Guess what, you guys? Juventus are done with games at the San Paolo this season! Based on how the last, oh, week has gone, isn’t that great? I have a feeling Juventus players are ready for a little bit of time to relax at home, maybe unwind a little bit before ramping things up before Barcelona rolls into town next week.
In reality, Juventus players will get part of that this weekend, at least.
Juve returns to Turin after back-to-back game days in southern Italy. They’re done with Napoli, done with the San Paolo until the 2017-18 season. There you go. Instead of facing the highest-scoring teams twice within the span of four days, Juventus now gets to face a Chievo side that sits comfortably in the middle of the table but has fallen on rather sluggish form over the last month’s worth of games.
What does this all mean?
Well, no more talk about Napoli, for one.
Secondly, we’ve now reached the point in the schedule where we’re talking about the game before the BIG GAME. And yes, playing Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals vastly outweighs hosting Chievo at Juventus Stadium on a random April evening. (No offense, Chievo, but it’s true.) It’s just a matter of days before Leo Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar and his latest hairstyle plus the rest of Barca’s crew roll into Turin to play the first leg of their heavyweight quarterfinal matchup. That’s going to be on everybody’s mind this weekend if it isn’t already.
This means there will (probably) be squad rotation. There could very well be a lot of it depending on who is available to play. There could also be the fact that Juventus totally overlooks Chievo, conserves its energy for Tuesday night’s showdown in Turin and I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed. Not to say I want Juventus to go out, lay an egg and subsequently lose to a team that even a lineup full of backups should probably beat. But we all know what the priority is even with Juve’s lead atop the Serie A table now standing at just six points after last weekend’s draw against Napoli.
Or maybe we can just roll with what Max Allegri told us during his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon.
Oh, Max. We both know that’s going to be impossible to do. At least from my point of view it will be impossible. How can you not think about Barcelona when preparing for Chievo, you know? The starting lineup that will be used will likely be with the Barcelona game in mind, so there’s no way to not think about who you’re playing in the Champions League a couple of days from now.
No matter who plays, Juventus’ goal needs to be the same as Allegri said it is — win and continue to work their way to the 93-point total Juve’s third-year manager says will win the Scudetto. That sounds like a pretty good end game. Well, that and doing even better in the Champions League than they currently are. And if that means squad rotation against Chievo, then that’s what should happen.
Juventus is good at home. Very, very good at home.
Juventus have won their past 31 home matches in Serie A.
Yep, I’d say that’s rather good.
Marko Pjaca is injured. Mario Mandzukic is probably injured this weekend, too. That means Allegri’s options to rotate up front are quite limited. Who’s up for another round of Stefano Sturaro playing as a left winger? (I’ll expect the crickets to arrive.)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) Just how much squad rotation will Allegri go with?
We know there will be squad rotation. It’s just like the question says, though — how much will actually take place is what we’re all wondering. There are logical steps and players that you know shouldn’t be risked with such an important game waiting off in the horizon. But you know that with the injury situation being what it is, Allegri might not be able to give some of those players a rest.
That’s why the starting lineup will be an interesting one, to say the least. Not just because there could be a few midfielders or defenders playing out of position — more on that if you scroll down this here preview to the third talking point — but the lack of depth in certain spots may cause Allegri to not rest somebody like a Paulo Dybala or Gonzalo Higuain, for example.
Allegri didn’t give any hints as to what direction he will be going when it comes to his lineup. Usually there’s at least some kind of comment — be it the truth or just Max trying to make us think something completely different than what he’s going to actually do. But this time, not much of anything. The only lineup-related topic Allegri brought up was the possibility of Dybala potentially playing as a center forward rather than as a trequartista behind Higuain, which something that we’re going to be talking about....
2) Where does Paulo Dybala play?
It’s been a good amount of time since we saw Dybala playing somewhere other than as a trequartista in supporting of his fellow Argentine Higuain. The results have obviously been differing depending on what game you’re looking at. Some games Dybala has been on fire and playing like the player we know he can be, while other games he’s struggled to really get things going into gear and has struggled for the majority of the time.
His role will obviously be different if he plays up to of the 4-2-3-1 formation. There’s no denying that. And maybe that will be the kind of thing he needs to kick-start his goal-scoring form once again. it would certainly be interesting to see him playing in a more advanced role knowing how deadly he can be when he’s in front of goal and working his magic against an opposing defense. And if it just so happens that Miralem Pjanic is playing behind him as a trequartista, then the interplay between the two would definitely be something that has a lot of potential that comes along with it.
So, as we wait to see what the starting lineup will be, I guess we also need to see if Allegri’s suggestion that Dybala could lead Juve’s attack against Chievo actually comes to fruition. Not that you weren’t going to pay attention to the starting lineup before all of this. It’s one of those games where the intrigue in squad rotation makes things just that much more interesting.
3) Who the heck are going to be the wingers?
With no Pjaca and no Mandzukic, the only natural winger Juventus has on its squad for Chievo’s visit to Juventus Stadium. (I know Mandzukic isn’t a natural winger, either, but look at where he’s played the last three or so months. Just go with me on this one, people.) That means it’s almost a stone cold lock that if it’s a 4-2-3-1 formation being used by Mr. Allegri on Saturday — which there hasn’t been anything to tell us otherwise — then there’s going to be some makeshift wingers playing out wide. And to what kind of effectiveness, nobody knows.
That means somebody like Stefano Sturaro could be a winger. That means somebody like Dani Alves could be a winger. That means somebody like Chuks could be a winger. (Okay, maybe not the last one.)
But the problem with having injuries up front is that it either prevents Allegri from rotating his squad as much as he wants or it forces him to play players out of position. And since the latter seems a lot more likely than the former since Max wants to stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation, then I guess we need to prepare ourselves for the quite realistic potential of Sturaro starting as a left winger against Chievo. Or maybe it won’t be. Who knows.
MY STARTING LINEUP
Juventus XI (4-3-3): Gianluigi Buffon; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Daniele Rugani, Leonardo Bonucci, Kwadwo Asamoah; Sami Khedira, Tomas Rincon, Mario Lemina; Dani Alves, Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado
Location: Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy
Kick-off time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:45 p.m. on the East Coast; 11:45 a.m. on the West Coast
TV: RAI International (United States); RAI International (Canada); BT Sport ESPN (United Kingdom); Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, Sky Calcio 1, Sky Supercalcio HD, PremiumSport HD (Italy)
Online: fuboTV, beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A. (United States); beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada (Canada); BT Sport Live Streaming (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia (Italy)
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