Juventus will not win every game by a final 7-0 scoreline. I hate to break it to you, but it’s the truth. It’s not something or the kind of sixth sense that takes years and years to develop. What Juve did against Sassuolo on Sunday is most definitely the exception rather than the norm — which is okay because it will never be the other way around.
So, if you’re expecting a repeat of what happened five days ago, you might as well go and fire up your latest edition of FIFA and play as Juventus if you want to try to replicate it.
But what Juventus does have in front of them is a crucial stretch of games.
Okay, we’ve probably been saying that for a few weeks now. We’ve certainly been thinking it at the very least. First there’s a visit to Florence to face Fiorentina, then there’s Tottenham in Turin on Tuesday, then the second Serie A installment of the Derby della Mole and finally a back-to-back Serie A/Coppa Italia matchup against Atalanta.
And don’t even get me started with who Juve have on their schedule to begin March.
So, yeah, this is the last game Juventus has on its schedule where you can consider the opponent as one that is a struggling, mid-table type of squad that has Juve as clear favorites. And I understand that Juve are about to play at the Franchi on Friday, an always-interesting place to play because of how Fiorentina view their rivalry with Juventus.
Look no further than Juve’s last visit to Florence a little over 12 months ago.
(That guy who assisted on Fiorentina’s first goal sure does sound familiar...)
The Franchi will be on fire for Juventus’ annual trip to one of Italy’s most beautiful regions. That’s nothing that we shouldn’t expect because it’s always the case no matter what kind of form Fiorentina is in at the time.
With that said, it’s hard to ignore that Fiorentina has all of one win to its name since the third weekend of December. Since then, La Viola have gone on a five-game winless streak that came to an end last weekend with a 2-1 victory over Bologna. That also happened to be the first time since the middle of December that Fiorentina scored more than one goal in a single match.
Basically, things haven’t been going all that well in Florence lately — and not like a slim win over a team that’s also hanging out in the middle of the table is going to solve everything just like that.
I know I keep saying it, but until it changes I will only continue to repeat it: Juventus plays before Napoli, therefore the chance to go into first place is once again on the table. To stay there Juve will need help, but there’s obviously nothing we can do about that part of the equation.
Basically, until Juventus and Napoli do something different than this you-win-we-win pattern they’ve been on for weeks now, that’s just how it’s going to no matter who they’re playing.
Federico Bernardeschi is healthy.
Douglas Costa is healthy.
Hey, don’t look now but Juventus actually have most of their wingers healthy and available for selection this weekend. What a nice change from, oh, last weekend.
Injuries are still prevalent throughout this Juventus squad.
God, I bet you haven’t heard this before, but injuries suck.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) Federico Bernardeschi against his former team.
Can you remember how many minutes Bernardeschi was on the field for the first time around against the team that used to sign his checks?
If you had eight minutes, then you’d be right on the money.
But something tells me he’ll be playing a few more minutes this time around...
Oh, it’s Max Allegri indirectly telling me. So Juan Cuadrado is out, Douglas Costa isn’t going to be playing from the start in all likelihood, and that pretty much means there’s only one other legitimate option to start on the right wing.
This game will obviously be a massive one for Fede since it’s going to be the first one he will play at the Franchi in a Juventus jersey. The reception he will get will almost certainly be one that involves whistles and a few not-so-kind word thrown in his direction. It usually is that way when a player who becomes a star at one club in Italy moves to Juventus for a healthy sum of many. (Just ask Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic about their respective returns to where they used to play ball the last couple of years...)
But even with the hostile reception, Bernardeschi has the chance to do something on Friday that he’s yet to achieve in his young Juventus career — start back-to-back games.
I’ll take that over what kind of playing time Bernardeschi has gotten the majority of games so far this season. You never know, if he keeps playing consistent minutes he could very well find a good run of form and force his way into more playing time. I wouldn’t be against that.
2) Claudio Marchisio’s possible return to the starting lineup.
Blaise Matuidi is hurt. Stefano Sturaro is hurt — albeit not in any major way and therefore available for selection on Friday. Outside of Rodrigo Bentancur, there aren’t really many other directions Allegri can go unless he changes formations. And because of that, it has me thinking that Marchisio is going to be starting against Fiorentina.
This isn’t just a good thing because Marchisio fanboys like myself will probably get to see him make his first Serie A start since late-November (!!!), but also because of how he played when he came on for Matuidi last weekend.
Not only did he get nearly 70 valuable minutes of playing time after missing a couple of weeks due to injury — gee, where have I heard about Juventus players getting hurt lately? — but he looked damn good while he was out there.
(And no, that’s not a reference to Claudio being a handsome man.)
While the sample size this season isn’t exactly plentiful, I feel safe in saying that Saturday’s appearance against Sassuolo was one of Marchisio’s best of the year. He was passing the ball about as well as we’ve seen him do so in quite some time, he was doing typical Marchisio things that sometimes don’t always show up when you nerds punch up your fancy websites after the game. (And by nerds, I mean me.) That’s the Marchisio we’re used to seeing out there — and to see it happen in a a game where he was pressed into action almost instantaneously and having missed a couple of weeks before that, it certainly filled me with optimism.
Of course, like with Gonzalo Higuain and his sudden goal scoring hot streak, it’s about the next game now to see what there is for an encore. It’s a little different kind of scenario, though, based on the fact that simply playing might be the biggest thing for Marchisio right now. But if he plays anywhere close to how well he did against Sassuolo, the big hole left by Matuidi’s injury absence won’t be as noticeable as it could be.
Plus. who doesn’t like to see Marchisio playing well in general? I mean, it’s Claudio Marchisio.
MY STARTING XI
Juventus XI (4-3-3): Gianluigi Buffon; Mattia de Sciglio, Medhi Benatia, Giorgio Chiellini, Kwadwo Asamoah; Sami Khedira, Miralem Pjanic, Claudio Marchisio; Federico Bernardeschi, Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Mandzukic
Location: Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence, 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: beIN SPORTS USA, Rai Italia America (United States); beIN Sports Canada, Rai Italia America (Canada); BT Sport 2 (United Kingdom); PremiumSport HD, Sky Supercalcio HD, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, Sky Calcio 1 (Italy)
Online/Mobile: beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A., fuboTV (United States); DAZN Canada, beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada, fuboTV Canada (Canada); BT Sport Live (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia, Premium Play (Italy)
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