Juventus' first 90 minutes in a post-Napoli loss world looked a lot like the four weeks building up to it. It was a struggle, something that has become all too familiar to us Juventini these days. For better or worse, it's seems as though being completely frustrated is a requirement to watch Juve these days.
What we discovered is that a league loss wasn't the straightaway cure like it was the first time this season. Different kinds of situations, sure, but also the same kind of losses. Bad, bad losses. The only losses we've seen Juventus suffer in Serie A this season.
So much for immediate gratification, huh, folks?
Now with everybody saying the Scudetto race is back on with Roma being five points behind Juventus, a team at the opposite end of the table comes to Turin for a little Monday night football. This Livorno side is far from trying to stave off another team to win the league title. Far from it. When Livorno takes the Juventus Stadium field, they know full well that they need points in the worst possible way.
But in a way, you could say that Juventus is also a desperate team. Desperate in a sense that they want to try and get back to how they were playing a few months ago. Desperate to stop this run of form where they seem to only win by inches with sub-par performance after sub-par performance. Desperate to score more than one goal in a game.
And, probably above all else, desperate to get back to winning in Serie A.
What will it be, fellas? Three points would be cool. So would two or three goals. Oh, and a shutout.
Juventus are at home, in Turin, and will be in front of what will be a sold out crowd. If there's ever a time to maybe get a little extra motivated to try and turn this run of poor form around, it's tomorrow night. The schedule is in their favor with one of Serie A's worst teams coming to Turin and they're going to be home all week. Can't draw it up better than that.
I'm just going to steal from the Lyon preview that went live on Wednesday because it still applies to Juventus today. Why? Because not much has changed over the last few days.
If you have watched Juventus lately, you pretty much know things aren't going so hot right now. There are wins and the lead atop Serie A is still pretty comfortable, but the team's actual form has been pretty darn ugly. Winning ugly is one thing, but Napoli pretty reminded us of what we already knew — Juventus isn't playing well at all right now.
The lead atop Serie A is a little smaller than it was a few days ago, but Juventus is still being Juventus right now. And this current version of Juventus we've seen the last four or six weeks, ain't the Juventus we saw the last time Juventus played Livorno.
And just like against Lyon on Thursday, there will be no Arturo Vidal due to a yellow card suspension. Dammit. At least the guy will be well rested for Lyon's visit to Turin later in the week.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Can Juventus snap out of this funk — at least a little bit.
At this point, it seems pretty certain that things aren't going to all be fixed in 90 minutes. As much as we would like that to happen so that Juventus doesn't make us want to pull our hair out, it just doesn't seem realistic at this point. The more realistic thing that might happen is small, baby steps instead of one giant step that involves crushing the opponent. For all the 1-0 wins Juve have had recently, they haven't been pretty. The last time Juve played Livorno, it was towards the start of their unbeaten run, the part where they were blowing right past almost every opponent in Italy. This time, though, things are a little different. And maybe, just maybe, we can get back to the way things used to be.
2. Can Andrea Pirlo get back to being Andrea Pirlo?
I think it's pretty safe to say that the bearded was shut down by Lyon on Thursday night. There were a few moments of Pirlo brilliance, a few perfectly-threaded passes to his teammates, but that's about it. Lyon's man-marking of Pirlo worked almost as well as anybody has accomplished this season. Something else I feel safe in saying: Livorno is not on Lyon's level, just as Lyon is probably not on Napoli's level. And with that, you hope that lesser competition turns out to be the something kick-starts Pirlo
3. If Carlos Tévez plays like he's at full strength.
For one of the few times this season, Juve's No. 10 was rather ineffective before coming off due to an apparent leg injury against Lyon. Even though he did have to come off before the final whistle just a few days ago, Tévez has been included in Juve's 21-man squad by Antonio Conte for tomorrow night's game against Livorno and there's no reason to think he won't be in the starting lineup based on the "No news is good news" theory. You just hope whatever was tweak the other night in France doesn't become a lingering problem.
4. Who will be Tévez's strike partner.
Some places say Fernando Llorente, other places say Dani Osvaldo. The only certainty is that Tévez is starting. The complete uncertainty, at least from the outside looking in, is that predicting who will start alongside Carlitos Neither player stands out when it comes to how they're performing as of late, so there's that. My own gut feeling is that Antonio Conte will probably stick with Llorente and Tevez because that's what Conte does — when in doubt, go with the players that have gotten you to this point. And while I'd like to see somebody else maybe get a shot at showing what they can do these days, my gut just can't stop talking to me. (And it's not because I'm hungry.)
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Caceres, Bonucci, Chiellini; Isla, Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Vucinic, Tevez