Ennio Tardini, Parma
December 21st 2012, 19:45 GMT kick-off
Juventus and Cagliari make the trip to Parma in Friday night’s Serie A action. The Tardini at Parma will play host to the Serie A game, the Lega Serie A have announced. The Is Arenas which has been used this season by Cagliari as a home venue hasn’t been granted permission to host the fixture on account of the work that is in order around the stadium. It was rumored that the game could be played behind closed doors at the Is Arenas but that has since been ruled out and while the San Nicola at Bari and Tardini were being pondered upon as possible neutral alternatives, the Lega Serie A has opted in favor of the ground at Parma.
The two sides met a week ago in the Coppa Italia although the line-ups fielded by both sides saw plenty of fringe players used. The game did with a marginal Juventus victory which saw them book their place in the next round of games against AC Milan. Sebastian Giovinco scored the lone goal for the Bianconeri as they dominated proceedings and looked very comfortable.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Cagliari will be pretty eager to see out the last game of the year and are certainly looking forward to the break but they have to face their biggest obstacle yet in Juventus. Ivo Pulga’s side are coming off an away thrashing – incidentally – at Parma where the Ducali beat them 4-1. They did take the early lead though but were since undone by constant Parma pressure which proved too hot for them to handle. They now lie just two places above the dreaded drop zone and face the very real and frightening prospect of relegation if they do not improve on their consistency.
Pulga is expected to field his standard 4-3-1-2 formation as Cagliari remain one of the few Serie A sides not to deploy a three-man back-line. A huge loss comes in the form of inspirational captain Daniele Conti who is suspended for this game on account of accumulation of yellow cards. He saw a yellow but could have so easily have been giving his marching orders against Parma following an elbow on Nicola Sansone. Radja Nainggolan will take his place just ahead of the back-four. Mauricio Pinilla though, returns to the set-up having served his one game ban.
Cagliari will sit back and absorb pressure and look to hit Juventus on the break by exploiting the pace of in-form striker Marco Sau. The attacker got his name on the scoring sheet against Parma with a delightful lob from a quick break by the Sardinians. The midfield diamond remains vital to the Rossoblu’s hopes of getting anything out of this game. The central pairing of Ariaudo and Astori have to be on top of their game to keep Juventus’ strikers in check. Chances for Cagliari will come few and far between yet against a team of the caliber of Juventus, they need to pounce on these opportunities.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-1-2): Agazzi(GK); Pisano, Astori, Ariaudo, Avelar; Dessena, Nainggolan, Ekdal; Cossu; Pinilla, Sau
For the travelling Bianconeri, a win away from home will be the perfect way to conclude what has been an incredible year for them. A Scudetto after a few years in the wilderness coupled with their excellent displays in Europe have restored the faith and the glory days for Juventus. They finish off the year as Winter Champions regardless of the results at the end of the weekend. With Inter dropping points away at Lazio, Juventus extended their lead to 7 points as they saw off Atalanta at home.
Antonio Conte is set to name his best possible eleven against Cagliari and will take no chances with rotation, deploying his 3-5-2 formation. Leonardo Bonucci returns to the line-up after his one game ban. The big blow comes in the form of the potential long-term injury that faces Giorgio Chiellini. The Italian International sustained a calf injury in training and early fears point towards the defender being sidelined for 2-3 months. Juventus have confirmed that the seriousness of the injury can and will only be determined after 48 hours following scans. Chiellini remains an indispensable part of the Juventus machine and this injury along with the termination of Lucio’s contract could prompt a defensive reinforcement come the January window.
Juventus will look to take advantage of Cagliari’s rather weak flanks and the space that might be on offer for the Juventus wing-backs. Cagliari’s narrow midfield will allow Juventus to stretch them and with quality marauding wing-backs in Asamoah and Lichtsteiner, they are armed and prepped to take them on. Mirko Vucinic has hit form with a long overdue goal against Atalanta and is always a tricky customer to deal with like his partner in crime – Sebastian Giovinco – who it seems couldn’t buy a goal with numerous attempts failing to find the back of the net at Atalanta.
Simone Pepe and Nicklas Bendtner are on the treatment table.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Buffon(GK); Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Giovinco, Vucinic
Players To Watch Out For
Andrea Cossu (Cagliari)
Cossu has been one of the most under-rated players in the league for the past few seasons now. The diminutive midfielder is a late bloomer and has the ability to open up any defense with his invention and his eye for a pass. However, he has slowed down from the standards he set for himself the previous seasons but still remains Cagliari’s most creative outlet. He will be asked to provide the ammunition for the striking duo but will also shadow Andrea Pirlo when Juventus have the ball.
Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus)
The Swiss Express has been hard to derail this season with his lung-bursting runs up and down Juventus’ right flank. After a bit of criticism early on this campaign; the man nicknamed ‘Forrest Gump’ has hardly slowed down since hitting top gear even grabbing the winner against Palermo. Lichtsteiner’s understanding with Andrea Pirlo is almost telepathic with the maestro always looking out for the option the wing-back provides. Expect him to cause havoc yet again as he targets Cagliari’s left-back area which has been a problematic one.
Cagliari 0 – 2 Juventus
The Champions are tipped as heavy favorites and should see out this game without too much fuss. Juventus will dominate the game with the lion’s share of possession falling in their hands. Cagliari might show a little resistance but the quality of Juventus should show and they will smile at the end of the day as they end their year with yet another win. A win that will set a new record for Conte’s side having grabbed the most points in a calendar year, 94, edging out the record set by Cappelo’s side in 2005 which gathered 93 points.
Blast From The Past