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By Gianni Verschueren
With all the injuries the Bianconeri currently have to suffer through, a win over Udinese and a draw against Lazio are both good results.
Sure, Juve had Lazio on the ropes and should have won that game 100 percent of the time, but when you’re playing backups against arguably the second-best team in Italy right now, you shouldn’t complain with such a result.
Besides, it’s just the Coppa d’Italia. The Bianconeri are defending the Serie A title and looking for European glory...the cup isn’t that important.
What is important is getting healthy. From that perspective, watching Claudio Marchisio play against Lazio was a joyful sight. The homegrown midfielder and fan favourite was expected to be out for several more weeks, and his swift recovery makes up for the nagging injuries that have kept Andrea Pirlo out of back-to-back games.
Federico Peluso scored his first goal for the Bianconeri with a headed effort that opened the scoring against Lazio. His performance in that game was more than solid, considering he was forced to fill in for Kwadwo Asamoah on the left wing.
Peluso’s main strengths lie in defense, but his offensive contributions didn’t go unnoticed. His performance might have been far from perfect, but it was a step in the right direction after his bad showing against Sampdoria.
His inclusion in the starting XI was bad news for Paolo De Ceglie, though. Last year’s choice left back is having a poor season and the fact that coach Antonio Conte would prefer to start a depth player with limited experience at the position over him is a bad omen. His time in Turin might soon be coming to an end.
This week’s standouts were Paul Pogba and Mauricio Isla. The young Frenchman scored two stunning goals against Udinese and played 180 minutes of solid, mature football. He’s progressing right on schedule and is giving the coaching staff every reason to give him the minutes he so desires.
Isla got the start on the right wing against Lazio and put together one of his best performances of the season. The Chilean had been one of the bigger disappointments during the first part of the season, showing a lack of understanding of the right back position in the 3-5-2 formation.
But against the Biancocelesti, he played a complete game, harassing the opponent's wingers defensively and contributing nicely on the offensive end.
One last mention should go to Emanuele Giaccherini. I’ve been hard on him all season because he has failed to impress me as a right winger in Juve’s 4-3-3, but he was on point against both Udinese and Lazio.
He played right behind Alessandro Matri for the Coppa clash and made great use of his dribbling skills and speed to make life hard on Lazio’s defense, and Conte might have found a new use and position for the Italy international.
Next week, Juve will host Genoa before travelling to Roma to take on Lazio with the Coppa d’Italia final at stake.
Genoa are struggling at the bottom of the Serie A table and have not been in good shape, but they have a tendency to make life very hard on Juventus. Back in September, the Bianconeri beat Genoa 1-3 in a game that was not as lopsided as the score line might suggest.
Ciro Immobile is one player to watch: the young attacker is co-owned by Juve and was rumoured to return to Turin in January before Genoa announced they had no intention of letting him go.
Genoa will most likely play for the draw as they need every point they can get their hands on in order to fight off relegation. They’ve lost their last two games and didn’t look convincing in the process, and a lack of confidence could result in even more defensive play.
Lazio don’t need an introduction. They are a well-organised, blue-collar type of football team with Italy’s most in-form and most underrated goalkeeper in Federico Marchetti.
What’s more, a scoreless draw would see Lazio through on by virtue of away goals, so Juve will need to attack the Biancocelesti goal early.
Miroslav Klose could be back in action and will provide Lazio with more of a goal-scoring threat, and it remains to be seen whether Andrea Pirlo can reprise his role as conductor of Juve’s offense.