Stadio Olimpico Di Torio, Turin
Juventus welcome Lazio in a clash of 3rd and 2nd placed teams in Serie A. Both teams are coming off moral boosting wins. Juve defeated Catania 3-1 – it was the Sicilians’ first home defeat in 2010. Lazio, on the other hand dispatched defending champions Internazionale by an identical scoreline. With this win, the 1999/2000 Serie A champions solidified their grasp on 2nd place.
Over the years, the Biancocelesti has proved to be quite a bogey team for Bianconeri. Neither team can afford to slip up as Serie A table is extremely tight. 9th placed Genoa is just 6 points behind 3rd placed Juventus.
Team News and Tactical View
Juventus earned an important win last weekend. The team needed a boost after a series of disappointing draws. Juve was extremely shaky in first 30 minutes but gradually settled down. Alberto Aquilani and Milos Krasic, two of the most creative players in the team didn’t have the best of games, yet Juve created enough chances to win the match by 5 or 6 goals. Iaquinta and Quagliarella played extremely well up top. Quagliarella should have had a hattrick, had the linesman not mistakenly ruled his goal out. Iaquinta selflessly provided two assists.
Full-back positions continue to be the Old Lady’s weakest link. Young Sorensen looked extremely unsettled in first few minutes while Grosso was troubled by Morimoto throughout the game. Mauro Zarate’s domination of Inter’s full-backs in last match was one of the reasons why Lazio won. Gigi Delneri needs to get back to the drawing board to fix this problem. The form of the centre-backs has been a sharp contrast as Chiellini and Bonucci have developed a telepathic understanding. Individually both are competent defenders and their combination is slowly bearing the expected results.
There is a slight doubt about Alberto Aquilani’s place in starting XI. He looked fatigued against Catania and was substituted in 2nd half. If Aquilani doesn’t play, Claudio Marchisio will partner Melo, with Pepe playing on left flank.
Felipe Melo will be one of the most crucial players for Juve. He is most likely to be given a job to mark compatriot Hernanes. Melo’s successful man marking of Andrea Pirlo and Wes Sneijder ensured Juve’s good performance against the Milanese teams. He needs to raise his performance to the same level against Lazio.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Storari, Sorensen, Bonucci, Chiellini, Grosso, Krasic, Aquilani, Melo, Marchisio, Quagliarella, Iaquinta
Last 2 seasons have been a wild roller-coaster ride for the aquile fans. Lazio enjoyed a successful 2008/09 season, winning the Coppa Italia. They won the Super Coppa Italia last year by beating Inter. However, problems between star players Ledesma, Pandev and president Lotito led to the implosion of 2009/10 season. They hovered around the relegation zone – ensuring survival towards the wee end of the season.
Things are back on the up this year. Lazio made shrewd signings for a change. One of their new signings has proved to be the best new player in Serie A – Hernanes. Fitting perfectly in Edi Reja’s 4-2-3-1, the Brazilian has been a driving force behind Biancocelesti’s rise. But it would be unfair not to mention the other in-form players, especially Stefano Mauri and Christian Ledesma. Mauri has seven assists against his name, earning a call from the Azzuris. Mauro Zarate is slowly returning to form and looks more like the player who wowed the Roman crowd in 2008/09 season. Stefano Lichsteiner is one of the best full-backs in the peninsula, while Uruguayan keeper Fernando Muslera has been brilliant at times.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Muslera, Lichsteiner, Biava, Dias, Cavanda, Brocchi, Matuzalem, Mauri, Hernanes, Zarate, Floccari
This match can be decided by two factors. Mauri and Hernanes are two main supply lines for the strikers. Felipe Melo needs to ensure that neither of them enjoy enough time on the ball. The team which controls the centre of the park can end up controlling the match. Secondly, Juve need to device a plan to control Mauro Zarate. The crafty Argentine gave nightmares to young Inter full-back Natalino last weekend. He would fancy his chances against Juve’s weak full-backs. Lazio on the other hand would have to check Milos Krasic’s habit of cutting in from the wings. Their centre-backs are often error prone and this can provide plenty of chances to the Serbian.
Lazio was one of the few teams which failed to defeat Juve last season. Juve defeated Lazio 0-2 on the third match day of 2009/10 season. David Trezeguet broke his barren patch in that game. In the return leg, Alberto Zaccheroni had just taken over the reigns from Ciro Ferrara. Both teams were struggling and the match ended 1-1.
In 2008/09 season, the match in Rome was a 1-1 draw. Juventus faced Lazio on the last day of the season. The result was unimportant as both sets of fans bade a teary farewell to Pavel Nedved. The match finished 2-0 to Juve.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Fabio Quagliarella (Juventus): The man famous for scoring “play-station” goals didn’t disappoint against Catania. He scored three beautiful goals, the first being cancelled erroneously by officials. More than the goals, his importance was evident from how well he combined with Vincenzo Iaquinta. Quags is a hard worker and often comes down to retrieve balls from the midfield. With eight goals in 14 starts, he is undoubtedly Juventus’ best striker in season 2009/10.
Juventus 1-0 Lazio