For the first time this season, a trophy is at stake when Juventus takes the field. It might not be the two main trophies Juventus are gunning for — you know, the ones that are actually handed out in the final weeks of each season — but it’s a trophy that has some kind of standing and obviously one that the club wants to try and win.
Those trophies, however, will take more than just one win to obtain.
Tonight at the King Saud University Stadium, the annual one-off between the reigning Serie A champions and the Coppa Italia winners will be the first of four possible trophies Juventus will try and win this season. The opponents just so happen to be Lazio, the same team that beat up Juve about as thoroughly as a team has in recent seasons just two weeks earlier at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. It’s that game that Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri and fill-in captain Leonardo Bonucci have both pointed to as a learning experience for this still-under construction team with their first-year head coach.
But, as is reputation both in Italy and during his one season in the Premier League with Chelsea, things under Sarri get better as time goes on. The last three games in all competitions — Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League; Udinese and Sampdoria in Serie A — have been an improvement on what we saw the previous four or six weeks. (That’s because it really couldn’t have been much worse even with Juventus winning more often than not.)
Performance-wise, though, Juventus do seem to be getting better. But this will be a good test of that simply knowing that Lazio are a quality team and have been playing well for the last two months.
If Juve do play well against this in-form Lazio side, then maybe just maybe Sarri’s methodologies and everything that comes with it are truly starting to take hold and this team will start to take shape come the start of the new year.
If not, though, we’ll have the entire holiday break to, again, think about where this team is at with the first half of the season only a couple more league fixtures away from officially being over with. That sounds like a whole lot of fun for the next two weeks, doesn’t it?
When: Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019
Where: King Saud University Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Official kickoff time: 7:45 p.m. local time in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; 5:45 p.m. in Italy and across Europe; 4:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 11:45 a.m. Eastern Time; 8:45 a.m. Pacific Time
Juventus starting XI (4-3-3/4-3-1-2): Szczesny; De Sciglio, Bonucci, Demiral, Alex Sandro; Bentancur, Pjanic, Matuidi; Dybala, Higuain, Ronaldo
Juventus bench: Buffon, Pinsoglio, de Ligt, Danilo, Rugani, Ramsey, Emre Can, Rabiot, Douglas Costa, Cuadrado, Pjaca, Bernardeschi
Lazio starting XI (3-5-2): Strakosha; Luiz Felipe, Acerbi, Radu; Lazzari, Milinkovic-Savic, Lucas Leiva, Luis Alberto, Lulic; Immobile, Correa
HOW TO WATCH
Television: ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes (United States); BT Sport 2 (United Kingdom); RAI Uno (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN3, WatchESPN, ESPNDeportes+ (United States); BT Sport Live (United Kingdom); RAI Play (Italy)
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