Juventus-Atalanta Preview: Round 17 — Home For The Holidays

missed you so bad. - Tullio M. Puglia

I don't know if you guys remember this, but the last time Atalanta was at the Juventus Stadium, Juve were hoisting a Scudetto above their heads. That was fun. FUN FUN FUN FUN.

It's been a pretty darn good calendar year for Juventus Stadium, the first-full year Italy's best place to watch a football game has been open. There have been celebrations to witness and take it in, victories to cheer about, and just about any other happy things you can possibly think of.

Did I mention a lot of winning? Okay, good. Because there was a lot of that.

Now, Juve's crown jewel of a stadium is set to host its final game of 2012 when Atalanta come to Turin for the second-to-last match before everybody sets off to beautiful private islands for Christmas vacation and subsequent holiday celebrations. Don't you worry, guys. We'll just hang out here in the cold. No worries.

Speaking of celebrations, let me take you back to Atalanta's last visit to Juventus Stadium. I think you might remember it. There were a few things to cheer about that day.

Hey, there's Alessandro Del Piero! And Antonio Conte! And Marco Borriello! Wait. I guess not everything was memorable about that game. I still find it to be one of the best moments of the year. SO THERE.

But, the fact still remains: Juventus celebrated at their beautiful new stadium and Del Piero lifted the Scudetto above his head. As a baseball player once said to the press: "The thing is, it happened." That it did. League title No. 30 came together on the back what happened at Juventus Stadium.

So, as we close one of the best years in club history, Juve look to finish the way it started — winning. I personally think that sounds like a great plan. I hope you all agree. Well, if you're a Juventino, of course. Otherwise, I don't really know what to tell you.

LE CHIAVI

A few nuggets of information courtesy of juventus.com because they say it just as well I as I would have.

Two wins, two draws and four defeats, making it eight points from a possible 23. Seven of the seventeen goals they've managed overall. They've conceded one more on the road than they have in Bergamo. This is how Atalanta have fared away away this season.

Atalanta come into this game off the back of a 2-1 home win over Parma. Denis scored a header and Peluso doubled their lead, tapping into an empty net, before Amauri (HEY, REMEMBER HIM?) managed a consolation goal for the Gialloblu. With 21 points, Colantuono's men sit comfortably mid-table in 10th, seven points clear from the relegation zone.

GOOD NEWS — OR BAD NEWS?

While Juventus aren't playing all that well right now, they're still winning. Be it in the Coppa Italia or in the league campaign, the last few games haven't been world-beaters for Juve. Still, Conte's men are picking up three points. And with a lot of the regulars getting a rest on Wednesday as the second stringers beat Cagliari in the Coppa, the hope is that it pays off. Andrea Pirlo is rested. So are Claudio Marchisio, Mirko Vucinic, Stephen Lichtsteiner, and Giorgio Chiellini. May the #RestedPirlo theory pay off for just about everybody.

What is uncertain is whether Arturo Vidal will play due to the knee injury he suffered mid-week against Cagliari. My suggestion: Don't you dare risk it. If there's even the slightest chance of re-injuring it, sit it out and let Paul Pogba continue to be awesome. That's what having a team with depth allows Conte to do.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. What kind of Juventus shows up. Will it be the one we've seen the last two games, one that's pretty much meh at best? Or will it be the one that dominates the opponent at will? I't's obviously tough to predict what may or may not happen sitting thousands of miles away, but you know Conte can't be pleased with the way his team is playing overall the past few matches. Because of that, Conte is certainly going to try and give his squad an extra kick in the ass to try and get them going again. At least that's my best educated guess. If he wants to flip a table or two, that's always acceptable as well.

2. Luca Marrone. With Leo Bonucci out due to yellow card accumulation — no, not for the dive-type sort of thing he tried against Palermo — it's Marrone who will be in the center of the defense. He's played sparingly so far this season, yet he hasn't shown any kind of rust whatsoever. His transition from a box-to-box midfielder to vice-Bonucci has been pretty damn impressive to say the very least. Now, the Italian Under-21 international gets to start consecutive games for the first time since Juve's preseason tour.

3. Shutting down Denis the Menace. Germán Denis is good. I know that isn't exactly breaking news to some of you, but I just wanted to say it. He might not be on the same kind of goal-scoring pace he was last season, but he's still one hell of a threat in front of goal. Denis might not be Cavani or Jovetic in terms of overall quality, but he's certainly the player to circle when drawing up the defensive gameplan.

4. Sebastian Giovinco, Speaking of strikers playing well right now, we shift our attention onto the little fella. While he's not firing completely on all cylinders, Giovinco has quietly put up a solid season thus far, recording eight goals and four assists in all competitions. Not bad, eh? And some people make it sound like he's been a total flop. Ha. Take that you silly people!

My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Marrone, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Vucinic, Giovinco

KICKOFF TIME: 3 P.M. IN ITALY; 9 A.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 6 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST (lol us)

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