One step down, three more to go.
The Coppa Italia is always an interesting competition to jump into in the middle of the season because, almost out of nowhere, it just randomly appears on the schedule. After seeing lower level teams and bottom-of-the-table Serie A clubs duke it out to try and advance as far as possible, it’s pretty much who we have seen at this point in the competition for the last few years.
And just like two seasons ago, the Coppa Italia will feature another Derby della Mole.
It’s a Turin derby. But it’s a derby that we’ve only known about for a week or so, so there’s not exactly the same kind of anticipation being built up in regard to it. There is still plenty at stake — especially for Juventus who have won the Coppa Italia the last three seasons running. And potentially getting eliminated by Torino, their cross-town rivals, would add a little bit more salt to the wound if it were to happen.
But here’s the thing...
Juventus and Torino come into this Coppa quarterfinal in two very different kinds of form.
Toro, under the direction of second-year manager Sinisa Mihajlovic, have seen their hot start to the season absolutely fizzle. They have just one win in their last six league games and have slipped all the way down to 10th in the standings. It’s a far different kind of situation as compared to when these two teams met each other on Sept. 28, a game in which Juve trounced Torino 4-0 at Allianz Stadium. Why? Because since that Juventus win over Torino, Mihajlovic’s squad has won all of two of its last 14
Let me say that again: Two wins in 14 league games since the first week of October. It’s now January 2018, folks.
For Juventus, it’s relatively simple. That’s to keep on doing what they have been doing for the better part of the past two months.
Despite Max Allegri not being all too pleased with his team’s performance against Hellas Verona over the weekend, Juve finished up an undefeated month of December at the Stadio Bentegodi. It was a month where Juve found some pretty good form — for the most part — while also doing so in which its most talented player wasn’t exactly on the field for all that much of it. (But we’ll get to that in a second.)
So, in a simple on-paper kind of deal, this should be the same kind of thing that Juventus has done of a lot of the past five or six weeks.
That would be to win and pretty much prevent the opposition from doing much of anything at all in Juve’s defensive third of the field.
But as we know, derbies can be a funny thing and sometimes completely unpredictable. Yes, even in a derby where the same two teams played out a 4-0 game all of two months ago and is now being played in the Coppa Italia.
Let’s just hope that the importance of the Coppa Italia that Allegri continues to stress whenever he talks about it in front of the media — like he’s going to say anything else, right? — means that there won’t be any kind of hiccups happening in Turin
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) Can Paulo Dybala continue to get back on the right track?
Now, I will admit this: Up until Dybala scored his brace within a six-minute span on Saturday night, he wasn’t playing all that great against Hellas Verona.
The thing is, though, when you score a couple of goals that quickly, it can mask some of the other deficiencies that your game had on that given day.
But, the biggest development coming out of the late-December visit to the Bentegodi is that Dybala is finding the back of the net again. And just like when he started against Genoa in the Coppa Italia, he did so in a starting role.
Obviously the ideal kind of scenario would be to see Dybala not only start against Torino, but continue get back on form in front of goal. Maybe not have his goals be the only thing he does, but that’s certainly a good place to start.
We’ve seen over the last two and a half years that when the goals start coming for Dybala it could start to snowball something bigger and better in a relatively short amount of time. It’s happened already once this season, so why not again, right?
I’ll wait for somebody to disagree with me on that.
2) What the heck is the midfield going to look like?
It obviously depends on who Max Allegri wants to rest. And who Allegri wants to rest depends on what formation he will probably end up using.
When Juventus beat Genoa in the last round of the Coppa Italia, the three midfielders Allegri used (Claudio Marchisio, Rodrigo Bentancur and Stefano Sturaro) were none of the same three that played in the win over Bologna a few days earlier (Sami Khedira, Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi).
But there are two major differences between those two games and the next two that Juventus have on their schedule.
For one, Pjanic is reportedly training with his teammates again after missed Saturday night’s win over Hellas Verona due to a thigh injury he picked up earlier in the week. And secondly, there’s a two-week holiday break coming up following the weekend trip to Cagliari.
Does Allegri roll with the same kind of midfield he did against Hellas Verona knowing that there’s a break coming for his players to get plenty of rest?
Or, does he keep it status quo when it comes to Coppa Italia play and continue to rotate the squad no matter what is looming in the distance?
I don’t doubt that Torino will be fielding a full-strength lineup knowing that they can advance to the semifinals of the Coppa Italia and can do just that against their big brothers from across Turin. We don’t know if Juventus will do the same based on the simple fact that Allegri doesn’t always field a starting lineup filled with first stringers in the Coppa Italia.
MY STARTING LINEUP
Juventus XI (4-3-3): Wojciech Szczesny; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Daniele Rugani, Andrea Barzagli, Kwadwo Asamoah; Claudio Marchisio, Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi; Federico Bernardeschi, Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa
Location: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Kickoff 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 Sports Football (United Kingdom); RAI Uno (Italy)
Online/Mobile: fuboTV (United States); Sky Go UK, NOW TV UK, SKY GO Extra (United Kingdom); RAI Play (Italy)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven't already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.
And don't forget to like our page on Facebook, either!