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Juventus vs. Cagliari Preview: Round 16 — It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

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The last time Juventus saw Cagliari lining up across from them as their opposition, there was some history going down. That day at Juventus Stadium saw Antonio Conte's men record points 100, 101 and 102 on the last day of the 2013-14 season, heading out onto the streets of Turin a little while later to celebrate after Gigi Buffon lifted another Scudetto trophy over his head.

Scudetto parades are fun, something that I will never tire of as long as we inhibit this very planet earth.

But this game against Cagliari won't see a fancy parade with thousands of people lining the streets following the final whistle. Well, unless there's an early Christmas celebration going on afterward that I don't know about. What there is going on for Juventus is the chance of going into the holiday break — sans the playing of the Supercoppa against Napoli next Monday in Qatar — as winter champions and officially start the new year with some kind of lead atop the Serie A table.

And when you throw in how Cagliari have been absolutely terrible in Serie A since the middle of October, there's nothing smacking us in the face and telling us that Juventus shouldn't have a four-point lead over Roma at the end of the day.

Of course, there's talking about it and actually going out to achieve it.

But luckily for those of us who root for Juventus, Max Allegri's squad will be playing a team coached by Zdenek Zeman — which means at least one team won't be playing much defense at all. And for a Juventus side that has scored just one goal in its last three games in all competitions, that might be the cure to this current streak of three consecutive draws.

So, come on, Zemanlandia. Work your magic and let in a bunch of goals. It's the right thing to do.

(According to me.)


Go check Cagliari's defensive statistics this season, then get back to me. Try not to get all giddy in the process.

Also, Max Allegri won't be suspended for tomorrow's match. That's good, very good news.


Here's something that is completely stupid...

Juventus currently has four players — Angelo Ogbonna, Claudio Marchisio, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Paul Pogba — sitting one yellow card away from a one-game suspension. If any of those five players were to get a yellow card against Cagliari, then they will miss Monday's Super Cup against Napoli in Doha.

So you get carded in a Serie A game and will miss a glorified exhibition that is supposed to take place before the season even begins. Do we really think somebody like Lichtsteiner is going to make it through the next two games without getting carded? Italy does a lot of stupid things, and this is definitely one of them.


1. Can Juventus snap the draw streak?

A draw against Fiorentina wasn't the end of the world, neither were those subsequent ones against Atlético Madrid and Sampdoria for their respective reasons. But as Juve enter their final away game of 2014, the manageable and comfortable cushion between themselves and Roma is basically gone. All that separates first and second place in Serie A is one measly point entering the 16th round of play Another slip up and Juventus could be in second for the first time in quite a number of months. Cagliari are nowhere near the quality of Fiorentina or Sampdoria, so anything other than three points should be considered bad news. Let's just hope we don't have to broach that subject about 24 hours from this post going live.

2. What kind of squad rotation will there be — if any?

I'd throw out a quote from Allegri about what kind of squad rotation may or may not be happening, but I've come to learn that Max isn't very helpful when it comes to revealing who will be playing outside of the givens. And you know what? That's perfectly okay with me. He's a manager, and managers like to do things their own way when it comes to saying what the starting lineup will be. I say this because Juventus nearing the end of another post-international break run of games. And while all but one other team will be starting their holiday break after their games this week, Juventus and Napoli won't be due to the Supercoppa. So does that mean some players might get a rest? I really don't know. Mainly because Max won't tell us. What a meanie.

3. The impact of a certain Carlos Tévez.

I'm not one to truly freak out about a player of Carlitos' quality not scoring a goal for a little less than a month or so, and I'm not going to start now. Yet the last time Tévez found the back of the net was Nov. 22 when Juve throttled Lazio 3-0 and pretty much tore apart a team that many people expected to be quite a stiff challenge for the defending Serie A champions. Since then, Tévez has gone on to score another goal — a few days later in the Champions League against Malmö — and then go rather quiet. So unless Tévez wants to go 0-for-December in Serie A, things will have to turn around for the leading scorer in Italy's top flight. At least he's the top scorer in Serie A for now, that is.

4. Adventures with Zemanlandia.

Here's something that won't surprise you: A Zdenek Zeman-coached team doesn't have a very good defense. A quick look at the Serie A stat sheet tells us that Zeman's Cagliari has allowed 26 goals through 15 games this season, the third-worst figure in all of Italy's top flight. So what does this mean? Well, exactly what we already know — Cagliari are all offense (20 goals scored) and no defense.

So, no defense and all offense? Sounds like a blast! I love entertaining games! Sounds like Zemanlandia to me. This shouldn't be a surprise to anybody if they've watched a Zeman-led team. His tenure at Roma was the same type of deal — lots of offense, no defense, and then the subsequent firing around the middle of the season. Obviously Cagliari are a different animal because they're setting themselves up for a serious battle not to get sent packing to Serie B, but it's still the kind of team you'd expect from Zeman. And for that we should be thankful. Because maybe, just maybe, Juventus won't get a draw in their fourth straight game on Thursday night.

My starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Ogbonna, Chiellini, Evra; Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba; Pereyra; Tévez, Morata