's those two titanic legs in the Champions League Round of 16 against Bayern Munch still out there waiting for us next month, there's the little task of trying to get the upper hand against Inter first and foremost.
And all of this is going while Juve is trying to overtake Napoli in the Serie A standings. Luckily the gap between the two teams is only two points, with a head-to-head meeting still lying there in waiting.
But come Wednesday night, the focus is on the Coppa Italia semifinals and the first leg against Inter. That's the way it should be. Max Allegri wants to take things one game at a time, and the current game has the Coppa Italia flavor to it.
Who knows if that means plenty of squad rotation compared to other games. This is the first leg of the semifinals, after all. Allegri didn't overhaul the starting lineup at this point of the competition last season, so maybe the same kind of deal applies to this year as well.
.@OfficialAllegri: "We'll take things game by game, thinking about what needs to be achieved as opposed to what's already been done."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) January 26, 2016
Eyes forward with a focus on the present compared to the past. Max has the perfect kind of mindset for this time of the season when the games are coming at us in quick fashion. Now, there's just the part that involves going out there and beating Inter again. That sure is fun, I might add.
Sold out Juventus Stadium against Inter with Juve coming off a good win over the weekend. Let there be noise — and a lot of it, too.
Max Allegri has ruled out Sami Khedira for the first leg, while Simone Zaza is suspended after picking up yet another yellow card against Lazio last round.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Could Max Allegri not just rotate the squad, but shift formations?
I bring this up because Allegri mentioned it at his pre-match press conference. First, the quote itself:
.@OfficialAllegri: "When I rest @bonucci_leo19 I could play @andreabarzagli2 at the heart of defence, or we could switch to a back four."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) January 26, 2016
I guess it makes sense seeing as Juve don't really have a true vice-Bonucci like they have had on the roster in seasons past. And if you were to choose one of the next two games to potentially rest Bonucci, would it be against your arch-rival in Inter or over the weekend against mid-table Chievo? I think I know which one I would pick, but I'm obviously not named Max Allegri and managing Juventus. So that's the decision Allegri has to make entering tonight's first leg against Inter. Having fielded a relatively strong starting XI last round against Lazio, I would think the same would be the case on Wednesday night knowing that if Juve get a lead then advancement would become that much more of an easier task come the second leg in six weeks. We'll just have to wait and see what happens. Maybe Max has some surprises in store for all of us!
2. What Juventus' midfield looks like — no matter what the formation will be.
We know Khedira won't be taking part, which probably means Stefano Sturaro will start in his place because he's the natural replacement there. But it's almost the same kind of situation as above — Allegri can either do some rotating against Inter or over the weekend at Chievo. With just about every center mid available to him not named Mario Lemina, the possibility of a brand new three in the middle of the park is possible. Do I think it will happen? Maybe. Allegri talked up using Hernanes in the place of Claudio Marchisio, which may irk a good number of people here. I wouldn't be opposed to seeing Kwadwo Asamoah get some more run after his really good showing against Udinese a couple of weeks ago. But for the first time in a decent amount of time, Allegri actually has options. Seriously, he does.
3. Who starts up front with Zaza suspended?
If Zaza were available, it would be simple. But he's not, so now we have a little more of a reason to think about it. Álvaro Morata is playing because he has been rotating in Coppa Italia games this season no matter what kind of form he's in. That leaves Allegri picking one from Juve's No. 1 striker partnership, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic, as the second starting forward. It seems as though we've been talking about the potential of a Morata-Dybala partnership all season, but with the young Spaniard struggling to get into any kind of form this season, there have actually been very few chances to see that pairing happen. Maybe Allegri has in mind the idea to start Mandzukic and then play Zaza over the weekend against Chievo. Or maybe I am just trying to do my best Max Allegri imitation without screaming "DAI DAI DAI!!!" and throwing my suit jacket around on the sidelines.
4. Which Inter squad will show up in Turin?
There seems to be two very simple options to answer the question with.
- The one that eliminated Napoli in the Round of 16. Or...
- The one that has claimed only five points in its last five Serie A games.
Those are two very different teams, especially when you consider how well Napoli have been playing as of late. Inter's main problem is obviously not winning consistently these days. But also, when you try and look what's gone into it, you can see that during this stretch where they've fallen behind Juve in the Serie A standings, they have score either one or no goals. Outside of the Coppa win over Napoli, they haven't been playing top-of-the-table opponents, either. They've played out back-to-back draws against Atalanta and Carpi, who currently sit 13th and 18th, respectively. Yet in between there was their 2-0 win over Napoli, something that shows us we can't totally sleep on them. And it's a derby, which usually means we can disregard form at least a little bit because it's going to be so damn intense no matter what.
My starting lineup
Juventus XI (3-5-2): Neto; Daniele Rugani, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Juan Cuadrado, Stefano Sturaro, Claudio Marchisio, Kwadwo Asamoah, Alex Sandro; Paulo Dybala, Alvaro Morata
TV: Sky Sports 2/HD (United Kingdom)
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