CATANIA
v
JUVENTUS

Stadio Angelo Massimino.
September 25, 2011; 13:00 GMT

***

Juventus dropped their first points of 2011/12 campaign when they were held to a 1-1 draw at the Juventus Arena in midweek. The Old Lady dominated the match despite playing with 10 men for most of it but couldn’t find the elusive goal to get all three points. Juve still remain on top of the table jointly with other teams. Catania on the other hand, was mauled 3-0 by current table toppers Genoa CFC in their last encounter. The team from Sicily lost its first official match under new coach Vincenzo Montella after having drawn and won first two.

TEAM NEWS AND TACTICAL BRIEF

Catania

Gli Elefante had a rather forgettable trip to Genova in midweek. They were torn apart limb from limb by Italy’s oldest football club. Genoa started the stronger in Luigi Ferraris with Argentine international Anujar producing two sharp saves in first 15 minutes. Catania got back into the game after first 20 minutes and curved open the Grifoni defence multiple times. Sebastien Frey was up to the task as the former Fiorentina man pulled out a number of top-drawer saves to deny Maxi Lopez and Alejandro Gomez. By half time Genoa had taken a vice grip on the match as Catania trailed 2-0 thanks to two goals from Palacio.

Catania’s team is a melting pot of Argentine and Italian players. All but two of the players in their 34 man squad come from either Italy or Argentina. Montella is likely to stick to his 4-3-3 formation and will depend on width, flank movement to open up Juventus defence.

Mariano Andujar has been the undisputed #1 for Catania in last two seasons and he is most likely to start in goal. Nicolás Spolli made a couple of good interceptions against Genoa but was largely unimpressive. He needs to improve his partnership with Giuseppe Bellusci if Catania defence is to keep out one of the more fluid attacking line-ups in the peninsula. Internazionale Academy graduate Alessandro Potenza will man the right side of defence with Argentine Pablo Alvarez on opposite side.

Captain Marco Biaganti is out with an injury so Francesco Lodi will form the fulcrum of a three man midfield. Adrián Ricchiuti and Fabio Sciacca will man the flanks and look to provide width along with full-backs.

Catania’s almost miraculous survival in 2009/10 season was aided by incredible goal scoring record of ex-Barcelona player Maxi Lopez. Lopez scored 12 goals in 17 matches in second half of his first season. His performance saw the press link him to transfers to Juventus and AC Milan. Since then his form has dropped sharply as he managed to score just 6 goals in the 2010/11 season. His form hasn’t looked like improving this season though he is the only Catania player to score a goal so far albeit one from the penalty spot. Despite his ordinary form, Lopez will be the main threat to Juve defence.

Another player who can cause problems to the Old Lady is an ex-Juve youth product Davide Lanzafame. The winger/striker complained bitterly months ago about the way he was treated in Juventus. Ex-Juve players have performed well against the club in recent seasons and Lanza has point to prove to his old club. In 2009/10 season it was Lanzafame who scored 2 goals as Parma defeated Juventus 3-2.

Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Andujar; Potenza, Spolli, Bellusci, Alvarez; Sciacca, Lodi, Ricchiuti; Gomez, Lopez, Lanzafame

Juventus

Juventus might have dropped two points against basement boys Bologna in mid-week but the match offered plenty of positives for the fans. Juve initially struggled to cope with Bologna’s pressing but looked much more settled once Mirko Vucinic opened the scoring from a cheeky Pirlo free-kick. The ex-Roma maverick was sent off in first half itself as Juve were resigned for play with 10 men for a long period.

In the last two seasons, Juventus often succumbed embarrassingly after losing a player, regardless of the opponents they were facing. Antonio Conte’s Juventus once again proved that they are a different bunch as the Bianconeri dominated the match despite having numerical disadvantage. It took a series of heroic saves from Bari legend Jean-Francois Gillet to deny the Old Lady three well deserved points.

Three positions in Juve’s four man defence haven’t showed any signs of concern so far but the left-back position remains vulnerable with Paolo De Ceglie dishing out a sloppy performance in last match. Stefan Lichsteiner had a somewhat quieter performance against Bologna but was still defensively solid. Andrea Barzagli seems to have recovered his pre-2008 form which made him one of the brightest prospects in Italy.

Despite playing a theoretical two man midfield – Juventus have bossed ball possession in all three matches. Much of this credit goes to three flawless performances from the legendary Andrea Pirlo. With three assists in as many matches, the ex-Milan man has proved to be one of the best transfers for Juve. It will be interesting to see how fit he is for this match, having played every single minute of Juve’s campaign till now.

The selection of Simone Pepe ahead of Milos Krasic or Elia has raised eye brows in some quarters but it is clear that Conte prefers Pepe work-rate and his ability to help the defence. Krasic was pretty impressive against Bologna while Giaccherini put forward his best performance so far by replacing the Serbian in second half. Pepe and Krasic will most likely start as winger. Both Elia and Estigarribia started as wingers in practice session and they can make it to the reserve bench.

De Ceglie needs to find form

Vucinic’s red card means that either Del Piero or Quagliarella will start along with Matri in a two man forward line. Quagliarella hasn’t played a single minute so far and this has started rumours that Conte doesn’t have enough faith in his fitness or ability. With Vucinic injured the ex-Napoli striker can be a perfect partner to Matri.

Probable Starting XI (4-2-4): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Chiellini, De Ceglie; Krasic, Marchisio, Pirlo, Pepe; Matri, Quagliarella

Key Facts

1. Fabio Quagliarella scored two goals and had one goal wrongly chalked off when Juventus defeated Catania 3-1 in the same fixture last season.
2. Juventus has enjoyed more than 60% ball possession in every match played so far.
3. Last season Catania lost just 4 out 19 matches at the Stadio Angelo Massimino.

 

TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Paolo De Ceglie (Juventus)

The Ashton Kutcher lookalike enjoyed his best form in the black and white shirt till he was injured last season. Since making his return he hasn’t looked like the same player who assisted Quagliarella’s goal against Milan last season. His performance against Parma was solid but tarnished by a red card and conceding the penalty that Giovinco converted. He was very shaky against Bologna and contributed very little to attack or defence. De Ceglie needs to rediscover his touch soon. Fabio Grosso, who played well against Siena and versatile Vidal are both vying for his place.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Catania 0-1 Juventus

Juventus, for all their concerns, should look to get all 3 points from this fixture. But the odds favor a narrow victory after a closely fought encounter. Scoring early and holding on to the lead by the skin of their teeth, seems a likely proposition for Juventus.

TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST