I started writing this match preview on Thursday afternoon just as a cloudy and malaise-ridden kind of day started to turn to sunshine here at my new place of residence here in Southern Oregon. (Yes, I moved. Check out my Facebook page, bro.) That meant that the happenings of just 24 hours prior were still very fresh in my mind, still very at the top of my thoughts and still very much the direct reason for my overall grumpiness.
I’m sure a good number of Juventus players, if not pretty much all of them, probably felt the same kind of way. Even as more time has separated all of us from what happened in Madrid, the natural thought process usually means time heals all kinds of wounds — and this is a big, big wound that needs healing based on how everything happened.
But I want to quote Claudio Marchisio for a second: “tutto passa, tutto continua...”
Translation, even though it’s kinda easy to figure out: “everything passes, everything continues...”
As much as it pains us, Juventus’ players must move on without the Champions League on its schedule the rest of this season. Us, as fans, must move on knowing that Juventus will be without the Champions League on its schedule until September. It’s, unfortunately, the cruel part of all of this no matter how much the anger of what Michael Oliver’s 93rd-minute penalty call meant. (I’m still mad about that.)
Moving on means trying to wrap up what would be a seventh straight Serie A title. With all of seven games to go on the schedule, the stretch run has officially gotten here — and that was always going to happen no matter what was going down in Spain on Wednesday night.
Juventus, a team that has lost all of two league games this season, returns to Allianz Stadium to face a Sampdoria side that is one of those two squads to beat the six-time defending Serie A champions. It just so happens that loss, back in mid-November, was the start of Juventus’ current unbeaten run in league play, a streak that stands at 18 entering this weekend’s fixture.
(Interesting side note: Since beating Juventus 3-2 on Nov. 19, Sampdoria have scored three goals or more in a game just twice. Basically, their form has been all over the place the last four months or so.)
But, no matter who might have been next up on the schedule, this game is all about how Juventus responds. We want an angry squad, one that is as pissed off as we’ve seen them be in years. That doesn’t mean three red cards and over-aggression from 11 players in black and white jerseys. It’s just all about letting out that frustration, that disappointment, from what we saw happen on Wednesday in Madrid.
It’s that simple.
And, honestly, there’s no other team I’d want more pissed off than this one.
Angry Juventus usually means Good Juventus. That’s what we want.
I don’t think I need to explain this one. It’s pretty easy to figure out.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1) Just how pissed off Juventus really plays.
Bring it to me. Bring me all of it.
This is what I want.
Organized chaos — all of it. We’ve said it a few times after the Real Madrid game, but it is appropriate to repeat ourselves here: Sampdoria are about to get a Juventus squad that means absolute business on Sunday, and we’re all going to be anxious to see what the final scoreline ends up being because of it.
2) A rested Paulo Dybala.
While there’s always going to be the internal thought process about how Juventus would have done if they had Dybala on the field in the second leg against Real Madrid, playing the “What if...” game can become a little tiresome sometimes.
So, enough of that for now.
(But what if we kept ... shut up, self.)
Paulo Dybala hasn’t played in a game in over a week. I don’t know about you guys but that is a pretty good sign that he is going to be pretty well rested and have a little extra pep in his step when he gets onto the Allianz Stadium field on Sunday evening.
Yes, the same Dybala who is coming off a hat trick in his last appearance.
I know, I know. Sampdoria is not Benevento — and that’s pretty obvious. One club has a minus-47 goal differential, the other has a plus-4 goal differential. I don’t think I need to give you any more hints as to which club is which in the previous sentence.
Now, as some of you may remember, Dybala had one of the two goals in that 3-2 loss to Samp earlier this season, a goal that made the scoreline a lot more flattering than it actually was. That’s obviously not a guarantee that good things will happen once again, but I sure do want to see what Dybala can do as he tries to repeat what he did the last time he was playing against Serie A opposition.
And even though he wasn’t actually on the field on Wednesday night against Real Madrid, you have to think that Dybala might have a little extra motivation — and anger — coursing through his veins, too.
3) Can we get Gonzalo Higuain going again?
Streaky strikers are obviously very much the streaky type.
There’s no denying that Higuain is the streaky type. A streaky type of striker that runs hot and cold and it’s completely unpredictable as to when either side of the pillow may appear.
Entering the weekend, Higuain’s scoreless run has reached five games in all competitions. That comes after a nine-game stretch where he was absolutely on fire, scoring 10 goals and basically being the 1-2 punch with his countryman Dybala that we all hoped they would be when everything is going right.
With all that being said, let me pose this question: How nice would it be to see Higuain find a nice little patch of form in the final seven games of the Serie A season?
Pretty good, huh?
That’s the goal. That’s what we’re waiting to see from Juve’s big No. 9. If he does that, knowing who’s on the schedule the next couple of weeks, then everything will be that much better — yes, even without the Champions League not in our future until next season.
MY STARTING LINEUP
Juventus XI (4-3-2-1): Gianluigi Buffon; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Daniele Rugani, Giorgio Chiellini, Kwadwo Asamoah; Claudio Marchisio, Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi; Douglas Costa, Paulo Dybala; Gonzalo Higuain
When: Sunday, April 15, 2018
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Kickoff time: 6 p.m. local time in Italy; 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 12 p.m. high noon on the East Coast; 9 a.m. on the West Coast
HOW TO WATCH
Television: beIN SPORTS USA, Rai Italia America (United States); beIN Sports Canada, Rai Italia America (Canada); BT Sport 3 (United Kingdom); Sky Calcio 1, Sky Supercalcio HD, PremiumSport HD (Italy)
Online/Mobile: beIN SPORTS CONNECT, fuboTV (United States); beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada, DAZN Canada, fuboTV Canada (Canada); BT Sport Live (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia, Premium 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.
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