Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi
February 3rd, 11:30 GMT kick-off
January has been a month to forget for Juventus. Not only were they knocked out of the Coppa Italia in the semi-finals, they’ve failed to address the most glaring shortcoming in the side: a top striker. Nicolas Anelka has been bought in, but his best days are behind him and his attitude always attracts critics. He is expected to play a ‘bits and parts’ role, though he signed as a replacement for the injured Nicklas Bendtner. The Champions have managed just a single win in their previous four Serie A games thus allowing Napoli to close the gap to just three points. Whispers of a crisis situation have been doing rounds in Italy, but this faulty start to the calendar year should merely be viewed as a slump.
Controversy was at the helm of Juventus’ low-scoring stalemate at home to Genoa last weekend. The Bianconeri felt hard done by the officials who turned down their various penalty appeals. In what was a rush of blood to the head moment, Antonio Conte and his side began their protests after the final whistle was blown. The players and the staff over-reacted in a manner that they shouldn’t have and were quite rightly banned for their over the top protests. Conte was handed a two game suspension while Bonucci and Chiellini too suffered bans. Director of Sport, Beppe Marotta, was also banned until February 18th.
Their opponents Chievo have overcome their early season struggles and now find themselves comfortably in mid-table. Coach Eugenio Corini has magically turned around the fortunes of the Flying Donkeys and guided them to 11th place. The away victory at Lazio last weekend was perhaps the most impressive scalp his side have claimed this season having halted the Eagles 16 game unbeaten run. They have done well in the transfer window, welcoming back Francesco Acerbi and while they did sell veteran keeper Stefano Sorrentino, they’ve recruited Samir Ujkani from Palermo who is not too shabby himself.
Team News and Tactical Brief
For the modest outfit from Verona, safety has always been a priority. This season, though, they are surpassing expectations and sit relaxed in mid-table, 10 points above the relegation zone. With a decent transfer window, they’ll be pushing for a spot in the top half of the table which would result in a successful season for the Flying Donkeys.
Corini will stick to his 5-3-2 formation. He does have a few injury problems to contend with, as Sardo, Drame, Lucian and Pellissier are all unavailable. Pellissier, in particular, has been the scourge of Juventus in the past and is Chievo’s most influential player for many seasons now. New signings Ujkani and Acerbi should start from the bench. Marco Andreolli, who was a target for a number of top sides during the winter window, has managed to stay at Chievo. He will marshall a five-man defence that does like to sit deep. The full-backs though do push forward when Chievo do have the ball, thus stretching play and always providing an option on the counter.
Expect Chievo to remain on the back-foot for most of the game. Set-pieces and counter-attacks could be their only chance of attacking Buffon’s goal. Alberto Paloschi has been clinical when the opportunity has fallen his way. With seven goals, he is Chievo’s top scorer and their biggest threat. Chievo might also target the rickety Juventus left hand side of defence which has been exposed time and again since Chiellini and Asamoah have been away.
Probable Starting Line-up (5-3-2): Puggioni; Frey, Dainelli, Andreolli, Cesar, Jokic; Guana, Rigoni, Cofie; Thereau, Palsochi
Juventus’ starting line-up will be shuffled given all the absentees in this match. Claudio Marchisio is out again for 10 days with a thigh strain which adds to Conte’s worries, Paul Pogba should deputize in Il Principino’s place. Mirko Vucinic will sit out this game as well on account of accumulation of yellow cards. With Kwadwo Asamoah on International duty at the African Cup of Nations, Juventus are expected to deploy a line-up that could be without five regular starters.
The Bianconeri have found it tough to breach teams that are content to sit back and defend. The answer to that problem was thought to be a striker who could hit the back of the net on a regular basis; a striker who would guarantee you 20 goals a season, something which Juventus lack. Fabio Quagliarella should start in Vucinic’s place. Quagliarella is Juventus’ top scorer with seven goals to his credit and Chievo are well known to be a favorite opponent of his. He more often than not produces his trademark play-station goals against them and maybe a bit of inspiration from his what Juventus need right now to get their season back on track.
Juventus’ five man midfield will be important if they are to gain control of the game as is expected. With Pogba, they have the unpredictability and dynamism to their midfield. Andrea Pirlo will sit just in front of the defence and dictate proceedings. Sebastian Giovinco is due a big performance; after starting the season in excellent form, the atomic ant has slowed down since the turn of the year. He will drop short to receive the ball while also drift out towards the bylines in a bid to stretch Chievo’s defence.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Buffon; Caceres, Marrone, Barzagli; Giaccherini, Pogba, Pirlo, Vidal, Lichsteiner; Giovinco, Quagliarella
Player To Watch Out For
Arturo Vidal (Juventus)
The fiery Chilean International netted a goal in midweek against Lazio. His endless running and tackling make him one of the most important pieces in the Juventus jigsaw. In the absence of his partner in crime, Claudio Marchisio, the onus will be on his shoulders to win back possession and offer protection to Andrea Pirlo. But of course, he is much more than just that and is always a danger going forward as well.
Chievo Verona 1-1 Juventus
On home turf on what normally is not the best of pitches in the peninsula, Chievo are a formidable outfit. Juventus are struggling to find their feet and the various suspensions lodged on them certainly doesn’t help their cause. Chievo might fancy themselves to have a real go at this Juventus side devoid of many first teamers and may just cause an upset. A draw though, looks on the cards as both sides share the spoils.
Blast From The Past