Will Carlos Tevez end his European goal drought?
A real challenge awaits Juventus on Thursday evening in the Europa League. They will not only face a Fiorentina side who play beautiful football, but a city desperate to witness their downfall. The Viola already boast the advantage while Juve's only loss in Serie A this season came in the very stadium they will play in tomorrow.
Sadly for the Bianconeri, they are experiencing somewhat of a crisis at the back with several players out with injuries. Antonio Conte used this as an opportunity to underline the importance of rotation, suggesting that perhaps he should have done it more. Perfect timing, considering the criticism he faced for his perceived disinterest in Europa League glory.
The bright light at the end of the injury tunnel is that it appears the coach will play a strong squad, counting on his top men for this important fixture. With Fiorentina desperate to get further in this competition, especially if it comes at the expense of their fierce rivals, it's clear they will assemble a squad determined to destruct before imposing their own game.
Vincenzo Montella is an astute tactician who understands Juve's weaknesses and the strengths of his own men and whilst every match is a test of skill, in this particular game, mental strength will prove fundamental.
Thankfully, Carlos Tevez will be back to partake, and naturally newspapers have focused on the player's European goal drought. Having not scored in a European competition since April 2009, during the time he was with Manchester United, critics are questioning his ability on the big stage.
Boasting an instinctive style of play, Tevez plays to the beat of his own drum. He sashays, exploits space and releases thunderbolts. However, when he's asked to engage his intelligence and curb his own instincts for the benefit of the team the Argentine visibly struggles.
In Europe, teams are forced to face players with a higher intellectual capacity. Scoring becomes harder, defending becomes an arduous tasks and those who succeed are the men who can combine both their natural instincts with tactical understanding. Mario Mandzukic is an example of a man who combines these two qualities. He may not be the most gifted forward, but it's his understanding of the game that has allowed him to excel on the European stage.
To be frank, it's clear Serie A teams struggle to defend against players who will run at them. The slower style of play allows certain players such as Tevez and Gervinho to shine. Whilst Tevez thinks quickly, attacking the space and dribbling past his men, Gervinho's pace is simply too hard to contain. Pitted against teams who boast different defenders, some more physical, others more intelligent and it becomes somewhat easier to limit their impact on a game.
Whilst the Juve forward disappointed with some of his performances in the Champions League this season, in his defence Juventus were still a team that had not yet woken up from their summer slumber. The wing-backs were struggling to adequately defend whilst the 'European' formation lacked players with the necessary skill to help it come alive.
However, most importantly, Tevez had not yet developed his relationship with Fernando Llorente. The duo were still at the discovery stage of their partnership, adapting to one another's manner of play.
Now that the two forwards are well acquainted and the team is demonstrating the fluid and cohesive style of football most sides in Europe covet, Tevez's performances should improve. Now is the time to properly analyse and judge the player and see what he can provide for the side. Goals are not important, but what matters more is his overall contribution to the team.
This competition, although less prestigious than the Champions League, still presents sides with a good opportunity to appeal to a wider market. It is a chance to appeal to potential fans, peddle the brand and provide the players with experience of dealing with different opponents. Thus it's absolutely vital the Old Lady gets through to the next round and make the most of the worldwide attention.