Over the course of the last few years, Juventus and Udinese has always been one heck of an intriguing encounter. Some of it because of the players involved, some of it had to do with the tactics being used by two of the best coaches Serie A has to offer. Whatever the case has been, Juventus and Udinese provided its fair share of excitement these past couple of Scudetto-winning seasons.
You remember the last time Udinese came to Juventus Stadium, right? Come on, you have to! It was a pretty memorable game filled with a couple of pretty memorable moments. If not, here's the best of the bunch.
Ah, that Paul Pogba goal. I could watch that thing over and over again if I really wanted to. For the sake of this preview, though. I will put that off until the last sentence is written.
With a Juventus Stadium filled with children rooting the Bianconeri on, Udinese comes to Turin looking to prevent any more of Pogba's insanely awesome goals. And looking at the form guide, it's one team that is starting to hit their stride against one that has been very inconsistent as of late.
I think we can guess which one is which.
Antonio Conte's squad has won five straight in Serie A. And because of it, they're atop the table for the first time in weeks. Roma has slipped up, and Juve has come charging forward to overtake what was the hottest team in Europe the first two months of the season.
Juventus and first place. It's got a nice right to it, doesn't it?
You guys check out the Serie A table within the last couple of days? It's looking a little different — in a good kind of way — than it did the first two months of the season. Three straight Roma draws has seen Juve close the gap and overtake Rudi Garcia's side rather quickly, and now, have them looking up at the two-time defending champs.
I'd like to keep it this way. I hope you guys agree.
MORE GOOD NEWS
Who wants bad news when Juventus is playing well? Exactly.
Quite possibly the best piece of news entering the weekend is that Stephan Lichtsteiner is back, baby! So is Andrea Barzagli! That's pretty good news considering what the defensive options were this time last weekend.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Any sort of Champions League hangover.
Why? Because why the hell not. It's always something that works its way into my head after Juventus play on the European stage. I can't help it. It's there, setting up shop when I should be totally happy that Juve are sitting second in their Champions League and atop the Serie A standings. But noooooo, Mr. Negative is thinking about what could go wrong rather than what could go right. In all seriousness, though, Juventus had a pretty uneventful return to league play after their 2-2 draw against Real Madrid at the end of October. So if they'd like to record another win like they did the last time around, that'd be cool.
2. The ability to keep the train rolling.
The month of November treated Juventus quite well, I must say. The Fiorentina meltdown has turned out to be an absolute blessing in disguise. Why? Since that second-half disaster in Florence, Juve hasn't allowed a goal in Serie A. And, it's not surprising that they've won every game because of the much more favorable goal differential the past month. Well, because of other stuff, too, but the defense getting their act together is something that has helped this squad get back to what they do best — win games. It's a pretty easy recipe for success to figure out, isn't it?
3. Where Martin Caceres figures into the equation.
With all the injuries and suspensions Juve have had to deal with as of late, one of the benefits is that Caceres has gotten a lot of playing time because of it. He's certainly taken advantage of his recent opportunities, too, whether it has been as a right back in a 4-3-3 or as a member of the backline in a 3-5-2. He's always been a versatile player, and the last couple of weeks is just further confirmation of it. And while Lichtsteiner has been called up for the first time in nearly two months, throwing him back into the fire is something not many people are suggesting. That could very well mean Caceres gets to play as a right wingback for the first time in long time. Considering my approval of high-socked Uruguayans, I'd be perfectly okay with No. 4 getting some more playing time this weekend.
4. Which Udinese shows up.
There hasn't been a lot of winning going on for Udinese recently. Considering the kind of attacking talent they have, there hasn't been a lot of goal scoring going on for Udinese, either. It's not like a team who has been one of the more exciting clubs in Italy the past few seasons to be averaging under a goal a game, let alone one that is so up and down. But that's the reality Udinese currently finds themselves in — four losses in the last six games domestically and just one win away from all season.
5. Ashton Kutcher on the left wing.
Kwadwo Asamoah's yellow card-related suspension means that Paolo De Ceglie will get his first start in quite awhile. That's not necessarily a bad thing for those of us who still have a soft spot for the shaggy-haired winger. He obviously is a player who has his flaws, but one of the good things you know about whenever De Ceglie plays is that the service from the left wing will be quality. I'm pretty sure there's a certain tall Spanish striker who is likely to start for Juve tomorrow looking forward to getting his head on a few of those crosses, too.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Caceres, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, De Ceglie; Llorente, Tevez
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 6:30 P.M. IN ITALY; 12:30 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 9:30 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST