We've reached the point in the season where we can count the number of games remaining on one hand and one hand only. Thirty-three games have gone and gone, now we're left with only five remaining before we're left to go off to transfer rumor land. With that, Juventus' grasp on a third straight Scudetto is just that much tighter.
And after their win over Udinese on Monday, Juventus restored order — and their eight-point lead — atop the Serie A table. Eight points with five games to play. Not too shabby, fellas.
Talented Juventus central defender and avid high-sock wearer who goes by the name of Martin Cáceres had this to say after the win at the Friuli four days ago.
The guy has a point, you know. Do Juventus have a hand on their third straight Scudetto? Absolutely. Being up eight points with five games to go is a rather large hill to try and overcome if you're somebody who wears a Roma jersey every weekend. And when you compare the two schedules, it's pretty easy to figure out that Juventus have the edge when it comes to that category, too.
Basically what I'm trying to say is that Juventus are close to a third straight title. Really, really close. Just a few more positive results, a few more wins, and a third straight Scudetto and all the celebrations that come along with it will be Juventus' once again.
Last time out
Last time out
Bologna's trip to Juventus Stadium is looked at as the next step towards the officially locking up a third straight title. And that's not just because Juve are the best team in Italy and Bologna are, well, not even close to being in the top half of the league table. To be specific, Juventus are currently on 87 points and still have the possibility of finishing in triple digits. Bologna is sitting as close to the relegation zone as possible without actually being there — three points ahead of Livorno with five games to play.
Yeah, that's two completely different circumstances.
You know Conte and his players want to wrap this thing up as soon as possible. There's no reason to disagree with that. I'd say celebrating the chance to play for the Europa League title in front of your hometown crowd and celebrating a third straight Scudetto within the same week is rather fun.
Make it happen, gents.
As much as some Juve players are saying lately that they aren't tired, having an extra day to rest at this time of year has got to be nice for the guys who have been playing week-in, week-out the past two months.
Leonardo Bonucci is suspended because of yellow cards. Other than that, there's not a whole lot of bad news to report about Juventus right now. The squad is playing better, mostly everybody is healthy and Juve are in the Europa League semifinals. Not really tons of things to complain about right now. Well, minus the Simone Padoin Fan Club being upset about somebody's lack of playing time this season...
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. The health status of both Carlos Tévez and Arturo Vidal.
This is what Antonio Conte had to say about Juventus' two best players following the win against Udinese.
#Conte: "Tevez hasn’t been able to fully shake off his adductor problem, while Vidal is still feeling the effects of a sore knee."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 14, 2014
With a healthy lead atop Serie A, I have one piece of advice for Conte — rest these two men as much as they need to be rested. That's especially true when you take into account that Juventus have two relatively important European games coming up in the next 10 days. Most of the lineup-projecting outlets have both Vidal and Tévez starting from the bench against Bologna tomorrow night. And to be honest with you all, that's completely okay with me. If they aren't 100 percent healthy, then don't even risk them. A re-aggravation of either injury and a season could possibly be ended. That wouldn't be very good at all.
2. Will anybody without injury concerns get some rest ahead of the trip to Benfica?
Having five days before tomorrow night's match and five days after might mean Conte will go with as strong of a lineup as he might if Roma were nipping at Juve's heels down the stretch of the season. As was the case against Udinese, Conte will likely have just about everybody available to him to call up for Bologna's visit to Juventus Stadium. Other than Tévez and Vidal being held out, the same lineup-predicting folks think it will be the usual suspects against Bologna that have been out there the last couple of games. If we see a Mauricio Isla in for Stephan Lichtsteiner, I wouldn't be all that surprised, though. Conte won't drastically overhaul things because he rarely does that. But a few changes here and there wouldn't come as a surprise.
3. Can Fernando Llorente keep the good times going?
Two games, three goals. Fernando Llorente is as close to being "back" as he's been in quite a number of weeks. All three of his goals have come in different kinds of ways, which could be a sign that Llorente truly is getting back on form. If that's the case, then Mr. Rey León picked a good time to find his goal-scoring boots once again. We saw what Llorente added to the team when he was contributing both in the build-up and finding back of the net back in the middle of the season when he scored most of his 14 Serie A goals.
4. How Angelo Ogbonna handles the center of the three-man defense again.
For some reason, Leonardo Bonucci succeeded in getting a yellow card against Udinese this past Monday even though he didn't even step onto the field. That probably takes talent. Or maybe it's just a little bit of facepalm-worthy behavior. I'll get back to you on that. Either way, because Bonucci got the yellow, he's suspended for tomorrow's game against Bologna and Ogbonna will find himself at the center of Juve's defense yet again. Before he got the nod at the Friuli, it had been a month since Ogbonna's last start — Juventus' 1-1 draw against Fiorentina in the Europa League Round of 16. Ogbonna was pretty solid in his return to the lineup on Monday. Let's just hope he can keep that going.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Cáceres, Ogbonna, Chiellini; Isla, Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Llorente, Giovinco
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
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- Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. Udinese