Juventus-Palermo Preview: Round 35 — All we need is one (point)

Tullio M. Puglia

A Juventus-themed variation on a Beatles classic, maybe?

Different seasons have brought different expectations. This season? Juventus were basically handed the league title before the 2012-13 campaign even began. But, in Antonio Conte's first season as manager, Juve weren't the favorites to win the Scudetto. Yet on an innocent night in Trieste just about a year ago, Conte's first season as manager became one that had silverware attached to it.

And as the seconds go closer and closer to full time and the clock eclipsed 90 minutes into stoppages, we had the impromptu curva of Juventini burst into song. And you know what? It was music to everybody's ears — no matter where you were watching.

Beautiful, ain't it? Just a wonderful thing to listen to, let alone relive the celebrations on the bench.

Still, even though another Scudetto parade is basically upon us, there are two main differences between Conte's first title-winning season and the second.

1. Juventus needed a serious late-season charge to pass Milan and then capture Scudetto No. 30. It took until the second to last week of the season, and the reward was the video above. But this season, it's been a formality for weeks. Their lead has always been there, and has grown to double digits in recent weeks as the gap between the closest competitors has gotten bigger and bigger.

2. Juventus will get to clinch this title in front of their boisterous home crowd at a sold out Juventus Stadium.

That's the way it should be, really.

There will be a game tomorrow afternoon. A game that will take place against two teams headed in vastly different directions as this season comes to an end and possibly for years to come. But it will also be a celebration of what is likely to happen. All Juve need to clinch No. 31 is one measly point against a Palermo side that is inches away from going back into the relegation zone.

But who really wants to wrap it all up with a draw? Psh, that's no fun in that. So it's simple: Keep the train rollin', fellas. How about another three more points and continue the road to 90 on the season? I don't know about you, but that sounds like a fantastic idea.

GOOD NEWS

I could say where the Scudetto countdown is again, but that'd just be repeating myself. Instead, I will drop this nugget of information on y'all...

This season's defense is looking a lot like last season's defense, isn't it? I was looking at a few stats the other day and I noticed something in regards to the defense that caught my eye. Take a gander if you'd like.

2011-12 goals allowed in Serie A (38 games): 20

2012-13 goals allowed in Serie A (34 games): 20

And seeing as Juventus' schedule the rest of the way consists of some of the worst goal-scoring teams in Italy's top flight, if the 'goals allowed' column pretty much stays put, I wouldn't be surprised at all. Not bad, gents.

BAD NEWS

Ummmmm....

....

/thinks about another Scudetto parade/

I got nothing. Watch this a couple times.

Gif-dogs-confused-by-the-singing-glass_medium

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. The Juventus Stadium atmosphere. Everybody in attendance and watching around the world knows what's on the horizon. And for the those lucky enough to have a ticket to Sunday's possible title-clincher, they will certainly be at a stadio that's in a festive kind of mood. Juventus Stadium will be predictably loud like it always is, but it will have a different kind of vibe. The tifosi watched Juve clinch the Scudetto on the "road" last season — even though most of the Stadio Nereo Rocco was filled with Bianconeri supporters. This season, they have a chance to clinch the league title in front of their own fans and at their own stadium. Not a bad little thing to have happen on such a historic and meaningful day in Juve's storied history.

2. Whether Palermo puts up a good fight. The club owned by arguably the craziest mofo on the planet is in the midst of fighting for Serie A survival. Hard to believe considering they've gone through 35,000 managers in the last couple of years, isn't it? But Palermo need as many points as they can possibly get in the season's final four weeks. And their schedule post-Juventus isn't easy at all — home against Udinese, away to Fiorentina, home against Parma — so points will certainly be a premium as they look to stay out of the bottom three.

3. Can Arturo Vidal keep his hot streak going? Easy answer: It's Arturo Vidal so of course he can. As pointed out by Football Italia (through the Gazzetta dello Sport) earlier in the week, Vidal is currently in the midst of one of the best seasons by a Juventus midfielder ever. He's scored four goals in the last three league games, with three of those being of the game-winning variety. He's closing the season on an incredibly high note without a doubt, and there's no reason to think he's going to slow down — goals or no goals. He's just that damn good.

4. Can Mirko Vucinic snap out of his current funk? While Vidal is playing his best ball of the season, the opposite can be said about Juventus' much-talked about Montenegrin striker. He's been struggling — a lot. That's no way around it. And you know that's true when WhoScored, who usually loves them some Mirko Vucinic, gives him a pair of sub-6 ratings the past two fixtures. Sure, he's always been hot and cold. But It's definitely been more of the latter than the former lately.

My starting XI (3-5-1-1): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Asamoah; Marchisio; Quagliarella

OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 3 P.M. IN ITALY; 9 A.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 6 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST

(But don't worry, fellow West Coasters, this is the last early-morning kickoff of the season. We get to sleep in the rest of the way. I, for one, am all in favor of that.)

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