Juventus-Cagliari Preview: Round 18 — Friday Night Lights ... In Parma?

Valerio Pennicino

Like that movie? Maybe they should make a movie about how awesome Antonio Conte is. They could call it "All I is win" or something along those lines.

To be completely honest, the way the schedule has worked out in the last couple of weeks is kinda funny. It's been the "Who Juventus Beat On The Way To The Scudetto" tour. Are tickets still on sale, though? I'd love to sit front row for this stuff. It sounds great.

First it was Cagliari, the team Juve beat to clinch the Scudetto, coming to Juventus Stadium for the Coppa Italia tie. On Sunday, Atalanta came to Turin for the first time since Il Capitano raised said trophy above his head on the last day of the 2011-12 campaign. That day was fun. I like those kinds of games. Whenever there are celebrations after games, it's fun. FUN FUN FUN FUN.

But, instead of returning to the scene of where No. 30 was clinched seven months ago, Juventus and Cagliari will play in Parma. Wait...Parma? Yes, Parma. Although, I was hoping for a repeat of last year. Remember how the crowd rushed the pitch after the final whistle? Remember how Martin Caceres had to weave his way through people like he was a running back in the NFL just to get to the dressing room? I like those kinds of games, too. Well, ones where the crowd are taking over the field after the game because Juventus won the Scudetto. Yeah, those are my favorite.

This one, however, is the official end the winter portion of Juventus' incredibly busy beginning to the 2012-13 season. Is there any kind of trophy for being Winter Champions? (Don't answer that question.)

One last game before we go off and open some presents. One last game to go in 2012. One last game in one of the best years for Juventus in recent memory.

One last time for us this year to say this: AVANTI!

GOOD NEWS

After Sunday's 3-0 win over Atalanta, Juventus made it five straight games with a shutout. It never really occurred to me until I saw somebody posting about it on the Twitter machine over the weekend, but those are the facts, Jack. It's a clear sign that while Juventus may not have dominated all the teams they've played lately, they've been playing the same kind of defense that lead the way to a Scudetto.

And you gotta think with Conte back on the sidelines that the defense will only continue to get better. For us Juventini, that's a beautiful thing. For other teams, that's a scary ass thought.

BAD NEWS

I can't stop watching this gif. Seriously. It's hypnotizing.

Tumblr_mf5dw4deat1r1fq7do1_500_medium

Okay, so maybe it's not BAD news. I guess there are plenty of much more terrible things on the interwebs to be looking at than a gif of Pirlo making complete work out of a free kick.

ACTUAL BAD NEWS

No Giorgio Chiellini, who pulled up lame at Wednesday's training session, against Cagliari. The subsequent aftermath of the injury is the media running wild and saying he will be out for up to three months with said calf injury. As of Wednesday night here on the West Coast, when I'm writing this, no official word on the severity of Chiellini's injury had come out from the Juventus medical staff. So it's basically a waiting game until we hear something from the club.

Other injury news: Mirko Vucinic, according to Antonio Conte at his pre-match press conference, is questionable. If he's still like that this time tomorrow, don't risk him. There's no need to push an injury and make it worse this time of year. I don't care how so-so Juventus' current striker situation is. Vucinic is important and there's no need to risk him in the final game before the holiday break.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. The ongoing chemistry that is growing between Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic. As hot-and-cold as Vucinic is, Sunday was a good day. And, maybe more importantly, Super Seba is starting to really find his feet in his first season back at Juventus. Giovinco didn't score, but certainly deserved to get a goal. So, as Gio and Vucinic begin to show signs of becoming a quality strike partnership, having at least a good strike force to compliment the fantastic defense is a very nice development. Of course, this is all dependent on Vucinic actually playing...

(Does this count for the Vucinic Effect, Chuks? I need to know!)

2. Containing Cagliari's own little dynamo. If you're a regular reader of the comment section, you might remember Jorid's early-season man crush proclamation for Marco Sau. The diminutive striker, who is just a tad taller than Giovinco, is having a solid season after tearing up the lower levels of Italian football the past couple of years.

3. The Kwadwo Asamoah Effect. This isn't just the last time we'll be seeing Kasa in 2012, this is the last time we'll be seeing him for quite possibly a couple of months due to his involvement with the Africa Cup of Nations. However, what's got Asabob on this list is the fact that for the last few weeks, he hasn't been the Asabob of a few months ago. I'm not going to say it's because the league has adjusted to him as a left wing-back or anything because I really don't know. It might just be some kind of fatigue for all I know. But, what I do know is this: I want to badass Asamoah back. That would be pretty awesome.

4. Closing 2012 with a bang. I wouldn't say the Coppa match against Cagliari last week was anything to write home about. Obviously the lineup changes played a role, but the opposing team was dealing with the same stuff. So, with pretty much all the first-teamers healthy and coming off a convincing win over Atalanta, let's just say this is the right time to go into the winter break with some serious momentum.

5. Christmas presents. Seriously, who doesn't like Christmas presents? Exactly my point.

My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli; Bonucci, Caceres; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Giovinco, Vucinic

Rinse and repeat. Not exactly something that's rocket science at this point. Git-R-Dun, fellas.

KICKOFF TIME: 8:45 P.M. IN EUROPE; 2:45 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 11:45 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST

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