Stadio Olimpico, Rome
May 2, 2011, 18:45 GMT
Clash of the round in Serie A is on Monday night as Juventus travel to the capital to face a Lazio side chasing for that all important last Champions League slot. The Bianconeri gave up a two goal lead in Turin to Catania and watched all their Champions League dreams slowly fade away. Juve, who are 7 points adrift of Lazio, who are prime contenders for the fourth spot, need to win all their games and pray that other results go their way. After Udinese were hammered at Florence by Fiorentina, Lazio have a chance to extend their lead over the Friuli based outfit to 4 points.
The last meeting between these two sides was a thrilling encounter at the Olimpico. Lazo shot-stopper Fernando Muslera’s late stoppage time own goal handed Juve the three points. Momo Sissoko produced a wonderful Pirlo-esque pass to release Milos Krasic, whose effort was parried into the goal by Muslera.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The Aquile started off brightly this season and have since maintained their consistent run of form. Lazio, under Edy Reja’s organisation, have been a competitive outfit this term and few would be surprised to see them still in contention for the last Champions League slot.
The capital side will in all likelihood field a 4-3-1-2 formation. Fernando Muslera, who would be eager to make amends for his error in the reverse fixture, will take his place in between the sticks. Rumoured Juve target and Swiss International Stephan Lichtsteiner, aptly nick-named Forrest Gump, will continue at right back. Lictsteiner was excellent last weekend against Inter, causing Yuto Nagatomo all sort of trouble with his marauding runs; he will be keen to impress his potential suitors. Biava and Dias have been solid throughout the season and will look to keep Juve’s attacking duo on a tight leash.
Reja will miss his captain Stefano Mauri who foolishly got himself sent off against Inter but Brazilian midfielder Matuzalem will make his return to take Mauri’s place after serving a lengthy ban. Cristian Ledesma, who has been one of Lazio’s star players this season, will pull the strings from the midfield, alongside former Milan man Cristian Brocchi. Brazilian International Hernanes, who arrived in the summer, has been arguably the Aquile’s best player this season. His pace and trickery, combined with vision and set-piece ability, has lightened up Serie A and he has been one of the main protagonists for Lazio offensively. He will be given a free role behind Sergio Floccari and Mauro Zarate; the latter has endured a rocky relationship with Reja – while his quality cannot be doubted, his temprement is always a concern.
Stendardo, Sculli, Diakite, Radu and Foggia are on the treatment table for the Biancocelesti.
Probable line up (4-3-1-2): Muslera; Licthsteiner, Biava, Dias, Garrido; Brocchi, Ledesma, Matuzalem; Hernanes; Zarate, Floccari
Form Guide: LWWLL
The draw last weekend at the Olimpico all but ended the Bianconeri‘s Champions League dreams. Manager Del Neri’s future has been a subject of debate between all involved with the club and managers such as Roberto Mancini, Walter Mazzari and Luciano Spalletti among others have been linked with Juve. The club and players have always maintained that finishing in the top four was the club’s objective and while technically 4th place still isn’t out of reach for Juve, only a miracle now can help the Old Lady.
Del Neri will welcome back Giorgio Chiellini into the side after an injury lay-off. The Italian hardman has been Juve’s best player for the past few seasons now and should slot in alongside Leo Bonucci in the heart of Juve’s defence. Fabio Grosso will continue at left back; the 2006 World Cup hero has put in a couple of impressive shifts at left back and will look to continue his good form. Marco Motta will take his position at right back and will most probably be preferred to Fredrik Sorensen, who in the reverse fixture, neutralised Mauro Zarate’s influence for the most part.
Juventus youth product Claudio Marchisio has been ruled out of the game with a minor knee injury; versatile midfielder Simone Pepe will replace him on the left flank. The Felipe Melo – Alberto Aquilani partnership in the centre of the park will look to dominate Lazio’s midfield trio and control the tempo of the game in favor of Juve. Melo has been a monster in the midfield this season – a stark contrast from his first season in Turin and has silenced his critics. Aquilani has at times blown hot and cold but as a Roma youth product, he will be more than motivated to face Lazio. Alessandro Del Piero rolled back the years against Catania with an outstanding display netting a brace; he will continue his partnership with Ale’ Matri, who will spearhead the Bianconeri‘s attack.
Juve will remain without the services of Martinez, Quagliarella, Iaquinta and Sissoko. While Paolo De Ceglie trained with the primavera, he’s still short of match fitness.
Probable line up (4-4-2): Buffon; Motta, Bonucci, Chiellini, Grosso; Krasic, Melo, Aquilani, Pepe; Del Piero, Matri
Form Guide: DDWWW
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Alberto Aquilani (Juventus)
Il Principe‘s season at Juve has been a mixed bag. In the first half of the campaign, he was in brilliant form, combining his class and elegance to give Juventus a new dimension in midfield. However, he has struggled since the turn of the year. Questions about his future may have hampered his performances. As a former Roma youth product, motivation is never a concern against Lazio. The burden of creativity from midfield will fall upon his shoulders and he will be expected to deliver.
Lazio 1-1 Juventus
Both teams are well aware of the amount of significance this match holds and will be keen to get back to winning ways. Lazio have home advantage but Juve are unbeaten now in five games. A draw could be on the cards but in truth this match could go either way.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST