Okay, so, Juventus’ first chance to wrap up the first leg of a possible treble didn’t go so well. We knew that Juventus didn’t necessarily need to win to see a sixth straight Scudetto come back with them to Turin. Instead, Juventus lost and put off their Serie A title celebrations for at least one more game.
But we know what is necessary come Wednesday night. Team Just Don’t Lose need not apply. If Juventus wants to have the chance to win a historic treble and become more of a legendary team than they already are, then they’re going to have to do what they couldn’t do at the Stadio Olimpico just a few days earlier.
That would be win, of course.
Wednesday brings us Juventus’ second visit to Rome in the span of four days. It brings us Juventus’ chance to defend the Coppa Italia for yet another season. It brings us Juventus’ chance to hoist their first trophy of the season about four days after we had hoped that would happen. (But hey, you can’t have everything your way, right?)
Just think, though, a Coppa Italia treble that will hopefully be the first step in a 2016-17 season treble. Has a nice little ring to it.
Yes, defending sounds good — especially based on what happened in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Roma at the Olimpico. I think it’s safe to say Juventus won’t be coming away with a Coppa or seasonal treble if they play the way they did against Roma.
This is the game that Allegri was targeting when he drew up his starting lineup for the Roma showdown. As much as we might have hated to see the likes of Mario Lemina, Stefano Sturaro and Kwadwo Asamoah play in a game of that magnitude with a chance to wrap up the Scudetto, there was a plan in place put forth by the man who has guided Juve to two Champions League finals in his first three seasons at the helm.
That involved having some of his most important players rested for the Coppa Italia final.
And now we get to see if that plan comes to fruition and the decision to rest important players will pay dividends.
The potential hunt for a treble started long ago when the calendar still read 2016. To have a chance to win three trophies at this time of year means you’ve obviously taken care of business in the weeks and months leading up to the final days of the season. Juventus has not always made things easy on themselves — see the Champions League group stage or a handful of Serie A fixtures this season — but they arrive in the final three weeks of the season with plenty to play for. A nice collection of trophies, to be exact.
And you know more than just a few clubs, including many of which Juve have beaten this season on whichever one of the three fronts that they’re still currently competing on, wish they had that same thing going for them in the final weeks of their season.
Three weeks. Three possible trophies being won over the course of those three weeks. You know, there’s a saying that good things do come in threes, so let’s just go on and hope that it applies to Juventus.
Juventus has a knack for winning scudetti and the Coppa Italia lately. That makes me happy.
That last time Juventus were at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, yeah, let’s just not talk about that one again.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) Is Mario Mandzukic healthy enough to play from the start?
By the looks of things on Sunday night, Mr. No Good’s back is in not-so-good shape right now. For somebody who plays the way he does, with the endless running up and down the left wing, that’s not exactly the best kind of development heading into the final stretch of the season.
Reports say that Mandzukic will be available to play, which pretty much seems appropriate based on the “we’ll have to evaluate him later on” kind of response Allegri gave at his pre-match press conference. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by what Max said seeing as that’s pretty much what he sees whenever a player has been rumored to be an injury doubt throughout the build-up to the next game.
Is an 80 percent Mandzukic better than 100 percent of, say, Juan Cuadrado?
That’s obviously for us to talk about and Allegri to actually decide upon. Not using Mandzukic would probably change how Allegri lines things up against Lazio. Even with the options that are missing out due to injury (Sami Khedira, Marko Pjaca, etc.) and suspension (Miralem Pjanic), there’s a little bit of flexibility possible.
Gut feeling: Mandzukic will play because he’s that kind of guy. He was able to play through the back injury through most of the Roma match, and I’m just hoping that a couple of days rest will have done him some good.
2) Paulo Dybala after a weekend rest.
While he didn’t have the entire night off due to the fact that he entered as a second-half substitute, Dybala was arguably the biggest name not included in the starting lineup over the weekend against Roma.
Here’s the thing, though: Dybala, for as good as he’s been in a good portion of the games he’s played over the last few months, has scored all of one goal in his last eight appearances in all competitions since his wonderful brace against Barcelona.
Like I said, that doesn’t mean he’s been bad. If we were to look back his performances even before the two-goal game against Barcelona it would be safe to say that Dybala’s form was most certainly on an uptick. He was scoring goals, he was creating scoring chances for his teammates and basically playing like the Paulo Dybala that we’re used to.
Maybe a rest will mean Dybala has a little more pep in his step and can end that run of scoreless games that’s he’s put together as of late. And like Allegri said on Tuesday, the season is basically coming down to Lazio, Crotone and Real Madrid, so it sure would be nice for Dybala to find his scoring boots once again. (Whether they have an actual company logo alongside his new Dybala Mask insignia remains to be seen, though.)
3) Can Juventus slow down Lazio’s red-hot offense?
Before Lazio lost to Fiorentina over the weekend, their offense was absolutely on fire. Their previous three Serie A wins before the 3-2 loss to La Viola at the Franchi are as follows:
- 7-3 win over Sampdoria
- 3-1 win over Roma
- 6-2 win over Palermo
In case you don’t feel like doing the quick math, Lazio has scored 19 goals in its last four games. Albeit two of those games came against a team that has been relegated and one that is sitting mid-table without much to play for these days. However, the win over Roma by the same scoreline that Juventus lost to the Giallorossi over the weekend is quite a solid late-season feather in their cap. Yes, even if they lost
Lazio don’t have a shot at the Champions League but have the Europa League in their future with a fourth-place finish looking quite likely barring any kind of faceplanting over the final two weeks of the season.
And lord knows they’re coming in probably playing as well offensively as they have all season. So no matter what defensive alignment Allegri decides to go with, they’re going to be facing quite a red-hot team coming the other way.
MY STARTING LINEUP
Juventus XI (3-4-2-1): Neto; Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Dani Alves, Tomas Rincon, Claudio Marchisio, Alex Sandro; Juan Cuadrado, Paulo Dybala; Gonzalo Higuain
Location: Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy
Kick-off time: 9 p.m. local time in Italy; 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 3 p.m. on the East Coast; high noon on the West Coast
TV: GOLTV USA, GOLTV Español (United States); Sky Sports 4/HD UK (United Kingdom); RAI Uno, RAI Sport 1 (Italy)
Online/Mobile: fuboTV (United States); SKY GO Extra, Sky Go UK (United Kingdom)
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