Just a few short weeks remain before everybody's anticipated Scudetto showdown between Juventus and Napoli. They're already talking about it considering how the two teams are starting to distance themselves from the rest of the pack atop the Serie A standings. It won't singlehandedly decide who takes home the Scudetto this season, but it's oh so incredibly important when it comes to Juve hopping over one last team.
Juventus has two games to go before that big, big showdown against the only team that is still ahead of them in the standings. One of those comes at the same place that Napoli will be traveling to a couple of Saturdays from now.
Genoa vs. Juventus in Turin does pit in-form against meh form. Here, in this very drawing by one of Italy's top sports cartoonists, we have a visual representation of how Juventus is playing right now.
JUVENTUS pic.twitter.com/gVdgmHE5Rr— VALERIO MARINI (@MariniCartoons) February 1, 2016
Yep, that'll do.
And that's what we want them to keep doing.
I can sit here and talk about how important it is that Juve keep winning heading into their showdown with Napoli. I can also sit here and talk about how important it is that Juve keep winning with clubs that aren't playing so well coming up on the schedule during this current stretch. Both of those are true, and both of those don't exactly need a whole lot of elaboration attached to them because they're so obvious.
But what I can tell you is that with Juventus' winning streak getting extended in convincing fashion over the weekend at the Bentegodi against Chievo, they've continued to do the only thing we can continue to ask of them. They not only kept winning, of course, but continued to put the pressure on Napoli as the number of games before that game gets smaller and smaller.
They got a brief spell of being atop the table once again. And, if they keep winning, that time will be just that much more lengthy. That's what all of this is all about, really. Getting consecutive win No. 13 might be lucky, it might be completely dominant, I dunno. But it will be what they need to do, and what they've done in every game for the better part of the last three-plus months.
Last time I checked, Juventus hadn't lost a Serie A game since Halloween. I'd say that's some relatively good news considering the calendar has now flipped over to February.
Suddenly the injury list includes important people — which is not what you want to hear when you know that not only Napoli, but also Bayern Munich are looming on the schedule in a couple of weeks.
- Kwadwo Asamoah
- Mario Mandzukic
- Sami Khedira
Stupid, stupid injuries. I've never liked them, never will.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Genoa isn't very good. Does that mean squad rotation is happening?
Considering how the schedule is stacked up right now and who Juventus play both later this month and beyond, giving rest to important players would probably be a good idea. So let's see what Max Allegri said when asked about doing a little squad roation agains Genoa, who currently sit just two spots outside of the bottom three.
The man has a point. And, as usual, he played things rather cooly when asked about any kind of changes to the starting lineup because that's just how things are. Giorgio Chiellini hasn't been called up for Wednesday's game, which seems to be more about rest than an actual injury considering we haven't heard about one. That means there will be at least one change in the starting lineup we saw against Chievo, and there will almost certainly be a Stefano Sturaro sighting now that Allegri is without Khedira for the next three weeks. I am anticipating changes because it seems logical, but sometimes logic can't always be applied to things that make total sense at first thought.
2. Stefano Sturaro's impact.
And here is where we discuss Sturaro, the man who will almost certainly be stepping in for the injured Khedira both on Wednesday night and for the next three weeks at the very least. Sturaro played well in Khedira's spot the last time the German midfielder was out due to injury, and it's not like he hasn't shown up in big games in the past.
I've got no worries with Stefano Sturaro stepping in for the big games. No worries at all. pic.twitter.com/PeSpgY5Ccc— Wave Chappelle (@ayyy_west) February 2, 2016
Sturaro will obviously bring a little more steel to Juve's midfield compared to Khedira. That's his game. He's not going to finesse you to death like others are capable of. He's not going to make you get up out of your seat every couple of minutes like Paul Pogba does on what seems like an every-game basis these days. But Sturaro will press the living hell out of the opponent and do what needs to be done. He's proven that in the past and with Khedira out until at least the Napoli showdown, that's what Allegri will be looking for the young Italian midfielder to keep on doing.
3. Álvaro Morata's impact.
How do you show people that you're ready to carry the goal-scoring load while stepping in for an in-form Mandzukic? Just go out and score your second brace within the last five days. It certainly was one heck of a way for Morata, who hadn't scored in 20 games before his brace against Inter seven days ago, So, until Morata doesn't score a goal (or two) in a game, the question to ask is a simple one: Can the guy keep this sudden really good run of form going? I guess the good sign is that his goals have come in different kinds of ways, which means not only he getting chances to score goals, but he's taking advantage of them. Both of his goals against Chievo were classic poacher goals as he just found a pocket of space to hang out in and then jumped all over the pass from a teammate. His goals against Inter were much prettier, too. Basically, Morata is starting to resemble the Morata of old. Which, by the way, isn't that old seeing as it only happened about 12 months ago, but you know what I mean.
4. Simone Zaza's impact.
Remember all those transfer rumors at the beginning of the month that said Zaza was going to leave Juve because he wanted more playing time? Well, look who's still here with the transfer window closed. Yes, it's Simone Zaza. And with Mandzukic out injured until the end of the month, there will be some chances for the 24-year-old Italian to get onto the field. When it comes to Zaza starting tomorrow, Allegri said this: "(Zaza) could start tomorrow, I still haven't decided." That, obviously, is a very Allegri kind of answer. But like I said above, there are places on the field where rotation makes sense, and resting Paulo Dybala makes a lot of sense seeing as how often he's played in the new year. Plus, with the way he has scored when given the opportunity this season, you know he's going to try and keep that going. As long as he doesn't try too hard and does something stupid like nearly get sent off a couple of times within a five-minute span.
My starting lineup
Juventus XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Martin Cáceres; Juan Cuadrado, Stefano Sturaro, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba, Patrice Evra; Simone Zaza, Álvaro Morata
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