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Juventus vs. Sassuolo Preview: Round 26 — Monday Night Football at Juventus Stadium

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No matter what time of the season we are in, having an eight-point lead over your closest competition is a good thing. We can find faults in Juventus' season thus far, but when you're up eight points, you're doing something right — for the most part. That's not to say Juve are in great form right now, because they aren't, but sitting at the top of the standings up by at least eight points is good to know.

But you know what? It can be better. A whole lot better.

Roma drew for the eighth time in its last nine games (!!!). If there was ever a chance to push the Serie A lead to double digits (again), then Monday night would be it. Roma are like the boxer that is struggling along the ropes and is one or two punches away from being knocked out. Pushing the lead to plus-11 would continue Roma's wobbling ways without question.

Why are we talking Roma so much in a preview for Monday night's game against Sassuolo?

Well, it's simple: Juventus wins in Turin Monday, that Serie A lead is pushed into double digits. Not for a couple of hours, not for a day before Roma plays, none of that. A Juve win over Sassuolo means Round 27 will start with Juventus up 11 points on Roma. ELEVEN. That's a pretty good place to be sitting with 12 games left in the 2014-15 season.

Well, that's one way to look at it, Max. I guess the way Juve's defense has been playing lately, getting a shutout against a team with dangerous attackers isn't the worst thing in the world.

GOOD NEWS

Did I mention Roma are doing the whole drawing against weaker opponents thing again?

BAD NEWS

A quick look at who isn't part of the traveling squad due to injury:

  • Andrea Pirlo :(
  • Kwadwo Asamoah :(
  • Martin Cáceres :(
  • Luca Marrone :(
In short, injuries are stupid. We should ban them from existence.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. Domenico Berardi because of course.

Pavel Nedved recently said Berardi is one of Juventus' future cornerstone players. While there's always going to be some skepticism about how Juve handles young players out on loan/co-ownership, what Nedved said about Berardi has every indication of complete serious simply based on who it came from. Berardi is having another fine season in his second Serie A campaign. He's got seven goals, he's recorded six assists, he continues to dazzle even when he's not scoring goals. Can he be better? Of course he can. Is he ready for Juventus? Some say yes, some say he needs a bit more time before he truly is able to arrive at a club with so much hope attached to his back. And what better way to make another good impression than to put in a big-time performance against the club everybody expects you to be at sooner rather than later?

2. Simone Zaza because of course.

Considering all of those rumors about Zaza coming to Turin in the winter transfer window didn't come to any kind of fruition, the other striker of Juventus' eye is still waring a Sassuolo jersey. Zaza has had an up-and-down season despite earning his first cap with the Italian national team late in 2014. He has scored eight goals total, but just one in his last six games. (Maybe he's just practicing for a future with Juventus since that goal came in Sassuolo's 3-1 win over Inter last month.) Some look at Zaza as the better player to come to Juventus right now simply because he's more of a developed player at 23 years old. But it's clear that Juventus have ideas about brining him in next season. Much like Berardi, what better way to show you're ready than to do things — again — against Juventus?

3. Juventus' defense because they have looked terrible lately.

I don't really know where to begin simply because there's been so many things going wrong at the back lately. We all know about Juventus' inability to defend set pieces this season and how it has been exposed in even in recent weeks. But just the amount of overall mistakes and blunders has you thinking about where the defense of previous years has gone. It certainly doesn't help that Giorgio Chiellini has struggled to find any kind of consistent form (in a good way) this season. But as a collective unit, this current Juventus defense is in need of a gut check. Maybe that loss to Fiorentina midweek in the Coppa Italia will be the cure of all their current ills.

4. Roberto Pereyra because he's playing behind the strikers.

No Pirlo means Arturo Vidal gets to be an actual midfielder again and Pereyra steps in to play behind Álvaro Morata and Carlos Tévez. Simple is as simple does, really. Pereyra has been a lot like Juventus lately form wise. Sometimes he's on and making a big impact, other times he's just kinda there but not playing all too well. With Pirlo out for at least a couple more weeks, Pereyra's importance is even that much more because of who he's replacing in the starting lineup. When he's right, Pereyra's energy on the field can replicate that of Vidal. But finding consistency will be key for the young Argentine — as it has been all season.

My starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Ogbonna, Evra; Vidal, Marchisio, Pogba; Pereryra; Tévez, Morata

OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 9 P.M. IN ITALY; 4 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 1 P.M. ON THE WEST COAST