In seven days, Juventus will have the only team in front of them come to Turin for what will be the game everybody has been looking forward to for weeks now. Second place hosting first place. Both teams separated by all of about two points in the table with plenty of time to go in the season even after they face one another.
It will be just the latest twist in what has been an interesting and winding ride through the season to date, right?
While we all may be hyped to show Napoli what this version of Juventus has to offer compared to the one from the first six or seven weeks of the season, there's still a little business to take care of before next weekend's battle royale at Juventus Stadium.
Juventus will be making its first trip to Frosinone since the 2006-07 season on Sunday afternoon. Back then, Juve were in an obviously unique situation that needs no more discussing. Nowadays, the two clubs are on opposite ends of the Serie A table. That wasn't necessarily the case the last time Juventus and Frosinone played one another, though. It was the pre-Halloween struggles that saw the Serie A champions want to bash our heads in thanks to frustrating result after frustrating result.
Yet here we are, in the first weekend of February, and Juventus isn't resembling that club from mid-September. Thirteen league wins in a row has allowed this second meeting with Napoli to mean that much more.
But first there's Frosinone — the team Juventus should beat and extend the winning streak to 14 games. Emphasis on should seeing as Frosinone enters the weekend with three times as many losses as wins and the worst goal differential in all of Serie A this season.
It may take another effort like against Genoa where scratching and clawing for a 1-0 win just was the only thing possible. Or Juve could just go full-on pedal to the metal and put a whoopin' on the relegation battlers. If they both mean Juve comes back home with three points, then I'm cool with either one. The last thing this club needs is to slip up a week before the biggest game Serie A has seen this season.
Frosinone have played 23 games, scored 24 goals and allowed 48 goals. Something tells me that the defense Juventus will be facing on Sunday afternoon isn't very good.
Here's who we know won't be playing against Frosinone.
- Mario Mandzukic (injured)
- Sami Khedira (injured)
- Martín Cáceres (injured)
- Kwadwo Asamoah (injured)
- Patrice Evra (sick with the flu)
- Simone Zaza (suspended)
This sucks. This really, really sucks.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Does Juventus go to a four-man defense?
When Max Allegri has talked about resting Leonardo Bonucci, it has involved talk of switching formations. That's not because he doesn't have faith in Juve's other defenders, but because it's more of a logic way to set things up. Well, with Bonucci one yellow card from one-game suspension, there's absolutely no reason to risk him in the game before Juve face Napoli next weekend. Does that mean we'll be seeing a central defense consisting of, say, Andrea Barzagli and Daniele Rugani? It seems like a definite possibility knowing how Allegri has talked about utilizing the four-man backline in Bonucci's absence. If anything, we know that there's only so much Allegri can do these days with Cáceres out for the season after his right Achilles tendon went pop. So much for all that squad depth at the back.
2. So what if Hernanes is Juventus' trequartista...
We pray, first and foremost. Then, once we're done praying for good things to happen, we can start thinking about the possibility of the former Inter man getting a rare start. I mean, I guess it could happen. After predicting a 4-3-1-2 for the better part of the last three days, the Gazzetta has gone back to a 3-5-2 with Rugani in the center of Juve's three-man backline. That would sure be an interesting look for a number of reasons, obviously one of them being that Hernanes wouldn't be in the starting lineup. But the fact that Allegri said a few weeks back that a four-man defense when Bonucci rests is likely still sticks in my mind. And with Bonucci likely to sit this one out due to his yellow card situation, I'm not going to rule out a four-man backline. That also means, no matter how good or bad it may be, not ruling out Hernanes playing from the opening whistle.
3. Can the Morata-Dybala combo click after a quiet game midweek?
Okay, so maybe expecting Morata to score two goals every game is a little too much to ask for. But with Mandzukic out until after the Napoli game at the very minimum, then the Morata-Dybala duo is one we're still going to be seeing come kickoff the next couple of weekends. That's not a bad thing by any means considering how talented the two young strikers are and what they're capable of doing. Even after a quiet game against Genoa, here's the good thing going for both Morata and Dybala — Frosinone's defense is not very good. Do the math above and it's easy to figure out that Frosinone allows over two goals a game. That should be music to the ears of Juve's attack. I know it would be if I were one of them.
4. Does anybody else get a rest with Napoli on the horizon?
If the injury list was maybe half of what it is, then this might be a more pressing matter. No Evra means Alex Sandro is starting. No Mandzukic and Zaza means Morata and Dybala must start. No Khedira and Asamoah means Allegri's options in midfield are not as fruitful as they were a couple of weeks ago when he was rotating things up in the Coppa Italia. This is unfortunately something that has been the case more often than not this season, and something that has become a major issue just when it looked like it might be getting a whole lot better. No matter what formation Allegri does end up going with, it seems as though we're going to be seeing most of the names we saw against Genoa and Chievo before that. Hey, they've won 13 straight games with injuries up and down the roster, so why not continue the trend, right?
My starting lineup
Juventus XI (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Daniele Rugani, Andrea Barzagli, Alex Sandro; Stefano Sturaro, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba; Hernanes; Álvaro Morata, Paulo Dybala
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