Stadio Dall’Ara, Bologna
December 6, 2013
A fantastic recent run of form, coupled with slippage from AS Roma has seen Juventus over-turn the deficit of points and take a firm control of the Serie A table with a three point cushion at the top. The Old Lady’s form has take a sharp turn towards the up after their devastating defeat against Fiorentina and Juventus has since then on every single match, without conceding a goal in the league. The form curve is radically different for their opponents, as Bologna has not won a match since October and has slowly slid down the table to become level on points with Livorno, who are in the drop zone due to worse goal difference. Based on the most recent form, Bologna couldn’t have asked for a tougher opponent than Juventus.
Bologna FC – Team News, Line-up and Formation
Things have not gone well at all for Stefano Pioli’s team this season. The Rossoblù started their season dismally and had to wait till late October to register their first Serie A victory. Their potentially vital 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Livorno was followed by a thumping away win against Cagliari. Just when it was looking like they had shrugged off their poor start they once again lost form, failing to pick a single win in November. The only positive their fans can draw is the fact that they are not losing matches frequently now and have drawn three out of last four Serie A games. Their ignominy for current season was extended to the Cup as well when Bologna was knocked out by Serie B yo-yo men Siena in the Coppa Italia thanks to a late, late Zouhair Feddal. With no other tournaments to participate in, the Rossoblù will be looking to fully focus on the league and void a relegation which is looking highly probable right now.
Bologna is likely to start with a three man defence though their formation will not be similar to that of Juve’s. Bologna’s three man back-line is likely to be brimming with experience with an average age of 32 as Mikael Antonsson and Cesar Natali will team up with Andrea Mantovani. With 26 goals conceded in 14 matches, the Rossoblù the second worst defensive record in the division and Pioli has struggled to field a set back-line, using different combinations in different matches – to little effect. Mantovani is likely to be a weak link in their defence and has been especially poor this season with just three successful tackles in seven appearances. Given the fact that Juventus will start with two strikers and Vidal will push up along with Paul Pogba and Stefan Lichtsteiner, the Bologna defence and ‘keeper Curci is likely to have a very busy day.
Rene Krhin has had a decent season till now and is likely to play a much deeper defensive role against a Juventus midfield which will outnumber Bologna midfielders. Stefan Lichtsteiner is back after a lengthy lay-off and it was his assist that set up Llorente’s late match winner against Udinese. Archimede Morleo, who is likely to start as left-wing back for Bologna may have a tough time against the Swiss mail train. Morleo has often let opponent right backs dribble past him with ease and may struggled given a fully fit Lichtsteiner’s pace and work-rate.
Bologna’s best chance to get something out of this match comes up front thanks to a player who has been strongly linked with Juventus in past and another Greek attacker who scored one of the greatest goals of last season. The versatile Alessandro Diamanti hasn’t hit his last year’s form yet but with three goals and an assist in 12 starts, he remains Bologna’s best player. Diamanti is technically strong and his fighting spirit means that Juventus defence can’t allow extra space or time to him. Panagiotis Kone has been another outstanding player for Bologna and is at present the club top scorer for season 2013/14. Kone usually operates in the channel between opponent defence and midfield and he will be looking to take advantage of the space that may free up due to absence of Pirlo in Juventus midfield. With an 84% passing success rate and four goals, Kone will be one of the players Bologa will be relying if they are to end Gigi Buffon’s personal record of clean sheets.
Possible Starting XI (3-4-1-2): Curci; Antonsson, Mantovani, Natali; Garics, Krhin, Perez, Morleo; Kone; Diamanti, Bianchi
Juventus FC – Team News, Line-up and Formation
The Fiorentina loss seems to have sparked Juventus back to life and the defending champions have went on an awesome five match winning streak since then. Buffon, who had got some criticism for his performances earlier this season broke his previous clean sheet record for Juventus set more than a decade back after keeping out Udinese in last round. The veteran ‘keeper dished out one of his vintage displays in breaking that record, with a close range save off Di Natale making it to highlights reel. Fernando Llorente capped off his welcome return to form with a late, late goal to win the close encounter as Juve took control of the summit of Serie A table.
Andrea Barzagli is fully fit, which means Conte won’t have too much head-ache in setting up his defence with the first choice trio of Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini all available. Stefan Lichtsteiner returned from injury against Udinese and promptly delivered the cross for the match-winner in his brief second half cameo. It is quite interesting to note that Juve’s latest winning streak was achieved without the Swiss wing-back who has been a vital component in the club since joining in 2011/12 season. Kwadwo Asamoah is also back from suspension which means Conte will once again be able to field his favourite pair of wing-backs.
Lichtsteiner’s absence was covered by Juventus without much damage but Conte will be hoping to do the same in the absence of Andrea Pirlo, one of the most used out-field players in last two seasons. The veteran midfielder limped off against Udinese and it was later announced that he may miss out for rest of the year. Pirlo’s vision and creativity has been a major reason behind Juventus midfield becoming one of the best in Europe and the bearded genius will certainly be missed. Claudio Marchisio, who has been sidelined this season, will look to make full use of this opportunity and cement his place back in the starting XI. The other two midfielders both had personal highs during the week with Arturo Vidal signing a new contract which will keep him in Turin till 2017 while Paul Pogba became the first Juventus player to win the prestigious Golden Boy award.
Fernando Llorente has scored 4 goals and assisted once in his last 5 matches and this hot streak of form is likely to help him keep his place in starting XI. Carlos Tevez looked slightly fatigued in the last match, though he is likely to start with Mirko Vucinic making an appearance later.
Possible Starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Pogba, Vidal, Marchisio, Asamoah; Tevez, Llorente
Players to Watch Out For
Arturo Vidal (Juventus)
Expect the Chilean to cap off his new contract with another memorable performance. Pirlo’s absence does rob Juve off some irreplaceable creativity but it will also allow Vidal more freedom as he won’t have to give protection to Pirlo in midfield. Vidal is the highest scoring player in Conte era and it won’t come as a surprise if he increases that tally against Bologna.
Alessandro Diamanti (Bologna):
A late bloomer, Diamanti has shone for both club and country in past season. The Italian is an extremely dangerous and versatile player and has the ability to score screamers when he has the chance. The Juventus defence as well as Buffon will need to be wary about the Bologna ace.
Bologna 0-1 Juventus
Bologna played 120 minutes in mid-week and will be fatigued when they have to play another game just two days later. Their home form isn’t good either and given Juve’s present form, the visitors are likely to pile more misery on the hosts.