When you hear “first place against last place” what goes through your mind?
In previous years, it would likely mean that Juventus would be rotate the squad heavily as well as come away with three points every single time. It wasn’t always pretty. It wasn’t always a goal scoring masterpiece that saw Juve put up some of its best offensive performances of that given season. But, no matter what, Juventus was going to win and usually win in relatively comfortable fashion even though the scoreboard might not have shown it to be that way.
This season? It hasn’t always been so simple.
Hell, the last time Juventus and SPAL played one another, it was the eight-time defending Italian champions rather than the team that was pretty much destined to fight for survival once the meat of the season arrived. Juventus, trailing from the fourth minute onward, was the team that had to dig out of a 1-0 hole. Not SPAL. Juventus, the team that currently sits in first place in the Serie A standings, one point ahead of Lazio and two ahead of Inter Milan.
We all know that there’s a big game in the next few days and that this one isn’t it. This is the classic game-before-the-big-game scenario where there could be some thoughts sneaking toward what’s happening on Wednesday night rather than on the field in Ferrara. But don’t include Maurizio Sarri as somebody who is looking ahead. The hard-nosed, under-fire Juventus manager is thinking about SPAL and SPAL only — and we know that because he said so as much at his pre-match press conference on Friday:
“We’re not worrying about players picking up suspensions ahead of Inter, we’re just focusing on tomorrow’s game. We’re not thinking about the Scudetto race, just tomorrow’s game in Ferrara because this is not yet a decisive period. We’re taking it game by game. A 4-3-3 depends on the players that we have available, on a defensive level not much changes.
Sarri says his team is ready. He says they’re not looking ahead to Lyon or Inter next weekend. He won’t do the total squad rotation kind of thing that Max Allegri did last season when Juventus faced SPAL in Ferrara. So there’s that. Now we just gotta see if it will actually pay off ... and if nobody wearing a Juve jersey gets hurt.
When: Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020
Where: Stadio Paolo Mazza, Ferrara, Italy
Official kickoff time: 6 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 5 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 12 p.m. Eastern Time; 9 a.m. Pacific Time
Juventus starting XI (4-3-3): Szczesny; Danilo, Rugani, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Ramsey, Bentancur, Matuidi; Cuadrado, Dybala, Ronaldo
Juventus bench: Buffon, Pinsoglio, De Sciglio, De Ligt, Coccolo, Wesley, Rabiot, Peeters, Bernardeschi, Olivieri
SPAL starting XI (4-3-3): Berisha; Cionek, Bonifazi, Zukanovic, Reca; Missiroli, Valdifiori, Castro; Valoti, Petagna, Strefezza
SPAL bench: Thiam, Letica, Floccari, Murgia, Dabo, Vicari, Sala, Felipe, Di Francesco, Tomovic, Fares, Tunjov
HOW TO WATCH
Television: TLN (Canada); Premier Sports 2 (United Kingdom); Sky Supercalcio HD, Sky Sport Serie A (Italy)
Online/mobile: ESPN+ (United States); DAZN (Canada); Premier Player HD (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia (Italy)
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