As the Italian national team gets set for their World Cup 2014 Group B challenges against Armenia and Denmark, Juventus fans will wait with baited breath for the end of 180 minutes.
ItalJuve has always been the core of the Nazionale, but as much of a point of pride as that is for Juventini, it is also a source of much anxiety. Each time a member of the Old Lady pulls on the Azzuri shirt (or any national team shirt, for that matter), millions of Juventus supporters around the world do their preferred religious or superstitious supplication to ward off injury for their beloved players.
Juventus’ second season under Antonio Conte has been fraught with injury in comparison to the former star midfielder’s first campaign last season. Already the club has seen Lúcio, Martín Cáceres, Simone Pepe, Mauricio Isla, Sebastian Giovinco, Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini suffer setbacks of varying degrees. With the Serie A, Champions League and soon, Coppa Italia matches coming hard and fast, squad health is a worry for even the most optimistic of tifosi.
Top of this list is 33-year-old Andrea Pirlo. His form this season has been far from the blinding heights of last year, to say the least, and critics have questioned whether his relatively poor (by his standards) performances are a product of fatigue from a long domestic season and Euro 2012, or simply a lack of motivation after winning Serie A in the Juventus colors. Whatever may be the case with Pirlo, Juventus will hope the great man stays uninjured for the duration of the 2012/13 season. The fact remains that he is key for both the Bianconeri and the Azzuri, and his inclusion in the starting 11 for Cesare Prandelli’s side will make more than a few die-hard Juve supporters weep and gnash their teeth as they cry out for his rest.
Giorgio Chiellini is one of the few of the Juventus delegation who will surely earn a well-deserved rest from Prandelli. He has done well to return from injury, but a hard run of matches has seen the tough-tackling defender appear a bit fatigued of late.
Aside from Chiellini, Emanuele Giaccherini is not expected to start either, with a paltry 5 Juventus players in the projected first 11 for Italy against Armenia. They will most likely line up in a 4-3-1-2 as follows:
Buffon; Maggio, Barzagli, Bonucci, Criscito; Marchisio, Pirlo, De Rossi; Montolivo; Balotelli, Osvaldo.
Italy fans will hope for a strong showing from the Euro 2012 finalists, but Bianconeri supporters will hope for a win and a clean bill of health upon their return to the Juventus Stadium to face title-challengers Napoli on October 20th.