The last time Lazio played a team from Turin with black and white stripes on their jerseys, we saw Juventus capture a trophy. That’s pretty fitting based on what is about to happen, you know. Come this weekend, Juventus and Lazio will, again, play for a trophy. Whether Juventus will be wearing their new threads with black and white stripes or debut one of their other kits for the 2017-18 season on Italian soil is something we won’t know until they take the field at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
But, after four friendlies and some quality miles logged over the past couple of weeks, Juventus are ready to play for a trophy.
It’s not one of the big trophies that will be handed out come the end of the season.
Instead, it’s the annual Supercoppa. And there’s no need to travel halfway across the world or delay it until December because the Italian federation is, well, the Italian federation.
The last time we saw Juventus play for a trophy it didn’t end so well. The first half was good. The second half had us wanting to throw things and probably shed a couple thousand tears all at the same time. A lot has changed since that night in Cardiff and we don’t need to rehash everything that happened on the first Saturday of June. And we all know a lot has changed since then. Juventus will have a different tandem in the center of their defense. They are going to have a different player starting at right back. There could very well be both of Juve’s new wingers making their first competitive appearance in a Juventus jersey.
But this is the first chance for Max Allegri and Co. to show that the up-and-down inconsistencies of the International Champions Cup and the 2-0 loss to Tottenham are a thing of the past.
The Super Cup won’t be the be-all, end-all of the 2017-18 season. There’s 38 league games, hopefully somewhere around 15 European fixtures and another run in the Coppa Italia.
It’s first things first, though. And that is Juventus playing against Lazio with another trophy at stake.
“I have to say that at the start of this season, I’m feeling a strange sense of euphoria and happiness. That’s probably down to that ‘wild streak’ if you like, that has always been a part of my character and has taken me to where I am now.
"Tomorrow’s is a hugely important match for us and for everyone associated with Juventus. I want to keep tasting these types of emotions — that won’t last forever — in the best way possible.”
Those are the words of a certain Gianluigi Buffon. He’s Juventus’ captain, in case you forgot. If Buffon is raring to go, then so should we. It’s always fun to see Buffon hoist a trophy above his head — and the first of those opportunities comes on Sunday night in the Italian capital.
JUVENTUS BACK JUVENTUS BACK
I don’t really know. Federico Bernardeschi is in the squad. Wojciech Szczesny, who has been battling an ankle injury ever since the beginning of the United States tour, is in the squad. Juan Cuadrado, who was rumored to be injured is in the squad. We’ll see if the two wingers actually play, we hope Woj doesn’t have to play, so it could be an interesting night in the squad selection department for Mad Max.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) Which side of Juventus’ defense are we going to see?
The preseason friendlies have been quite interesting for Juve’s defense. They looked decent at times, while at other points looked like an absolute hot mess. It didn’t matter who was playing, really. Neymar made them look foolish on two occasions. PSG had its own round of success against Juve. Same goes for Roma. And it’s not like they were overly impressive against Spurs.
Basically, if you are in the line of “Juventus’ defense is going to take a step back without Leonardo Bonucci,” you haven’t been proven wrong just yet.
Again, though, those are games where you’d kinda expect things to be not all that perfect. They were games going on in late-July and early-August, after all. If you’re not looking all that great, then it’s basically a totally understandable situation.
With that being said, we don’t know when Juve’s defense will settle into a groove and basically shed the narrative that they are going to not look the same without Bonucci back there. Sunday night could be the start of 10 straight shutouts and a blistering start to the 2017-18 season, we don’t know. But the returns in the four preseason friendlies haven’t been all that great, and that’s not exactly a good and warm feeling heading into a Supercoppa matchup against a team that has some pretty good attacking options. That’s even without Keita Balde being held out of the Lazio squad for whatever reason they decided to tell us.
2) Can Paulo Dybala continue his ownage of Lazio going?
In case you’ve been completely away from technology over the past couple of days are have just chosen to ignore every bit of Juventus news until it’s Sept. 1 and the transfer window is closed, then there’s been a bit of a development when it comes to squad numbers. Juventus has a new No. 10. His name is Paulo Dybala. You may have heard of him before. He’s the guy who crushed Barcelona’s soul in the Champions League. He’s one of the best players 23-and-under in the world today.
Essentially, he’s a pretty good choice to wear the No. 10 on the back of his jersey.
It just so happens that La Joya has developed a knack for scoring goals against Juventus’ next opponent. Just how good has it been? Well, here’s this little nugget of information from Juventus.com’s match preview:
Paulo Dybala also enjoys a fruitful scoring record against Lazio, netting five in seven since joining Juve in 2015.
Let me check ... yeah, that’s good.
I don’t need to sit here and tell you how important Dybala playing well is to Juventus’ goals for the upcoming season. It’s like saying if Buffon makes some really good saves and the defense continues to post shutouts then Juve are probably going to pick up a lot of points. Or if I told you that cherry pie is delicious. These are things we know and have come to find out about months and months and months ago.
But this is Dybala’s first game as the No. 10, a jersey number that a lot of us do still cherish and want to see handled with care. Say Dybala scores the game-winning goal, with that jersey number on, allowing Juventus to win their first trophy of the season. Don’t you think that will be a pretty good development for all parties involved? Yeah, me, too.
3) Speaking of defense: Who’s starting next to Giorgio Chiellini?
This is the other reference in this preview that we will make to Bonucci. With no Leo back here as a virtual guarantee to start, Chiellini’s full-time partner is still something that’s hanging up in the air. Or that’s what it looks like from the outside, at least.
Medhi Benatia. Andrea Barzagli. Daniele Rugani.
Who you got?
Benatia has looked pretty meh in the preseason. Barzagli has looked pretty meh in the preseason. Rugani has looked relatively good in the preseason. I think it’s pretty easy to figure out who I want to see start next to Chiellini — and it has nothing to do with the preseason at all.
This won’t be the last time we talk about this. Not even close. It’s not going to be as easy as to pencil Rugani into the starting lineup and that’s that. Why? Because that’s not exactly how things work.
4) Who’s the odd man out in the center of the midfield?
Sami Khedira. Miralem Pjanic. Claudio Marchisio.
Who you got?
You can see who I picked if you scroll below. And it’s not like there’s really a bad option to choose from here. Hell, we could be throwing Rodrigo Bentancur’s name in this kind of discussion within a couple of months if he plays like he did during the preseason friendlies. (That boy good!)
This is a nice problem to have if you’re Allegri. And it’s obviously not going to be the last time we talk about this over the first month or two of the season as Juve work through the kinks of blending their new additions into the team and find a right tactical approach and formation for everything.
MY STARTING XI
Juventus XI (4-2-3-1): Gianluigi Buffon; Mattia De Sciglio, Daniele Rugani, Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Claudio Marchisio, Miralem Pjanic; Douglas Costa, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic; Gonzalo Higuain
Location: Stadio Olimpico, Rome, 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: GOLTV USA, GOLTV Español (United States); Sky Sport Mix (United Kingdom); RAI Uno (Italy)
Online/Mobile: fuboTV (United States); Sky Go UK, Sky Go Extra (United Kingdom)
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