Stadio Nereo Rocco, Trieste
May 6th 2012, 18:45 GMT Kick-off
Cagliari host leaders Juventus at the Nereo Rocco in a must win clash for the Bianconeri in Serie A’s penultimate game of the season. Antonio Conte has offered AC Milan a priceless lifeline after they drew at home to 10 man Lecce. The Rossoneri took full advantage and narrowed the gap down to just one point at the top of the table to make for a fascinating two more weeks of Italian Football and the race for the Scudetto.
Cagliari have guaranteed themselves top-flight football for next season and have almost nothing to play for in the remaining two games. Now in 14th place in the league table, Cagliari have only the possibility of improving up on last season’s 13th place finish.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The home side are ensured safety despite their loss to Genoa in midweek following results that went their way. Massimo Ficcadenti will remain loyal to his 4-3-1-2 formation. He does however miss a few key players in Eriksson, Dessena, Rui Sampaio and El Kabir who are all on the treatment table while left-back Alessandro Agostini has been suspended for this game.
In midfield, which is Cagliari’s strongest area on the field, they have the trio of Ekdal-Conti-Nainggolan behind the playmaker Andrea Cossu. Nainggolan has been one of the revelations of the season on the left hand side of midfield and has been widely chased by top clubs in Europe including Juventus. He offers a lot of guile and energy to the Cagliari midfield.
Andrea Cossu will move around ahead of the midfield and offer creativity in the final third. For a player who normally is right up-there amongst the leaders of the assists charts, it hasn’t been the best of campaigns for Cossu. The diminutive midfielder has just 3 assists and a single goal to his name, which incidentally came against Juventus.
Mauricio Pinilla will spearhead the attack and is likely to be partnered by Thiago Ribiero. Pinilla, who is on loan from Palermo has 8 goals to his name so far and faces an uphill challenge as Cagliari try to breach Juventus’ strong defense.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-1-2): Agazzi; Perico, Canini, Astori, Pisano; Ekdal, Conti, Nainggolan; Cossu; Pinilla, Thiago Ribeiro
It was a rather uncharacteristic error by the ever reliable Gianluigi Buffon that saw Juventus throw away two points against Lecce. But with two games and a single point lead over rivals AC Milan, the Bianconeri’s fate is still resting firmly in their own hands – a situation in which they definitely would have liked to be in.
Antonio Conte isn’t expected to make too many changes from the line-up he deployed against Lecce and will stick to his 3-5-2 formation. Paolo De Ceglie suffered an injury and is unavailable for the remaining Serie A games while Simone Pepe could make a return to the squad. One of either Emanuele Giaccherini or Martin Caceres could take De Ceglie’s spot as a left wing-back. Although reports emanating from Italy suggest Giaccherini will be given the nod over the Uruguayan international.
Bonucci will be playing in the heart of the defense and expect him to spread play from deep as Juventus will be fancied to dominate possession like they have done so consistently throughout this incredible campaign. Marco Borriello could reclaim his position in the role of prima punta as Fabio Quagliarella is expected to be relegated to the bench. Borriello looks to be hitting form just when it mattered most having slotted past minnows Novara and Cesena in the past few weeks. Mirko Vucinic will partner his former Roma team-mate in attack.
The midfield will line-up as expected. Stephan Lichtsteiner is expected to continue at right wing-back. The former Lazio man has been solid but not spectacular like he was in the first half of the season for Juventus. Nevertheless, expect him to bomb forward in support of the attack and give hard time to Pisano at left-back. Andrea Pirlo will control the tempo and offer the creativity from the centre of the park. He will be supported by Claudio Marchisio who scored the goal against Lecce and all rounder Arturo Vidal.
Probable Starting Lineup (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Giaccherini; Borriello, Vucinic
Key Match Facts
- Juventus are the only unbeaten team in the top five leagues in Europe.
- Juventus have the tightest defense in the league having conceded just 19 goals.
- Cagliari have two draws and one win at Trieste.
TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For
Davide Astori (Cagliari)
The young Italian has had a tremendous campaign so far and has already attracted the eyes of the bigger clubs in the peninsula. Another outstanding performance against Juventus could just help him make a late claim for a spot in Prandelli’s Euro 2012 squad and could also help his former team AC Milan in their quest for the title.
Arturo Vidal (Juventus)
The charismatic Chilean International has been in breath-taking form this season and has firmly established himself as one of the best midfielders in Italy. The game against Lecce wasn’t his best of the season having fluffed two chances from which you would expect someone of his quality to score. Expect him to come up with the goods though in this crucial encounter for Juventus.
Cagliari 0-2 Juventus
This could just turn out to be Juventus’ most important game of the season. The magnitude of the game cannot be understated and while the Bianconeri will be hoping for a favor from bitter enemies Inter in the Milan derby, they know that the direction the title will be heading is solely in their hands, despite Massimo Moratti’s claims. Expect Juventus to emerge victorious and grab all the three points in what will be a tough encounter for them.
TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past