Atleti Azzurri d’Italia
December 22nd 2013, 14:00 GMT kick-off
It’s the final round in Serie A before the league takes its annual Winter break and goes on a two week hiatus. Naturally, teams will have their intentions firmly set on finishing the calendar year on a high. For Juventus, that could see them extend their five point lead at the top of the league; while for Atalanta, a win could propel them into the top half of the table.
It’s a special occasion for Juventus manager Antonio Conte, who returns to Bergamo and a stadium he once called home. Conte had a brief tenure with Atalanta and featured in clash-ins with the team’s ultras. Juventus’ last Serie A game saw them brush aside new-comers Sassuolo 4-0 while Atalanta grinded out a low-scoring draw against Genoa.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Stefano Colantuono’s side have had their capability to win games questioned recently with their four game winless streak the subject of criticism. It took a last gasp Giuseppe De Luca effort to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat against Genoa. Atalanta will be sweating on the fitness of fan favorite Cristian Raimondi and Mario Yepes.
Colantuono should deploy his favored 4-4-1-1 formation. A couple of changes are expected from the side that grabbed a stalemate in Genoa. Canini and Brineza might be drafted back into the playing eleven. Diminutive play-maker Maxi Moralez will play in the hole behind German Denis.
Moralez is the link between midfield and attack but after a great season last term, he hasn’t quite been able to match those levels. One player though that is always a threat is German Denis. The former Napoli man is a man mountain with admirable aerial prowess leads the goal-scoring charts with 6 to his name.
The supplier in midfield comes in the form of Luca Cigarini; a player who was once recognized as Andrea Pirlo’s heir but never quite lived up to that billing. Cigarini, however, has put in some excellent performances this year and could certainly cause Juventus problems with his craft. The onus will fall on his shoulders to provide the goods and pull the strings from the heart of midfield.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Consigli; Scaloni, Canini, Lucchini, Brivio; Brienza, Carmona, Cigarini, Kone; Moralez; Denis
Two wins on the trot after the extremely disappointing Champions League exit is just the response Antonio Conte was looking for. His side look almost untouchable in Serie A, the domestic league where they’re viewed as the Alpha dogs.
You’d have to go all the way back to that Fiorentina game in Florence to spot the last time the Bianconeri failed to grab the three points. It’s an incredible record as they’ve kept clean sheets as well alongwith their 8 successive wins. Gigi Buffon has gone an extraordinary 730 minutes without picking the ball out of his net in the league.
With the Winter break around the corner, expect Conte to field a full strength side. Andrea Pirlo remains the only absentee in an otherwise fully fit team. Juventus will be high on confidence and will have momentum backing them. They will be anticipated to hold the lion’s share of possession and carve openings in the final third. Creativity, of course, that has been provided in plenty by Carlos Tevez will be key to unlocking the Nerazzurri’s defense.
Tevez has 10 goals to his credit and his chemistry with Fernando Llorente is what has been grabbing the eye. Llorente’s height and strength gives Juventus a new dimension going forward, a classic target-man that could be used as a battering ram against those doors that just won’t budge.
Possible Starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pogba, Marchisio, Asamoah; Tevez, Llorente
Player To Watch Out For
Paul Pogba (Juventus)
The Frenc h International has arguably been one of the best midfield players in Serie A this campaign showing all the talent that we knew he had. Since Pirlo succumbed to injury however, Pogba hasn’t been able to grab a game by the scruff of its neck. The ‘regista’ role hasn’t brought out the best in him but he still his overwhelming ability always makes him a threat.
Atalanta 0-2 Juventus
A trip to Bergamo is often sighted as one of the most tricky places a team can visit. Atalanta are a formidable opposition at home having conceded victory on just one ocassion. Yet, with the form they’re in and the ammunition they possess, the scales tilt in the Bianconeri’s favor. You’d have to be a brave man to put your money on Juventus dropping points.