Juventus Stadium, Turin
September 30, 2012
Juventus lost their 100% record against Fiorentina in last round but will be looking to bounce back against another bitter rival, AS Roma on Sunday. The presence of Zdenek Zeman, who has often derided the club in past will act as an added incentive in this match.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Juventus didn’t have the best of times against Fiorentina in the last match. In some ways it was possibly the most insipid performance showed by the team since Antonio Conte took over. Bianconeri’s 3-5-2 formation was replicated by Fiorentina and the teams cancelled each other out for most of the match. Juventus were hampered by the poor performances of Pirlo, Giaccherini and Giovinco and thus didn’t have enough bite in their attack. Bolstered by the home crowd, Fiorentina came close to scoring twice in second half as Jovetic hit the cross-piece with a header while Ljajic shot wide despite being one on one with Buffon. Things didn’t improve much in second half as Juventus failed to create goal scoring chances. As the final whistle went it felt more like a point gained rather than two lost.
The Carrera-Conte coaching team has a few headaches to worry about before facing AS Roma. Arturo Vidal looked jaded against Fiorentina and mistimed several tackles, one resulting in a yellow card. Vidal picked up an injury against Chelsea but hasn’t been given a full rest since then. The Chilean is likely to be a vital player against Zeman’s energetic and high pressing midfield but his fitness is something which may become a problem. Claudio Marchisio was rested against Fiorentina and he is likely to claim his spot back ahead of Giaccherini. Andrea Pirlo also had an ordinary game but he is likely to start again with Paul Pogba getting a substitute role some time later in the match.
Sebastien Giovinco’s form will be another cause of concern for the Bianconeri. The diminutive striker was wrestled off the ball easily against Fiorentina and didn’t seem to combine well with any of his striker partners. He may not start against Roma with Mirko Vucinic joining forces with Quagliarella.
AS Roma have been weak defensively till now, not a totally unexpected scenario from a Zdenek Zeman coached side. Juventus will be looking to take advantage of gaps in Roman defence which is why it is vital that Pirlo shakes off his recent underwhelming form. Fatigue will be an issue for Juventus. Their opponents have played just once in past 10 days while Juventus had to play 3 matches, including two away trips.
Expected Starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon(GK); Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Vucinic, Quagliarella
AS Roma’s season has been a roller coaster ride till now, as one would expect from a Zdenek Zeman side. The Lupi’s 3-1 away victory over Inter was hailed across the peninsula for the breathtaking display of attacking football. Zemanlandia had arrived. Few days later Roma raced to a 2-0 lead against Bologna in 16 minutes as the fans started wondering if they would see a tennis score. The script didn’t quite go that way in second half. The home team had incredibly shipped in two goals on 72nd and 73rd minute and completed the capitulation just before the final whistle to lose 2-3. Zemanlandia had well and truly arrived.
After being awarded a 0-3 victory over Cagliari, Roma once again slumped to a disappointing home draw last week, allowing newly promoted Sampdoria to snatch a 1-1 draw. Zeman’s team has effectively won just one match out of five and they will be looking to bounce back with a win against Juventus.
Zdenek Zeman is likely to deploy his typical 4-3-3 formation which relies on high pressing and a fast passing game aimed at exploiting gaps in opposition defence. The central defensive pairing of ageing Nicolas Burdisso and Serie A newbie Castan has been a major weakness for Roma, who have conceded 8 goals in 4 matches. Maarten Stekelenburg has not been very convincing either and it was his mistake which led to Sampdoria’s equalizer in the last game. Frederico Balzaretti will be a very important player for the Giallorossi against Juventus as he would be looking to exploit the space behind right-wing back Lichtsteiner.
The most interesting battle will take place in midfield where the trio of Michael Bradley, Danielle De Rossi and youngster Alessandro Florenzi will clash against one of the best midfields in Europe. Bradley, especially, had been very impressive when he played against Juventus for Chievo last season and will be looking to maintain his form. Roma Academy product Florenzi has been a bright example of Zeman’s faith in youth but he will be tested in the pressure cooker situation of Juventus Stadium.
Talismanic captain Francesco Totti celebrated his 36th birthday few days ago and he continues to be an inspiration for Roma. Totti’s rise to prominence came during Zeman’s first stint in Roma 15 years back when he was used as a left winger-forward. Few expected Totti to perform to the levels he has done till now, playing in the exact same position. The Roma captain has so far provided two assists and scored his 216th Serie A goal against Sampdoria. Totti is likely to start on the left flank with Eric Lamela on opposite wing. Osvaldo, Roma top scorer till now, will play as the center forward.
Expected Starting XI (4-3-3): Stekelenburg(GK); Balzaretti, Burdisso, Castan, Piris; Bradley, De Rossi, Florenzi; Totti, Osvaldo, Lamela
Players to watch out for
Mirko Vucinic (Juventus)
“Big game” Mirko has often shown the ability to rise to the occasion for a high-profile match. Vucinic has not found the back of the net in past few matches, despite starting the season on a high and will be looking to get his scoring touch back against his former club.
Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma)
The highest paid player in Serie A is likely to play a major role to nullify the threat of Andrea Pirlo in midfield. In Zeman’s system he is also likely to push up for goals and his ability to score long rangers will be an asset.
Juventus 2-1 AS Roma
This match will have an added animosity thanks to Zdenek Zeman’s uneasy relationship with Juventus. Home advantage is likely to play a big part in this match.