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Juventus-Napoli Preview: Round 8 — Mambo Napoletano

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Juventus return home and host Napoli in a battle for sole possession of first place. As a Bond villain once said, "Delicious."

Lintao Zhang - Getty Images

The international break has brought about not only a chance for our boys to "rest," but for there to be discussion — a lot of it — about what is on the horizon.

Juventus and Napoli enter atop the table. There is no tie-breaker at this point in time — unless you wanna count the Supercoppa win in Beijing a few months back because that was totally awesome. Both teams enter with 19 points out of a possible 21 to begin the season. Juventus has a goal different of 13, Napoli is at 11. Juventus has allowed four goals all season, Napoli has allowed three.

Dead. Freaking. Even.

It may be the middle of October, but this one has the makings of one of the season's best games. Maybe it's because we're just coming out of the international break. Maybe it's because both teams are tied for first place. Maybe it's because the games against Napoli have been — for the most part — incredibly exciting and a complete tactical battle like Mr. Zonal Marking himself said 24 hours ago on ESPNFC.

Maybe it's all of the above. Maybe it's only one or two.

I really don't know right now. I probably should, but I don't. #insight

But what I do know is something that goes a little something like this: Saturday is going to be an absolute battle. And I really cannot wait to watch it.

GOOD NEWS

This one is at home and we all should be thankful for that. We all know what kind of advantage the stadio has given our bianconeri heroes since it opened 14 months ago. And unlike the Champions League tie against Shakhtar, it sold out in about 20 seconds. So, barring a massive rainstorm or freezing temperatures, there will be people packing Juventus Stadium — and a lot of them.

BAD NEWS

If this season has proven anything thus far, it's that Juventus is a different team when they face a three-man defense rather than a flat back four. The midfield is more crowded, thus causing problems for some Juventus players — most notably Andrea Pirlo and his fantastic beard — to the same kind of impact they would against different formations.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. Fatigue. Why? The international break just ended! Bull. It's an international break when there's, ya know, a break. Juventus had 16 players on international duty, including every one of the regular starting lineup. Of course, some of those people played more than others, but they still were away with their national teams instead of laying low and training in Vinovo with Antonio Conte.

2. Whether or not Big Game Mirko shows up — if he plays. The Montenegrin mustached wonder returned early from international duty because he was suffering from flu-like symptoms. Who knows how he is actually feel at this exact moment, but that has caused the Italy media to run wild and start throwing out a bunch of 'what if' mumbo jumbo.

Let's say he does start, though. Heck, even plays off the bench. This is the kind of game where Vucinic's reputation could either help him or haunt him. He's shown up in a few big games already this season. And if he does play, he'll be looked at — as he usually is — to not only score goals, but to supply them as well.

3. Who's starting up front if Vucinic is a no-go. Yes, because we need more striker talk! AWESOME!

Seriously, though. It's decision time for Mr. Conte if Vucinic doesn't prove to totally fit. Some media outlets in Italy — most notably SKY Italia — are saying that if Juventus have play without Vucinic, then it's likely to be Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella getting the start up top. If QuagliaMatri does in fact get released, Sebastian Giovinco and his slight knock from international duty will be the first striker of the bench if need be.

One thing we do know is that all of the projected lineups don't include one thing: Nicklas Bendtner.

4. Andrea Pirlo. Why? Because it's goddamn Andrea Pirlo.

5. Who's on the sidelines. We know Massimo Carrera has done a fine job filing in for his bosses, but what about Angelo Alessio? Now that's he's able to be on the sidelines, will Conte's right-hand man take over match day duties? Seeing as Carrera has already met with the media after Friday's training session, you would think that points to him continuing in the same roll he has been in for the first two months of the season — which is perfectly fine with me.

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

I don't know. I could be totally wrong. I hate when the lineup is somewhat uncertain. Makes things difficult.

Napoli probable (3-4-1-2): De Sanctis; Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Gamberini; Maggio, Inler, Behrami, Zuniga; Hamisk; Cavani, Pandev

KICKOFF TIME IN THE UNITED STATES: HIGH NOON ON THE EAST COAST, 9 A.M. PACIFIC