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Round 35: Down the Stretch They Come

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TURIN, ITALY - DECEMBER 18:  Claudio Marchisio of Juventus FC passes the ball during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and Novara Calcio at Juventus Arena on December 18, 2011 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
TURIN, ITALY - DECEMBER 18: Claudio Marchisio of Juventus FC passes the ball during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and Novara Calcio at Juventus Arena on December 18, 2011 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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It seems like I could write the same kind preview for Novara that I did for Cesena just a few days ago. I mean, they're basically in the same kind of position when it comes to the Serie A table; they're sitting at the travel agent's desk, getting ready to book a ticket back to Serie B.

So instead of just regurgitating info from last week, I'll try to think of something new. I mean, that's why I'm paid the huge bucks. Seriously, my pockets are overflowing wish cash right now.

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Ha, who the hell am I kidding.

Avanti!

If you aren't sure how games are left in the season, Stephan Lichtsteiner has volunteered to let you know.

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Yep, it's the Final Four and it's Piedmont Derby Day. I feel like we're in the middle of Kentucky and some hoopers or horses are about to make an appearance shortly. (You can see what's been going on in my newsroom lately. Too many different sports on the brain.)

As we all know, the advantage is +3 over second-place Milan, who travel to Antonio Conte's former stomping grounds, Siena, on Sunday. The mid-week performance overall against the now-relegated Seahorses certainly wasn't one to save as one of the season's highlights — particularly when it came to the finishing up front — but, at the end of the day, all that matters is the three points Juve brought home.

Le chiavi: Seems like things are the same as it entering last weekend, huh? Juventus won again and Max Allegri complained about Muntari's goal-that-was-a-goal-but-not-called-a-goal. This is a vicious cycle that is both awesome and incredibly tiresome at the same time. I think you can guess which is which.

But I digress.

Novara enters in basically the same situation as Cesena did: You lose and relegation is pretty much a certainty. You could say it's almost a lock at this point, but a loss to Juventus, at home, will be the final nail in Novara's coffin.

Good news: I had it in a few previews ago, but Juve's defense is playing at an unbelievable level. Since the beginning of March — that's a 10-game span in Serie A — opponents have scored three goals. TOTAL. THREE GOALS. That kind of stat deserves some caps lock. Cliche sure, but this defense is why Juventus is winning. Opposing teams aren't scoring goals. At all.

Novara's defense, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Cesena had the worst goal differential in Serie A — and Novara is just one spot better, sitting at minus-28. That's all I need to say there.

Bad news: Gigi Buffon might be falling asleep because of what his defense is doing in front of him. A question: When was the last time Gigi had to make a difficult save? four or six weeks ago? Like our buddies at JuventiKnows have been doing the last couple of weeks, Gigi's performance — and not for anything negative — can be summed up by two letters: "s.v."

Actual bad news: No Matri, as he is suspended after picking up a yellow against Cesena on Sunday.It wouldn't be such a huge deal — and it wasn't until Conte had his pre-match presser — if Del Piero and Quagliarella weren't injury doubts to play. The last time Quags was supposedly hurt, he played, so who knows. But if both Ale and Fabio are injured, you know what that means — Borriello time.

My starting XI (3-5-2): San Gigi; Dre, Leo, Giorgio; Steiner, King Arturo, Jon Bon Pirlo, Principino, Ashton; Eta Beta, Vooch

What? You'd thought I go with a 4-3-3? Ha, the 3-5-2 has been working so Conte's gonna stick with it ... right?