Right or wrong, Parma has been the butt of quite a few jokes this season. The ones where we say something like "Hey, what's happened more often this season, Amauri scoring a goal or Parma being sold?" That kind of stuff is the reality of Parma's current state. They've been bankrupt and then saved while the whole time toiling around the relegation zone.
Juventus, however, are in the exact opposite situation as their prosciutto-guzzling friends to the south. Money is coming in by the millions thanks to a deep run in the Champions League. Max Allegri is smiling like a guy who just hit all six numbers in the latest lottery draw. Juve are on the brink of a fourth straight title. We're all making Scudetto parade plans as Juve's double-digit lead over Roma isn't going anywhere.
Life is good — at least for one of us, that is.
And guess who just so happens to be popping up on Juventus' schedule this weekend?
Ha! It's so funny how those things work out the way they do.
Nine rounds to go, even fewer before Scudetto No. 33 is signed, sealed and delivered to Juventus Stadium for yet another big-time celebration. The way things are going now with Roma not even putting a dent into the 14-point lead atop the table and it won't be long before those Scudetto parade plans are being made an actuality.
Max Allegri has called tomorrow's game "A difficult, but potentially decisive game in our race for the title." And while I don't know how truly difficult it will be considering how poor Parma has been throughout the season, it certainly will be a decisive game when it comes to wrapping up the Scudetto simply because there's just one fewer game to go. There's only so much everybody else can do because of how big Juve's lead atop the Serie A table currently is.
And let's be honest, who amongst us in black and white colored glasses doesn't want Juventus to go into their clash with Monaco with a lot of momentum? They've played so well these last few weeks, this is just another chance to build upon that. I won't be opposed to that. (Shocking, I know.)
This is a two-part, short-attention-span reading exercise. First, the Serie A table position of both Juventus and Parma entering the weekend's set of games. As you can guess, there's a slight bit of space between the two clubs.
1. Juventus — 70 points from 29 games
20. Parma — 12 points from 28 games
Second, let's look at the goal different between the two clubs.
Juventus — plus-43
Parma — minus-31
Good. Now that we're done with that, we can continue on with this preview that talks about the best team in Italy's top flight playing against the worst one.
No Andrea Prilo. No Carlos Tévez. No Andrea Barzagli. No Gianluigi Buffon. Some of these decisions are with Monaco in mind, others are because of injuries. It's easy to figure out which is which.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. How much squad rotation will there be?
The funny thing is, if you were to approach this like a Coppa Italia game, you'd probably be thinking to yourself something along the lines of "Juve's reserves are good enough to beat Parma, so rotate that squad away, Max!" I know I have. And, to be honest, I still am. Juventus are playing easily the worst team in Serie A this season just a few short days before the latest and greatest game that is being considered the most important of the season.
.@OfficialAllegri: "We'll go out with our best team tomorrow as many players have rested. It's a crucial game for our title ambitions."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 10, 2015
Max is such a sneaky little devil when it comes to talking about the lineups at his pre-match press conferences. I'll just leave it at this: If Juventus' lineup is anything close to what Allegri is planning on rolling out there against Monaco on Tuesday, then I'll be pretty surprised. Last-place Parma or Champions League quarterfinals? Hmmm, I wonder which one has more importance right now...
2. Will Kingsley Coman get a shot from the start?
Max Allegri has done a lot right over the last month as Juve has gone on this run both in Italy and in Europe. One of the more head-scratch-worthy moves was brining Kingsley Coman on for all of about three minutes before taking the young Frenchman off in favor of Fernando Llorente against Fiorentina midweek. With no Carlos Tévez called up and Álvaro Morata expected to get a rest before the first leg against Monaco, this could — and should — be the chance for Coman to get his first start in over a month. Remember, Coman has barely seen any game time in the past two months, so if he does get the start against Parma, it will be the first time he's truly had a chance to play since the last time Juve played against Saturday's opposition. That's unfortunate, because while he's a raw talent, the potential is there. He just need game minutes.
3. Service to Fernando Llorente.
We can go on about how disappointing Llorente has been this season, but that horse has been beaten enough already. A lot of folks are suspecting Llorente will get the start up front no matter which formation Allegri chooses to go with against Parma. If Llorente is the center man in a proposed trident, then the wingers supplying the big Spaniard the ball will be almost as important as him scoring it himself. We know Llorente will be a threat in the air no matter what kind of form he is currently in simply because he's such a huge target for crosses. Some lineups thrown out there by the Italian media had Juve going with a 4-3-3 with Coman and Simone Pepe as wingers. Even if it's a 4-3-1-2 that Allegri goes with, the fact still remains about Llorente — if he gets some crosses, he will have the chance to take advantage of the glaring weaknesses at the back for Parma.
4. How much of a flight will Parma put up?
Here's something we haven't been able to say much at all this season: Parma is coming off a win! You wanna know how many times we've been able to say that this season? Four. Four freaking times Parma have recorded a win. That's as many wins as Juventus have had in the last month — in Serie A alone. I don't doubt Parma will be in much higher spirits after their win over Udinese earlier this week compared to the first time Juventus saw them and handed them quite a healthy defeat. (That's probably an understatement when you consider the final score is 7-0.) But with their fate pretty much sealed because they're so many points away from safety with nine games to go, Parma is playing for pride and that's about it. Will they? If their win over Udinese is any indication, that's certainly going to be the case.
My starting XI (4-3-3): Storari; Padoin, Bonucci, Ogbonna, De Ceglie; Vidal, Marchisio, Sturaro; Pepe, Llorente, Coman
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 6 P.M. IN ITALY; HIGH NOON ON THE EAST COAST; 9 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST