The number of rounds remaining in the Serie A season are approaching the point where we can count them on one hand. That's it. The marathon is officially hitting its final sprint. The long-winded season that started back in August is now a little over a month away from being completely over and done with.
The result of that is the chance for teams to jockey and leapfrog teams in the standings are becoming fewer and fewer. And, seeing as Juventus officially have nobody to try and jump over entering Sunday afternoon's game against Palermo, then there's the same thing present that we talked about this time last week before the trip to the San Siro.
It's about keeping the lead atop the Serie A standings right where it is at the very minimum. With every Juventus win we see from here on out, the chances of Napoli staging any final-day comeback can be summed up pretty well in the nine-second video right below this sentence.
Juventus are up six points with six rounds left to play. In an interview with Il Corriere dello Sport on Friday, Paulo Dybala talked about how the Scudetto going to anybody seems like something that would be incredibly hard to imagine. And knowing that Inter beat Napoli 2-0 on Saturday, it's pretty safe to assume that Napoli will be hoping that Simone Inzaghi has breathed serious life into Lazio come next Wednesday rather than thinking Palermo can do something that would actually be considered a positive. And there's no doubt that Napoli will have their eyes glued to the television when Juve make the trip to the Franchi to face Fiorentina next weekend.
Yes, Juventus have tough games still left on the schedule. No, the Scudetto isn't completely a close to being considered a foregone conclusion just yet. But that magical number of points where Napoli will officially be out of contention is getting closer and closer to being met.
As much as we want this race toward the finish line to be over and done with ASAP, it's simply about taking care of business from here on out. That's the simple matter of it. Juve more than just slightly control their own destiny. A record fifth straight Scudetto is in reach. Now it's just a matter of not screwing the whole thing up.
.@OfficialAllegri: "#JuvePalermo is far from a foregone conclusion. Like every game, we start from 0-0. We need to focus and play our best."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 16, 2016
We don't expect you to take any different kind of approach, Max. That's just how you role, and we appreciate you for that. Never change.
PAULO DYBALA BACK PAULO DYBALA BACK
Napoli lost to Inter. The only bad news would be if Juve's lead after Sunday's game is still at six points. So, I guess, we'll get back to you when it comes to this one, folks.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Does Paulo Dybala make more than just a brief appearance?
Here's something surprising from the Max Allegri press conference on Saturday: He didn't reveal whether Dybala will actually start. Unheard of, I know.
.@OfficialAllegri: "@PauDybala_JR has been training and is in good shape. We need one more look at him before tomorrow." #JuvePalermo— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 16, 2016
Okay, so with all of that being said, everybody in the Italian press is thinking that Dybala will be making his return to the starting lineup since having to be subbed out in the first half of last month's Turin derby. It's been good to see that Juve has proven they can survive and play well without him in the lineup, but I would be lying if I said he hadn't missed seeing Dybala playing and consistently doing awesome things.
Just like we said the first time Juve played Palermo, this is obviously going to be a game that has special meaning to Dybala simply because of the recent past. You know he's going to be up for this one, especially with the game being played at Juventus Stadium. So what better way to (potentially) mark your return to the starting lineup than with a goal against your former team, right?
2. Can Paul Pogba continue his uptick in form going?
ESPNFC recently ran a video entitled 'Pogba in fine form for Juventus.' I would like to think that they said awesome things about Pogba, but I chose to not watch because of reasons. But that's beside the point. My point is, simply put, is that Pogba has been great lately. He has been scoring goals, he's been setting up goals. Basically, he's been impacting the game in whichever way you can think of right now. This is the kind of Pogba we know and love. You know, the one that is brimming with confidence yet doesn't feel the need to try and trick every single defender he goes up against. Sometimes the simple things leads to the brilliant, and with Pogba the brilliant looks simple sometimes. (Got that? I hope so.) Maybe knowing that he's going his original Dab Team member back in the squad will be the thing that keeps this good run of form going. And also the fact that Pogba is really, really good doesn't hurt, either.
3. How Sami Khedira plays after weeks of rest.
It seems like we haven't seen Khedira playing in a Juventus jersey for a while mainly because that's exactly the case. It's almost been a month ever since Khedira last played — and subsequently sent off — in the Turin derby on March 20. This may be the freshest Khedira has been ever since he arrived at Juventus. No, I'm not counting the time he has missed due to injury because that's obviously a totally different kind of time off. This time around, Khedira has been able to train with the rest of the team and that's it. And knowing that he has clearly been a player who has a great impact of Juventus' midfield and team as a whole, then seeing a well-rested Khedira out there may have big kind of impact right along with it. At least I hope that's the case. It sure would be nice knowing that Juve are looking to put a final nail in Napoli's coffin this season.
My starting lineup
Juventus XI: Gianluigi Buffon; Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Daniele Rugani; Juan Cuadrado, Sami Khedira, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba, Alex Sandro; Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala
TV: beIN Sports (United States, Canada); BT Sport 2 (United Kingdom); Sky Calcio 2 (Italy)
Online: fuboTV, beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A. (United States); beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada (Canada); BT Sport Live Streaming (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia (Italy)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live on Twitter. If you haven't already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.