So, here we are. Still kinda grumpy — and maybe even more — about what went down in Germany on Wednesday night, still trying to figure out how things went from so good to so bad in such a short period of time. The Champions League exit still stings, especially the way it all happened. But, with that result now three days in the past, time has come to pay full attention to what Juve can still control this season.
The official number of Serie A games can now be counted without going into double digits. That means the backstretch of the annual marathon is just about ready to be the only thing separating Juve and a fifth straight Scudetto.
And what do you know, the first post-Bayern Munich game Juventus has is just a little matter known as the Derby della Mole against city rivals Torino. So, yeah, there's just a little bit of a reason to come back strong and not have any kind of linger thoughts from what happened on the grand European stage.
"We'll tackle the derby with the same hunger that has set us apart from the chasing pack in the last four years. On Sunday, we will need to put our pride on the shelf, start afresh and prove that we have learnt from our mistakes by putting in a strong showing at the Olimpico.
"In a way we are fortunate to have this chance to bounce back against Torino of all teams as it was the derby in October that set us off on this magnificent league run in the first place."
Those are the words of Leonardo Bonucci from a Thursday interview with Sky Italia. And, you know what? He's not wrong. He's not wrong at all.
Juventus are one loss and a Napoli win away from heading into the home stretch even with its closest competition. Obviously nobody here wants to have that happen, and that's why getting back on the horse and showing no signs of any Bavarian hangover — and, no, not the Oktoberfest kind — truly exists.
The Turin derby is always a slugfest between two clubs who play close games no matter what their respective forms are. We don't need to go back years and years to find something to support this, either. All five of the last Juventus-Torino games played in Serie A have been one-goal games. There's your reason to have a heightened sense of desire to get back on the winning trail.
Tough losses happen, but good teams respond to them in the positive kind of way. We know Juve are a good team, now it's time to see how they respond to their toughest loss of the 2015-16 season to date.
Gigi Buffon is three minutes away from setting the Serie A record for consecutive minutes without allowing a goal. That, my friends, is pretty damn impressive for a guy who has done just about everything you can as a professional footballer.
Champions League :(
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Can Álvaro Morata even come close to matching his awesome performance against Bayern Munich?
A lot of things went wrong against Bayern Munich, but easily one of the brightest of bright spots was the play of Morata, who absolutely torched the Germans' defense every chance he got. It was easily one of his best games in a Juve shirt, and with Paulo Dybala missing out on the across town to the Olimpico, then Morata will again be looked upon to both create scoring opportunities for himself and the rest of the team. Whether it's Mario Mandzukic or Simone Zaza who starts alongside him, Morata can cap a really good week with another showing like he had in Germany. With no Dybala for who knows how long, getting Morata playing some good football again would be a huge boost to Juve's Scudetto aspirations. The last thing Napoli wants to hear is that the guy stepping in for Juve's leading goal scorer is firing on all cylinders down the home stretch.
2. Can Juventus' defense prevent any kind of Ex Effect shenanigans from Ciro Immobile?
Having only picked up five points in its last six games, it's not like Torino is playing all that well right now. But in those six games, the former Juve youth product has scored four goals. They've all come via a pair of two-goal games — against Palermo on Feb. 12 and in Toro's 3-2 loss to Genoa this past weekend. Since returning to Italy, Immobile is averaging a goal every two games, which was pretty much what he did the last time he donned a Torino jersey. We know what he's said about playing Juventus in the past, and obviously letting him go to Borussia Dortmund has proven to be the right decision. But there's always something about those former players — especially strikers — when they get to face Juve for the first time in a little while. You know Immobile will have a little added pep in his step to try and do something to not only give Torino the win, but also put a dent in Juve's charge toward the Scudetto.
3. Who should start on the wings if Max Allegri goes 3-5-2?
It's one of the few times — heck, maybe even the first — we can honestly say that Allegri pretty much used every one of his options out on the wings against Bayern Munich. Alex Sandro played from the start, Patrice Evra played from the start, Stephan Lichtsteiner played from the start, Juan Cuadrado played from the start. So it's not like one will play over the other because the guy who played against Bayern is due for some rest. Of course, what formation Allegri goes with is the key to all of this. Italian media seem to think it is a 3-5-2, with Daniele Rugani stepping in just like he did last week against Sassuolo. If that's the case, then it's just the wingbacks that will need to be filled. My preference is obviously a short scroll down the page below, but what Allegri wants to do is really something we won't know for sure until the lineups are announced an hour before kickoff. Knowing that an international break is on the horizon, it will be interesting to see which direction Allegri goes with this one.
4. Who will score the last-minute winner for Juventus?
No, seriously. This is the unofficial rule that has now been put into effect whenever Juventus and Torino play one another. There will be a soul-crushing minute in stoppage time scored by a Juve player to win the game. They might have awesome hair (Andrea Pirlo, Cuadrado) or they might just be somebody we don't even suspect. That's the beauty of it all, man.
My starting lineup
Juventus XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Daniele Rugani, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli; Juan Cuadrado, Sami Khedira, Hernanes, Paul Pogba, Alex Sandro; Simone Zaza, Álvaro Morata
TV: beIN Sports, RAI International (United States, Canada); BT Sport Europe (United Kingdom); PremiumSport HD, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, Sky Calcio 1 (Italy)
Online: beIN Sports CONNECT, fuboTV (United States); beIN Sports CONNECT Canada (Canada); BT Sport Live Streaming (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia (Italy)
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