A summer of transfer rumors and then some actual transfers can be put to rest. Well, at least for one day anyway. That’s because on Saturday, in front of what has been a sold out crowd for weeks, Juventus will be making its 2016-17 Serie A season debut.
Juventus is back and my goodness it has felt like it’s been a wild three months.
Okay, that’s because it has been.
We’ve seen a couple of big-time players arrive. We’ve seen a couple of big-time players depart. In between all of it we’ve seen another busy summer go down where Juventus has added quality talent to a championship-winning squad.
The games are here now, though.
And with it comes a game that has been one of the more fiery rivalries in Serie A.
Juventus vs. Fiorentina. Bianconeri vs. Viola. The Serie A schedule makers certainly gave us a doozy to watch on the first day of the season. You want a fixture that is the clear game of the weekend, well, you’ve got it right here. It’s the five-time reigning champions against a Fiorentina side that finished in fifth place last season.
Oh, and there’s the little factor that these teams don’t like each other one bit.
It’s one league game out of 38, sure, but to avoid a start to the campaign like we saw happen last season would be so vital for a team that enters this year with so many lofty aspirations. There are big-time new players getting their feet wet at Juventus, obviously. And there’s still the fact that one of Juve’s most important players won’t be back for a couple more months.
This season, though, it’s been basically designated as the one where Juventus not only defend their spot atop the Serie A mountain that they’ve been sitting on for the last five years, but also try and make something other than the Coppa Italia be the other trophy the club wins.
So, for one day, a good start to the league would be great. To do it against Fiorentina, too? Well, that’s just something that would make it even better.
JUVENTUS BACK! JUVENTUS BACK! JUVENTUS BACK!
I think the obvious piece of bad news is that Claudio Marchisio, Juventus’ beloved No. 8, won’t be taking part in this game because of his continued rehab from knee surgery.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Will it be Dybala-Mandzukic or Dybala-Higuain up front?
Considering the fact that we had #FatGate a couple of weeks ago when Higuain made his unofficial debut against West Ham and look not very flattering in the process, my money is on Max Allegri keeping his No. 1 striker tandem from last season intact. At least for now.
There’s no denying that the Higuain-Dybala partnership is the one that Allegri will be looking to use as his main one going forward. You don’t spend €90 million on a dude just have him be a part-time starter. But, for now, Mandzukic is the established prima punta to pair with Dybala — and it’s not like Mario’s preseason form since he got back from his post-Euro 2016 vacation has told us he’s not deserving of playing time right away.
Dybala-Higuain will develop chemistry in time. Dybala-Mandzukic has that chemistry right now. So, like in a lot of sports, there’s no reason for the coach to go away from the hot hand — especially right out of the gate.
2. Can Dybala keep his preseason form going?
For the sake of keeping this relatively short, I sure as hell hope so.
Pretty much the only thing that needs to be said is this: Did you see Dybala balling out during Juventus’ handful of friendlies? Because if you did, you saw the young man showing that he’s on the cusp of taking his game to another level. And that, my friends, is a scary, scary thought for Juve’s opposition this season.
3. Will Miralem Pjanic be fit to start?
Remember how Allegri said that when Pjanic plays, it will be as a deep-lying playmaker that
Okay, well that’s four midfielders and one of them only has the ability to play behind the strikers, so....
Oh, Max, first pre-match press conference of the Serie A season and you’re up to your old lineup tricks again. What a guy this Allegri is. He loves to keep us on his toes.
Pjanic could very well start on Saturday night. Or he couldn’t, seeing as Allegri gave the old “I’ll have to check on his condition” line at the press conference. The Gazzetta doesn’t think Pjanic will play, predicting that Allegri will go 3-5-2 with Sami Khedira and Kwadwo Asamoah on either side of Mario Lemina. As you can tell, there’s no Pjanic there. Now we just have to wait and see if there’s Pjanic come the releasing of the starting lineups on Saturday night. As much as people want to see Higuain make his official debut in bianconero, the same can be said — if not more — when it comes to Pjanic as well.
4. Who starts as the (wing)backs?
When Allegri went with one of his offensive-minded backs last season, there was usually somebody to balance things out on the other side of the formation. If Alex Sandro played, there was Stephan Lichtsteiner. If there was Juan Cuadrado, Patrice Evra was on the left wing. Easy to figure out, right? There’s no Cuadrado, but there’s Dani Alves this season — which should, at least in theory, give Allegri the same kind of options when it comes to who’s teamed with who. Of course, Allegri using the 4-3-1-2 is in play a lot more than last season. But the fact still remains that when it comes to who is going to be paired up with who as fullbacks or wingbacks, the combination that worked last season is very much in play this time around.
MY STARTING LINEUP
Juventus XI (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro;Sami Khedira, Mario Lemina, Kwadwo Asamoah; Miralem Pjanic; Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic
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