ATALANTA
v
JUVENTUS

Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia
January 21, 2012; 19:45 GMT

***

Juventus was held to a disappointing draw at home by Cagliari in the last round. Though results elsewhere meant that Juve took sole control of the pole position in the table, it was a performance that Juve fans will like to forget. Atalanta, on the other hand, are in midst of a punishing schedule. The Nerazzuri have faced Milan and Lazio in the last two rounds, losing both matches 2-0 and will now square off against the table toppers.

Curiously, the last time Atalanta faced Juventus, in a home game, Antonio Conte was the Nerazzuri coach. Juventus won that match 2-5.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Atalanta

It has been a truly roller coaster ride for the Bergamo based side this season. Atalanta earned promotion to Serie A after winning the Serie A title. Soon after promotion, the club was hit severely by the latest match fixing scandal in Italy. They were hit with a six-point penalty for Serie A 2010/11 season and also lost veteran striker Cristiano Doni, who was suspended from football.

Few expected Atalanta to make a blistering start to the season like they eventually did. They stayed in the top half of the table for a number of weeks in start and could have ended up in top-three, if they didnai??i??t have the six points deducted. Their excellent run included victories over Palermo, Parma, Cagliari and creditable draws against Internazionale and Udinese.

Stefano Colantuonoai??i??s side has lost form in recent rounds ai??i?? having won just one match out of last eight matches, including an astonishing run of five back to back draws. Despite their recent run of poor form, Atalanta have a more than decent chance of taking points off a Juventus side, which is yet to hit rhythm in 2012. The Nerazzuri have been solid at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia. Their 0-2 loss to defending champions AC Milan was their first home loss of the season and came after four wins and four draws on their own turf.

Atalantaai??i??s player of the season has undoubtedly been German Denis. Before joining the Bergamo team on loan from Udinese, Denis had scored 17 goals in his three and half year stint in Serie A. This season he has already scored 12 goals in just 18 appearances. The Argentineai??i??s conversion rate is also exceptional ai??i?? having scored off every other shot he kept on the target. Denis is likely to be the tip of attack in Atalantaai??i??s 4-4-1-1 formation. Playing behind him will be fellow Argentine Maxi Moralez. The ex-Valez Sarsfield midfielder has adapted quickly to life in Italy and has proved to be one of the best transfers of 2011/12 Serie A season. He is Atalantaai??i??s second highest scorer after Denis with four goals and has the highest number of assists in the team.

Ezequiel Schelotto, who caused a lot of problems to Juventus last season during his loan at Cesena, is back to his mother club. Along with Schelotto, Luca Cigarini will be two of major channels of creativity for Atalanta. Few years back Cigarini was hailed as one of the brightest young talents in Italy. Indifferent stints in Napoli and Sevilla didnai??i??t help his cause, but the 25-year old has regained some of his old form in Atalanta this season. Left-back Simone Padoin, a product of Atalantaai??i??s excellent yet under-rated youth system, has been one of the most in-form players till now and he will be looking forward to a crucial tussle with Stephan Lichtsteiner. Another youth product Manolo Gabbiadini will be a wildcard on their bench. The 20-year old striker has been tearing up the stage for Italy U-21, having scored 10 goals in 13 matches for Ciro Ferraraai??i??s team.

Possible Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Consigli; Raimondi, Ferri, Manfredini, Peluso; Schelotto, Cigarini, Padoin, Bonaventura; Moralez Denis

Juventus

In last three years Juventusai??i?? seasons have been severely hampered by their performance in January. The Old Lady didnai??i??t lose a match in 2012 but their performance has hardly been encouraging. After a scratchy win at Lecce, Juventus took the lead early against Cagliari thanks to an excellent team goal. The team seemed to get complacent after the goal and allowed the Sardinians to come back into the match. Alessandro Del Piero and Milos Krasic came close to scoring in second half but in the end the match finished 1-1. Even the most ardent Juventus supporter would not disagree that a draw was a fair, if not lucky result for the Old Lady.

Paolo De Ceglie had had an impressive match against Cagliari and is likely to retain his spot in the team. Leonardo Bonucciai??i??s error allowed Cagliariai??i??s equalizer in last match and he is likely to make way for Giorgio Chiellini in central defence. Stephan Lichtsteiner and Andrea Barzagli are two of the first names on the team sheet under Conte and are likely to retain their places.

The ai???MVPai??? midfield of Marchisio, Arturo Vidal and Pirlo has been one of the reasons behind Juveai??i??s success in first half of the season. The magic has been missing so far in 2012. Vidalai??i??s offensive output has been poor in last two matches, Marchisio look fatigued, while Pirlo has struggled to find time and space in midfield due to lack of support from fellow midfielders. As a result of this Juve has lacked the fluidity, which marked Antonio Conteai??i??s team in first half of the season.

Testing Times

Like the rest of the midfield, another star performer this season – Simone Pepe, seems to have lost his mojo in the last few matches. As always, he has put in a lot of effort on the wings but his industriousness has not provided many goal scoring opportunities for the Bianconeri in last few matches. The interchanging of places between Matri, Vucinic and Pepe gave a sense of unpredictability to Juveai??i??s attack. Pepeai??i??s recent under-performance has had an effect on rest of the team. Matri did score against Lecce but even he looked very scrappy. He is a striker who thrives when he gets good support upfront and good delivery from midfield. The midfield has not been backing him up properly in last couple of matches. Mirko Vucinic is the only one, who has played to his potential so far ai??i?? he was by far Juveai??i??s best player against Lecce and also scored a goal against Cagliari.

Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Chiellini, Barzagli, De Ceglie; Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio; Pepe, Matri, Vucinic

Key Facts

  • This is Juventusai??i?? longest unbeaten streak of all times.
  • Without point deduction Atalanta would be up on 8th position, two points behind AS Roma
  • Juventus has the best away defensive record in the league, having conceded just six goals in nine matches.

Players to Watch Out for

German Denis (Atalanta)

 

The man known as ai???Tankai??? has been one of the best signings in Serie A this season. Denis is in peak form of his career and is likely to cause problems to Juve defence with his burly physique.

Simone Pepe (Juventus)

Pepeai??i??s recent form has been a shadow of his form from last few months. The ex-Udinese winger has been Conteai??i??s favourite but will need to improve his performances.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Atalanta 1-1 Juventus

It will be very difficult for Juventus to earn three points from this match unless they improve on their performance from last 2 matches.

TheHardTackle’s Blast from the Past

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