After nearly a week worth of hype and pumping all of our respective physiques, Juventus were the ones who emerged from the No. 1 vs. No. 2 Serie A showdown against Napoli with their winning streak still intact. The reward was to become the new team that sets the pace in Italy's top flight, the new team that is now the one being hunted rather than the one trying to chase down the leader.
That is something that Juventus, as a club, is used to by now. It's been that way a good portion of the time over the last four years. Maybe not for this Juventus seeing as there are so many different pieces compared to years prior. There's still the fact that this team has only been in first place for about four or five days now.
This is what relatively popular and influential Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio had to say about his team now being the new leaders atop the Serie A table and the responsibility that comes along with it.
"This year we got a lot of new players, who — as I said before — have been growing every month and even the knew players know that we mustn't give up until the end. That's because the only way to get trophies and real results is to believe until the end. A psychological impact? There definitely was in the 48 hours following the match. The euphoria and enthusiasm of the fans was definitely shared by the team. It has to stop there though, because on Friday we have an important and difficult match [with Bologna] as will Napoli."
(Source: Football Italia)
Juventus is now in first place thanks to their 1-0 win over Napoli this past Saturday. The task now is a simple one in theory — and that involves staying in first place. Juve won't be facing a sure thing of a relegation battler or another top-of-the-table squad that will be trying to catch them before it's too late. Instead, it's going to be 10th place against, wait for it, first place in some Friday night football at the Dell'Ara.
First place. I can get used to that again.
Yeah, I can definitely get used to that again.
Of course, the goal is to make the stay as Serie A's first-place team go for much longer than just a week or two.
As much as it was about getting as many points as possible to get closer and closer to the top three and then to Napoli atop the table, it's the same kind of deal now that the script is flipped a bit and Juve are the ones being chased. Then again, you're all smart and could easily figure that part of the equation out.
Because when you get to the top of the table, why on earth would you want it to be any different? I feel like we all know the answer to that one.
.@OfficialAllegri: "We're duty bound to come away with three points tomorrow. Napoli won't give us an inch and we need to stay out in front"— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) February 18, 2016
General Max Allegri has spoken, people. There you have it.
Juventus' last 15 games look like this: W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W.
That's pretty. That's really, really pretty.
In case you're sick and want to be reminded of how many folks won't be playing against Bologna (and maybe Bayern Munich, too, depending on who it is), here all of the injured players who won't be making the trip to the Dall'Ala:
- Kwadwo Asamoah
- Mario Mandzukic
- Alex Sandro
- Martin Cáceres
- Giorgio Chiellini
lol so many injuries
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Who gets rest ahead of Bayern Munich?
It's hard to say because there are soooooo many injuries up and down the roster. That squad depth we were boasting about what seems like just a couple of weeks ago is now kaput. We know Sami Khedira won't be in the starting lineup since he didn't even make the trip to Bologna, and Allegri hinted at his pre-match press conference that Paulo Dybala might be getting some much-deserved rest seeing as he's been playing a ton of minutes lately. Resting Khedira ahead of Bayern makes sense, same goes for giving Dybala a break before the next biggest game of the season.
Other than that, do me a favor a look around the field and then ask yourself a simple question: Is there the actual chance for Allegri to rest somebody? Nah, I don't think so. That is unless you want Simone Padoin to play from the opening whistle and actually have an impact on a game, that is, so yeah.
2. Does Allegri go 4-4-2 or release Roberto Pereyra as a trequartista?
To answer my own question: I dunno.
While scouring the internet for predicted lineups like I do just about every day or two before a Juventus match, I've seen plenty of different options coming out of the Italian press. A little 4-4-2 here, a little 4-3-1-2 there. Some if it has to do with the players available to Allegri, and some of it seems to center around how game-ready the second-year Juve manager feels Pereyra truly is. I understand that Allegri doesn't want to simply just throw Pereyra back into the fire and risk a flare up of his injury that kept him out for months on end. In the handful of games that Pereyra has been back in the match day squad, he's played a grand total of about 25 minutes — all of which came in Juve's 2-0 win over Frosinone two weeks ago.
I guess I'd side toward "useful option from the bench" at this point because that's my gut feeling. That might not be what I think should happen — see the below — but that quote just tells me that Pereyra starting might be something that is a little bit longer away.
3. The Revenge of Giaccherinho.
Okay, maybe not "revenge" seeing as Giaccherini didn't leave Juventus on bad terms at all. But when you look at one of the biggest contributors during Bologna's resurgence under Roberto Donadoni's watch, it's pretty easy to say that Giaccherini is up there toward to the top. Four of his six goals this season have come in the last eight games. And it's not like those goals have come against terrible teams, either. First it was Milan, then Lazio, then Sassuolo and finally Fiorentina a couple of weeks ago. Pretty decent group of teams, right? Seems to me like Mr. Giaccherini has hit a pretty good run of form — which I'll never be mad at him for unless he scores a goal against Juventus.
Although, if it's a 1-on-1 battle between Giaccherini and Andrea Barzagli, I'm pretty sure who I'm taking. No offense, little fella, but Barza gonna Barza.
My starting lineup
Juventus XI (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Daniele Rugani, Leonardo Bonucci, Patrice Evra; Stefano Sturaro, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba; Roberto Pereyra; Simone Zaza, Paulo Dybala
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