Juventus and Roma return from the winter break for a massive Serie A clash. The Vecchia Signora currently lead the league by five points over the Giallorossi, who have their sights set on scoring a road win to narrow the gap and create an intriguing race for the title.
The two-time defending champions are currently on pace to make it three straight after a tremendous start to the campaign. They hold a 15-1-1 record through 17 matches and are riding a nine-match winning streak in Serie A play heading into this key matchup.
Roma have played extremely well in their own right. They haven't dropped a match with the halfway point right around the corner, but a handful of draws leaves them looking up at Juventus. Sunday's match will be the toughest league test of the season.
With that in mind, let's check out all the important viewing information for the high-profile battle, followed by an examination of the top storyline and a match prediction.
What's your prediction for the crucial Serie A match?
Where: Juventus Stadium in Turin, Italy
When: Sunday, Jan. 5 at 2:45 p.m. ET (7:45 p.m. GMT)
Watch: beIN Sport and BT Sport 1
Live Stream: beIN Sport Play
Match Forecast (via Bloomberg Sports)
Juventus: 54.9 percent
Roma: 21.8 percent
Draw: 23.3 percent
Top Storyline: Can Juventus take a huge step toward another league title?
If Roma can find a way to escape Juventus Stadium with all three points, which would move them back within two of the top spot, they are legitimate title threats. If the gap remains five, they will at least stay in contention heading into the season's second half.
But if Juventus can immediately rediscover the form they were showcasing before the break and stretch the lead to eight, it's hard to imagine anybody chasing them down given their combination of talent, depth and form. That's why Sunday's clash is so important.
Vecchia Signora boss Antonio Conte knows Roma is probably going to push a little harder than normal for a road match as they desperately seek the win:
Conte: Both teams will be going out for the win. We’ll see which side has the greatest desire and best tactics on the day. #JuveRoma— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) January 4, 2014
On the flip side, Roma manager Rudi Garcia is trying to motivate his squad by saying nobody thinks they can triumph and stating they enter with nothing to lose:
Knowing Roma are going to come out aggressively, the most important thing for Juventus is controlling possession and the pace of play in the midfield. It's been a stronghold for the club all season long, and they can't afford to let that change in such a key match.
One player who's been extremely effective not only this season, but ever since he joined the dominant Italian club is Arturo Vidal. He's chipped in seven goals and four assists in 17 league appearances this season. OptaJoe notes his success over the past three campaigns:
39 - Since moving in 2011 Arturo Vidal has been involved in more Serie A goals than any other Juventus player (24 gls, 15 assts). Warrior.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 2, 2014
If Vidal, along with Paul Pogba and Andrea Pirlo, can maintain the edge in the middle of the pitch it will be very difficult for Roma to get the attacking pressure they need to seriously test the Juventus back line.
The Giallorossi are going to need a workmanlike performance from their attacking group. It's going to take sustained buildups to break down the Juventus midfield and back line, which means a lot of touches for Francesco Totti and Kevin Strootman.
Patience will be key. The sense of urgency Roma should feel as they strive for the win will cause them to look for a lot of hopeful long balls, but the only way they will eventually get to Juventus is with patient builds and plenty of short, quick passes.
Otherwise, Juventus will be able to control the match and will likely earn all three points, making it a long shot that another club will be able to catch them in the second half.
Ultimately, the match should live up to the hype. With two terrific clubs both seeking all three points, there should be no shortage of action and numerous scoring opportunities at both ends of the pitch. Whichever side is more clinical in the final third will get the result.
Given how well Juventus have been playing, it's tough to pick against them at home, even against an opponent the caliber of Roma. They have been finding a way to win all season, and that should continue in the week's biggest Serie A match.
Juventus 2, Roma 1