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Juventus vs. Atalanta Preview: Round 17 — Christmas party in Bergamo?

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Valerio Pennicino

All that stands between Juventus and a relaxing Christmas vacation is a trip to Bergamo to play Atalanta. One game. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. The winter break is almost upon us, ladies and gentlemen.

Sure, there's a game come Sunday afternoon in Bergamo against Atalanta, but IT'S  ALMOST CHRISTMAS!!!!

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Okay, so maybe Claudio Marchisio directing an orchestra while singing Jingle Bells isn't the most important thing in this post. But when you have the gifs, you must use them!

Juventus look to shut the door on a month that can be described as an roller coaster both in terms of flat out emotions and success on the field in two completely different ways and competitions. The Serie A winning streak has remained intact, but the Champions League exit has certainly dominated the discussion surrounding Juve ever since that stupid, stupid trip to Istanbul.

But even with that happening, Antonio Conte has seen his team just continue to win when it comes to domestic action. They've resembled the Juventus of Conte's previous seasons — shutout win after shutout win, three points after three points. One win after another has seen Juve shoot right past Roma and reclaim their spot as Serie A's top dogs. It's been the perfect response you wanted to see after the 4-2 shocker at the hands of Fiorentina two months ago.

I guess, when it comes to trying to win a third straight league title, that's all you can ask for.

GOOD NEWS

A Juventus winning streak update:

Eight games, eight clean sheets. Because of this, Juve once again have the best goal differential in Serie A at plus-25.

This has been a Juventus winning streak update. Thank you.

BAD NEWS

Andrea Pirlo will probably be hanging back in Turin and drinking wine when Juventus vs. Atalanta kicks off tomorrow afternoon. That's not exactly something I wanted to type, even though Pirlo loves him some vino during his spare time.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. Juventus being able to carry their momentum into the winter break.

Why has Juventus been able to win eight straight Serie A games? Well, it's pretty simple, really. They've gone back to what's made them champions in the past under Conte — very good defense, lots of pressure on the opposition, and the goals have followed. Three points have followed in those eight consecutive wins because of it, and it's the reason why Juve are back atop the table with a five-point lead entering the final weekend of 2013.

Or, to put it simply: Just keep the train rolling, fellas.

2. Where Kwadwo Asamoah plays.

In the past two games, ;we've seen Asamoah go back to his roots. That would be as a central midfielder, not a wingback like where Conte has utilized him since arriving from Udinese two summers ago. The question entering the final game of 2013 is a simple one when it comes to Asamoah: Where the heck is he going to play? He's done well in his return to the center of the midfield, albeit it's a small sample size. That isn't much of a surprise, though, considering it's where he made a name for himself to begin with. The thing that Conte has to consider is this: Which is better, playing Asamoah as a wingback and an out-of-form Claudio Marchisio in the center, or Asamoah in the center and somebody else on the left wing? We'll see.

3. Who plays left wingback if Asamoah is in the center of the midfield?

It's a big 'What if' in the grand scheme of things. Say Asamoah plays as a wingback himself, then this whole thing is a moot point. But for the sake of being a total speculator, we'll talk about who might play if Asamoah does in fact play in the cetner of the midfield. The options, Federico Peluso and Paolo De Ceglie, aren't the players that Asamoah is. We've known that ever since Asamoah became the starting left wingback, so this isn't any kind of breaking news.

4. Controlling Germán Denis.

I like to think of Denis as a pest, even though he's not the same kind of pocket-sized pest as somebody like Sebastian Giovinco. Denis is good at what he does — and for him, that means scoring goals. Since coming to Atalanta, he's scored a goal every other game. That's a pretty good tally for somebody who isn't all that heralded as much when compared to other strikers in Italy. But he is a threat, there's no doubt about it. And as the target man in Atalanta's attack, they're going to be looking to not only give him the ball as much as possible, but as many chances in front of goal as they can.

5. If Carlos Tevez can build off his hat trick.

And by 'build,' I mean continue scoring goals. Why? Because I like when Carlos Tevez scores goals. When it comes to Serie A, Tevez has already scored as many goals as Arturo Vidal and Mirko Vucinic did to lead Juventus all of last season. DId I mention the 2013-14 campaign still has 22 games to go entering the weekend? Yeah, 10 goals for Carlitos in 16 games is quite the impressive tally for a guy who is completely new to life in Italy. Champions League struggles aside, Tevez has clearly been what Conte wanted in a striker. And there's no doubting he's delivered.

My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pogba, Asamoah, De Ceglie; Llorente, Tevez

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