It’s funny, the timing of this match. Not because of the actual timing of the match. Last season it was on Halloween night, this time around it’s all of two weeks out from Christmas. But it has more to do the fact that Juventus was able to follow up arguably their worst performance of the season with one hell of a win against Atalanta last weekend. It follows the same kind of model as last season, with the first Derby della Mole of the season proving to be the turning point in what was previously a frustrating list of Juventus performances and results.
And what do you know, boys as girls?
Torino is next up on the schedule.
No, this season’s first Derby della Mole will be at the Stadio Olimpico rather than Juventus Stadium like 14 months ago. There is Christmas vibes in the air rather than everybody going to Juve’s website to see the Halloween photoshops and trying to figure out how to spend the last few hours of the final day of October. Those details are different, of course.
But Juventus facing Torino is what we all expect it to be — an absolute slugfest between Big Brother who has won the past five Serie A titles and Little Brother. It’s always that way no matter how each team is playing. Good form, bad form, whatever. Juventus facing Torino is usually as close as it gets where one or two moments could prove to be the difference makers.
The good thing in all of this, though? Juventus have put together two straight wins since the 3-1 suckfest against Genoa two weeks ago. This is the kind of response we wanted to see — especially the performance against Atalanta last weekend — and we’ve gotten exactly that.
We know how important this five-game stretch in December really is from both a Serie A standings standpoint and just an overall quality of play perspective. I’ve talked about in the last two weeks. And we also have relatively talented Juventus fullback Alex Sandro talking about it, too.
"Everyone in the dressing room is looking forward to taking on Torino in the derby, not to mention Roma the following week and Milan in the Super Cup final.
"We’ll need to be at our very best and play like a proper Juventus side to get the results that we want. We need no reminding of the importance of this little run of fixtures and as ever, our target can’t be anything other than three victories."
I would like to think that playing “like a proper Juventus side” was what we saw against Atalanta last weekend. And I would like to think that the players want to have that be the normal and consistent kind of level they play at going forward the rest of the calendar year and into January and February.
There is no doubting that playing a derby, especially one against Torino, provides its own unique challenges that we will only see a couple of times a season. But I’m certainly feeling a lot better about this team going into the first Derby della Mole of the year as compared to a couple of games ago. Funny how Juventus playing well will do that to somebody, huh?
In the words of Sami Khedira, “Good, very good.”
Paulo Dybala probably still isn’t fit enough to play from the start. I say probably because Max Allegri wasn’t exactly helpful in letting us know Dybala’s status like he was before the Dinamo Zagreb game.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Is Gonzalo Higuain’s goal-scoring form coming back?
I like when Gonzalo Higuain scores goals. I’m pretty sure all of you — well, at least the Juventus fans reading this — like when Gonzalo Higuain scores goals, too. It’s something that we have in common around these parts. It’s a much better than when Higuain would score goals against Juventus. Nah, that wasn’t even as close to being as enjoyable as watching Higuain celebrate a goal like it was against Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday night. It was a classic kind of Higuain goal — something that could have quickly turned into nothing suddenly becoming a 1-0 Juventus lead. That’s the kind of striker we’re all used to seeing, and that’s the kind of difference-making player that Juventus signed from Napoli over the summer. Just like the team’s performance as a whole against Atalanta, you want to see Higuain build off what he did the game before. He can carry a team when the goals start flowing, ya know, and that would be quite a good thing to get going once again.
2. Juventus’ defense vs. Andrea Belotti.
As much as we talk about Higuain being important to Juventus’ attack, Belotti might be that much more crucial when it comes to Toro’s success. At age 22, this has really been a breakout season for the former Palermo striker. And when you look at the wins Torino has racked up recently, Belotti has been in the center of it all. As much as those wins have been crucial for Torino’s rise up the table, they’ve come against teams that will either be finishing in the middle of the table or trying to not get relegated. This will be a game for Belotti to prove a point, too, considering who Torino is going up against. The Andrea Belotti vs. Daniele Rugani matchup will be fun to watch not only because they’re both two of the best young Italian players going right now, but also due to the fact that they’re going to be important pieces to the Italian national team in the coming years. As much as I like Belotti as a player, I’d be totally okay with him doing what he did in Torino’s 2-0 loss to Sampdoria last weekend — not scoring a goal.
3. Claudio Marchisio’s performance against his boyhood rival.
There is just something I love about Marchisio having a big role in the Turin derby. Oh, yeah, it has to do with the fact that he is from Turin himself and has been wearing a black and white jersey for what seems like his entire life. (And maybe because he can give his wife a hard time as well considering she grew up a Torino supporter.) If Marchisio does end up starting against Torino like a lot of us are expecting him to, it will be the first time since he came back from his big-time knee injury that he has played three games within an eight-day period of time. Allegri has been playing things safe when it comes to not rushing Marchisio back into the lineup for each and every game — something that has proven to be quite the good decision. But if this is the point where we can expect Marchisio to be in the lineup much more often than not, then I’m surely paying attention to how he handles the uptick in minutes. Not that I don’t expect him to do well because he’s just such a damn consistent performer in the center of Juventus’ midfield, but it’s not everyday that somebody comes back from as serious a knee injury like he had earlier this year.
MY STARTING LINEUP
Juventus XI (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Daniele Rugani, Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Sami Khedira, Claudio Marchisio, Mario Lemina; Miralem Pjanic; Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Mandzukic
Location: Stadio Olimpico, Turin, Italy
Kick-off time: 3 p.m. local time in Italy; 2 p.m. in England; 9 a.m. on the East Coast; 6 a.m. on the West Coast
TV: beIN SPORTS USA (United States); beIN Sports Canada (Canada); BT Sport 2 (United Kingdom); PremiumSport HD, Sky Calcio 1 (Italy)
Online: beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A., fuboTV (United States); fuboTV Canada, beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada (Canada); BT Sport Live Streaming (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia (Italy)
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