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Juventus vs. Udinese Preview: Round 21 — Bianconeri on Bianconeri crime

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Just how one-sided have things been between Juventus and Udinese the last couple of years? Let's take a look.

  • Juventus have won their last six games against Udinese.
  • Juventus have recorded shutouts in their last four games against Udinese.
  • Juventus have scored at least two goals in five of their last six games against Udinese.

That sure sounds pretty nice, doesn't it?

I like Juventus winning games. And so should you. (Unless you don't root for Juventus, obviously.)

There's another thing...

Juventus has been getting plenty of help lately — but not exactly the kind that would have the Italian papers going absolutely bonkers over a potential controversy that is full of headline-grabbing material. Juventus' lead atop the Serie A table has grown to as many as eight points in recent weeks. It currently stands at six after Roma had another disappointing result, this time a 1-1 draw against Empoli on Saturday night.

That means when Juve travel to the Stadio Friuli for a Sunday afternoon showdown with their bianconeri brethren, they'll have the chance to stretch their lead over their closest competition to a season-high nine games.

I don't know about you, but that sounds like a wonderful thing to see happen.

While it's true Juventus haven't played all that great in their last couple of games — a 2-0 win over Chievo and a 1-0 win against Parma in the Coppa Italia — they're getting results. That's more than we can say these days when it comes Roma, which has drawn five out of the last six Serie A matches. (Not good.)

Will the recent dominance over Udinese be the cure for Juve's less-than-stellar showings over the past seven days?

That sure would be nice.

And if that happens, then it will be more than just a six-point lead atop the table for Juventus. That, too, would be pretty nice.

GOOD NEWS

Roma continue to drop points even when they get beneficial refereeing decisions. And because of it, the lead atop the Serie A table has the potential get even larger. That bares repeating, I think. Why? Because it's a wonderful development — especially since things were about as tight as they can get in December.

BAD NEWS

Claudio Marchisio is suspended due to his yellow card against Chievo and therefore we won't be able to look at his wonderful face for a couple of hours. Well, at least there's image searching on Google if you so please at halftime.

Also missing out is Arturo Vidal, who isn't fully fit thanks to a minor knee injury. It hasn't been a good couple of weeks for Vidal, has it?

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. Juventus (likely) going back to the 3-5-2.

Because of Marchisio and Vidal not being called up, the choices in the center of the midfield for Max Allegri are about as slim as they've been in quite a while. That will likely mean Allegri switches to a 3-5-2, something he has done in the past if the situation has called for it. Of course, when we hear '3-5-2' these days, the thoughts aren't exactly the most positive and could possibly make us want to throw a thing or two across the room. But the potential decision from Allegri to change formations makes sense considering who is available for selection this weekend. Here's to hoping that Juventus at least produce a little bit more against Udinese than the last time they used a three-man defense from the start.

2. Paul Pogba and his continued on-form magnificence.

The month of January was one where the 21-year-old French midfielder took over games. Like, more than before. He scored goal after goal, blew up Vine videos with moves that put defenders on skates, and had the whole world of football talking about him even more than before. January might as well have been renamed Pogba Month based on how well he's played since Juve came back from the Christmas/holiday break. We're witnessing the continued development of one of the world's best players right before all our eyes. And the way things are going, who knows when Pogba will finally reach his true peak potential. Either way, he's killing it right now, and doesn't look like he's going to slow down anytime soon.

3. Does Álvaro Morata get another start?

We've been seeing a lot of Mr. Morata lately. And, to be honest, it's not like that's really a bad thing. This is the first time in his early Juventus career that he's been receiving consistent playing time, with him taking advantage of it for the most part. His game-winning goal against Parma in the Coppa Italia midweek was his first big-time difference maker he's had in a Juventus shirt. But, like he has done so many times before this season, Allegri left the door open at his pre-match press conference to Fernando Llorente potentially get the start against Udinese on Sunday. Who knows if that truly does mean anything. If I've learned anything about Allegri and what he says about lineups, he's never going to truly tip his hand. I guess that's

4. Containing Toto Di Natale.

At the tender age of 37, Antonio Di Natale is still one of the most efficient strikers in Serie A. In 18 league games (16 starts), he's got nine goals, which ranks him sixth in Italy's top flight. Now, you may be telling yourself, "Well, Juventus hasn't allowed a goal in nearly a month, so what's the big deal?" And that line of thinking could be considered legitimate and worthwhile. But this is Toto, who has been known to be a complete pest and has scored a handful of goals against Juventus in the past. Basically what I'm trying to say is, if there's one person Juve's defense needs to keep an eye on Sunday afternoon, it's Antonio Di Natale. It doesn't matter how old he may be. He's still good at game.

My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Cáceres, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Pereyra, Pirlo, Pogba, Evra; Tévez, Morata

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