The international break has been a long, arduous process that forced us to live without our favorite Juventus players for the past two weeks. In case you didn’t see Argentina play a couple of games over the last 10 days, you probably missed Paulo Dybala’s wonderful smile. In case you didn’t watch Italy’s pair of World Cup qualifiers you probably missed Gigi Buffon do a little bit of both good and bad.
Juventus players played, but just not for, you guessed it, Juventus.
So, in case the international break has caused you to forget what happened a couple of Sundays ago, I present to you highlights from Juventus’ last game:
Ah, those were good times. Those were very good times. At least, when Juventus were scoring goals, those were good times. Maybe not the wasting of scoring chances before Dybala broke the deadlock, but after that pass from Alex Sandro that set everything up and the floodgates subsequently opened, those were good times.
Soon, less than 24 hours from now by the time you’re reading things, Juventus will be back on the field. No more international break to bore you to death, folks. For the second time this season we can say that an international break is over and Juventus is back to consume our lives for the next month.
Serie A rounds soon to hit double digits. The Champions League group stage hitting the midway point. Inter doing things that have us slapping our knee in laughter.
These are things that are all going to be true come the restart of Italian football. It’s been two weeks, but it always seems like so much longer because he how the international break just seems to suck the life out of all the good things we saw before the mandated Juventus absence took place.
Juventus facing Udinese is a good team vs. bad team kind of scenario. Udinese, with former Juve manager Gigi Delneri now in charge, haven’t had much success at all this season after picking up just seven points in its first seven games. And I gotta admit, seeing Udinese playing without Toto Di Natale even on the bench is going to be a little weird the first time around even though he wasn’t exactly a huge factor last season.
But you see Juventus’ place in the Serie A table, you see where Udinese is, and you can’t help but think, “Yeah, we got this one.” Cocky, sure, but when you’re playing a team that has absolutely struggled mightily this season, it’s not like you’re going to have thoughts of doom creeping into the back of your head.
Either way, Serie A is back and the schedule is about to get nuts again. Who’s ready for games every three or four days? If you’ve now got your thumbs pointing at yourself and you’re saying something like “This guy!” or “This gal!” then we’re in the same boat.
Seven big matches in the next 22 days, says Mr. Allegri. The schedule is about to get busy again. That’s no surprise, but it’s a crucial stretch that is about to begin.
International break over tomorrow. Juventus back tomorrow.
Players not called up roll call!
- Daniele Rugani (injury)
- Kwadwo Asamoah (injury)
- Marko Pjaca (injury)
- Leonardo Bonucci (rest)
- Dani Alves (rest)
Injuries are stupid, but you all know that by now.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. What kind of role does Claudio Marchisio play?
When it comes to writing one of these sections, few of these have brought a smile to my face quite like this one. Call me a Marchisio fanboy all you want — and you’re not wrong with that! — but seeing him back in the squad after six months of rehab and not being part of the early stages of this season has finally happened. Marchisio being called up for the first time this season means we’re just that much closer to seeing re-join the starting lineup and forming a midfield combination with Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira that has potential awesomeness written all over it. It doesn’t really matter how many minutes Marchisio may actually play against Udinese on Saturday night. Just the simple fact that he’s back in the squad and fully healthy is the most important thing to pay attention to now.
2. Can Juventus pick up where they left off?
Let’s see here....
Juventus is in first place. Udinese is in 16th and have won all of two games this season and just replaced their manager over the international break. If you want about as clear of a scenario where one team is the clear-cut favorite, then I’m pretty sure that this would be it. Throw in how Juventus has gone into the international break — 12 goals scored, zero goals allowed in their last four games since the Derby d’Italia loss — and there are signs that Allegri’s squad could be starting to hit a nice run of form. Of course, if Juve come out and struggle as they grind their way to a 1-0 win against Udinese, we’re going to be sitting here and looking back on what I just said in the previous sentence. But throw in Juve’s recent goal-scoring form and the fact that they’re facing a team that has given up nearly two goals a game this season and that — at least on paper — is a pretty good combination to have if you’re a Juventus supporter.
3. Does Mario Mandzukic get a start following his international break goal-scoring binge with Croatia?
When looking at what all of the Juventus players did over the international break, nobody had as good of a two-game stretch as Mandzukic. Two games, four goals and probably a few new stories to joke about with Sami Khedira and Stephan Lichtsteiner. That’s just how it goes — at least with the funny stories of the three amigos. When it comes to Mandzukic playing, it obviously is a possibility. What makes me think that? This right here, folks:
If I had to put my money on who’s playing, I’m saying Dybala simply because Higuain started both of Argentina’s games over the international break. And who’s the natural step-in for Higuain? Bingo, you guessed it. That’s something not too far fetched. And when you throw in that Dybala and Mandzukic have a pretty dang good rapport with one another, then it’s not all bad with Higuain — who is tied for the league lead in goals despite only starting four games this season — not in the lineup. So if Mandzukic does start and continues the form has suddenly found on international duty, I’m totally okay with it. As you were, Mario.
4. Will Udinese continue to be a mess under its new manager?
The international break is a logical time period to replace a manager simply because you’ve got a good amount of time to work with your new team and not have to worry about any games impeding the acclamation process. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Udinese are suddenly going to be a team that’s capable of upsetting a squad at the level of a certain Juventus. It will be interesting to see if Udinese undergo the famed newfound surge of results that every team hopes to find when they change their managers in the middle of the season. This Udinese team isn’t the one of yesteryear that not only challenged Juventus but also challenged for a European spot despite the fact that they’re spending a fraction of the money as their compatriots. Maybe it was the manager that was the reason for their sluggish start to the 2016-17 season. Or maybe it was the fact that they’re not very good. We’re about to see for ourselves.
MY STARTING LINEUP
Juventus XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Medhi Benatia, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Sami Khedira, Hernanes, Miralem Pjanic, Alex Sandro; Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala
Location: Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy
Kick-off time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy; 7:45 p.m. in England; 2:45 p.m. on the East Coast; 11:45 a.m. on the West Coast
TV: RAI International (United States); RAI International (Canada); Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, Sky Supercalcio HD (Italy); BT Sport 3 (United Kingdom)
Online: beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A. (United States); beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada (Canada); SKY Go Italia (Italy); BT Sport Extra (United Kingdom)
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