17.04.2011, 13:00 GMT kick-off
Juventus make the trip to Florence to reignite an old rivalry that dates back to the 1981-82 season. The Bianconeri ‘stole’ the scudetto, in the eyes of many Fiorentina fans, on the last day of that season. Having led the league for a majority of the season, the last game saw a la Viola goal disallowed away at Cagliari, while Juve emerged victorious at the Catanzaro with a ‘disputed penalty’, winning the scudetto in the process. Angered by what had transpired, Fiorentina launched complaints to the FIGC, accusing them of bribery. Most recently, the controversial transfer of legendary forward Roberto Baggio from Fiorentina to Juventus, which resulted in riots across Florence, has increased the stakes. Few would argue the fact that there is no love lost between these sides.
The last meeting between these sides was in late November last year, which ended in a 1-1 draw and both teams sharing the points. The much maligned Marco Motta scored an own goal from a vicious Vargas cross, while Simone Pepe drew the Bianconeri level on terms with a late free-kick. The Old Lady is currently seventh in the league table with 51 points, seven behind fourth place Lazio, and are in pursuit of a Champions League spot. Fiorentina occupy tenth position in the league table with 42 points.
Team News and Tactical Brief
La Viola have been disappointing this season, and in reality have under-performed. While they are safe from relegation, a place in Europe for next season looks out of reach for them. Fiorentina lost their manager Cesare Prandelli to La Nazionale in the summer, and Sinisa Mihajlovic has failed to convince fans since taking over at the helm. Injuries to key players at crucial periods contributed to their lacklustre season; the most notable injury victim has been that of gifted youngster Stevan Jovetic, who has yet to play a minute of Serie A football this term. The Montenegrin forward succumbed to a knee injury in the summer, and is scheduled for return in the coming few weeks. There have also been consistent reports regarding the departure of unsettled players such as Gilardino, Montolivo and Vargas. The Italians have been linked with a transfer to opponents Juventus on a regular basis over the past few months.
Mihajlovic’s men collapsed to their second consecutive defeat last weekend against AC Milan at the Franchi, and the manager admitted they deserved to lose. He will in all likelihood deploy his tried and tested 4-3-1-2 formation. The highly rated young defender Michel Camporese, who has put in impressive shifts for Viola, will partner Alessandro Gamberini in the centre of defense. The fullback area has been one of great concern for the home side, and Juve will look to exploit this weakness in the Fiorentina backline.
In midfield, Riccardo Montolivo is the orchestrator in the middle of the park and has been arguably Viola’s best player this season. He will shield the defense, but his passing ability is his forte. His performances this term have won him many admirers, and his potential list of suitors in the summer have increased, with Inter and Juve looking likely destinations. Former Catania star Juan Vargas will provide the width down the left flank; his crosses and direct running have caused trouble to plenty of defenses in Serie A, which is something striker Alberto Gilardino has always thrived upon. Adem Ljajic will take the place of Mario Santana, who will potentially miss the rest of the Serie A campaign after he suffered a thigh strain in training. Troubled Romanian striker and former Juve man Adrian Mutu returns from suspension, and will partner Gilardino in attack.
Cesare Natali is also on the treatment table, while Mihajlovic has no suspensions to deal with.
Probable lineup (4-3-1-2): Boruc; Comotto, Gamberini, Camporese, Pasqual; Behrami, Montolivo, Vargas; Ljajic; Mutu, Gilardino
Form Guide: LDDWW
Juventus’ recent resurgence may have given them the boost in confidence they need, but they are still a long way away from the Champions League spot they crave. The hardworking victory over Genoa was an old school Juve victory full of grinta and spirit, something which Del Neri has masterfully instilled in his side. The ‘Never say die’ mentality will go a long way in keeping alive dreams of an elusive CL spot for the Old Lady, which has been a priority since the very start of the season as underlined many times by Marotta and co.
Having drifted away from his favored 4-4-2 formation, essentially due to the absence of inspirational captain Alex Del Piero, Del Neri has found reasonable success which should convince him to stick to his new found 4-1-4-1 formation when Il Capitano makes his return from injury this weekend. Gianluigi Buffon will mark his return in goal and will replace Marco Storari, who in truth hasn’t put a foot wrong and has been reliable whenever called upon. Superman’s form for Juve has been questionable by his lofty standards, often displaying shades of Clark Kent since his return. Fabio Grosso will return to first team action from suspension, and should slot in at left back. The 2006 World Cup winner put in a rare man of the match performance against Roma, setting up both of Juve’s goals and completely dominating his flank.
Barzagli and Bonucci will form the heart of the defence in the absence of hardman Giorgio Chiellini, while Marco Motta is expected to be given the nod ahead of young Dane Frederik Sorensen. The Juventus midfield will comprise of former Viola man Felipe Melo, who has been a monster in the middle of the park for Juventus this season; he will form a midfield trio alongside Claudio Marchisio and Alberto Aquilani. Milos Krasic and Simone Pepe will flank Alessandro Matri in attack, and will often switch wings throughout the game. The Serb has been given the license to roam by Del Neri, and at times will play just behind Matri in a more supporting role in the middle. Former Viola hero Luca Toni, who completely changed the game last weekend in his cameo appearance for Juventus, is expected to start from the bench.
Chiellini, Quagliarella, Rinaudo, Sissoko and Iaquinta will miss the game through injury. Paolo De Ceglie has returned to training but is still short of match-fitness to warrant an appearance in the game.
Probable lineup (4-1-4-1): Buffon; Motta, Bonucci, Barzagli, Grosso; Melo; Krasic, Marchisio, Aquilani, Pepe; Matri
Form Guide: WWWDL
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Alessandro Matri (Juventus)
With seven goals in ten games for the Bianconeri, Alessandro Matri is our player to watch out for on Sunday. The Italian international will spearhead Juve’s attack and has been the club’s best player since joining late in January. The onus will be on him to once again get his name on the score-sheet, and help Juve negotiate this tricky encounter.
Fiorentina 1-2 Juventus
Juve are a side brimming with confidence right now, and will be determined to get the three points on board by hook or crook in their quest for a CL spot. The Old Lady’s last defeat at the Artemio Franchi in the league was in December 98, and recent history does favor them. The current form would also lean towards a Juventus victory.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST