For weeks we've been hearing the same old rambling from the masses who follow Italian football and everything that comes along with it. "Oh, the Scudetto race is over! The Scudetto race is over!" And you know what? It very well may be. Sure, Roma cut Juventus' lead to five points with their 3-1 win over Atalanta on Saturday night. But it's not exactly like Roma and the team they're chasing play on the same day at the same exact time.
Why do I bring this up? Because it's true — to a point.
Juventus have been in front of the pack for months just like they were a season ago. Just a few more points and Antonio Conte will have his third Scudetto in as many years. It's close, but it's still not officially locked up. And as long as that's the case, there will still be talk about how close Roma may or may not be in the standings. That's just how it's gonna be until we see players in black and white jerseys running around the field because they just clinched another league title.
Juventus' schedule has all of six Serie A games left. This time next month, Juve will be stepping onto the Juventus Stadium field for their final game of the season. That season against Cagliari won't just be a few days after the Europa League final in Turin, but also a Scudetto celebration — one filled with another parade
And let's be honest, who doesn't like Scudetto parades through Turin?
Exactly my point. Scudetto parades through Turin are great. Don't you dare disagree.
Last time out
Last time out
The first of those final six games is just 24 hours from now as of this post going live to the world wide web. It's Juventus' annual trip to the Stadio Friuli to face Francesco Guidolin and his squad of players who will probably be sold for 10 times more than the price they were bought for in a year or two from now.
But this isn't the same high-flying Udinese team we've seen in previous seasons. Entering the weekend, they sat in 14th place, a very easy way to figure out that this has been one of the more up-and-down years under Guidolin.
Could that mean a second straight league win for Juve? I sure as hell hope so. It's time to wrap up this Scudetto as quick as possible. Enough waiting. There's a Scudetto parade through Turin to take part in.
If I told you that a Francesco Guidolin-managed Udinese side would be averaging barely over a goal a game, would you believe me? Well, it's the truth. Udinese has played 32 games and scored all of 35 goals. By contrast, Juventus has scored twice as many goals in as many games. That doesn't seem like the Udinese of the last few seasons, right?
Arturo Vidal's knee hurts. More on that in a little bit.
Andrea Barzagli is still hurt and not included in the 22-man squad going to the Friuli. Luckily Martin Cáceres is awesome.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Gianluigi Buffon vs. Simone Scuffet.
It's not very often in this day and age that we get to see a goalkeeper on one end of his career going up against another whose career is really just beginning. While San Gigi isn't done between the sticks and probably playing his best ball of the season right now, the reality is that he's 36 years old and isn't going to play forever. Scuffet is on the completely different end of the spectrum, currently taking Serie A by storm at the tender age of 17. In all of 11 league games, Scuffet has gone from relative unknown outside of Italy to possibly being one of Italy's three goalkeepers at the World Cup this summer in Brazil. Go ahead and think about what you were doing at his age and then think about the kind of season Scuffet is currently having since making his debut. Yeah, not bad.
2. Arturo Vidal's health status.
This is quite a big one, of course, because of how awesome Vidal is. And when a guy comes out and publicly states in the press that his knee has been bothering him for weeks, I'm pretty sure a few more eyebrows were raised when Vidal was included in the traveling squad for tomorrow night's game. That might mean the knee is feeling okay, it might mean that Antonio Conte is trying to play some tricks on Udinese entering the game. Many of the predicted lineups aren't falling for it, saying that it will be Paul Pogba-Andrea Pirlo-Claudio Marchisio in the center of the park on Monday. And just like I said a few days ago, if Vidal says the knee is hurting, don't you even dare risk it, Juventus. He's too important.
3. Kwadwo Asamoah vs. his old friends.
Even though Juventus hasn't been playing all that great as a team the last month or two, Asamoah is having a very good season — especially as of late. Even though he has been playing pretty much every game possible, he's not showing any kind of signs of fatigue. He just keeps truckin' and putting in damn good performances. And because of what club he played for before signing with Juve a couple of summers ago, the Udinese game is always going to be special for Mr. BOH. I would like to image that he's going to try a little extra harder against his former manager, but that's just me thinking out loud here.
4. Fernando Llorente's impact.
First the first time in over a month, we were able to celebrate a Llorente goal — twice! — last Monday. He was stuck on 11 goals for a good amount of time, and you know that had to be sneaking into his head a little bit. Or a lot, who knows. But with his two goals last Monday against Livorno, Llorente is back to his scoring ways. Maybe it was the new haircut and elimination of the beard, I don't know. But here's what I do know: If this is the start of another string of really good games from Llorente, it's coming at a pretty convenient time. Not just as Juve hit the stretch run in league play, but also because that little thing called the Europa League semifinal is right around the corner.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Cáceres, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Llorente, Tévez
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 8:45 P.M. IN ITALY; 2:45 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 11:45 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST
- In appreciation of Martin Cáceres
- Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal says he's experiencing knee pain
- 2014 UEFA Europa League: Juventus draw Benfica in semifinal
- UEFA Europa League: Juventus vs. Lyon, Leg 2, full match coverage
- Juventus 2 (3) - Lyon 1 (1): Pirlo pearl and deflected Marchisio effort seal semifinal spot