Stadio Olimpico, Rome
April 15th 2013; 19:45 kick off
Juventus and Lazio, two of Serie A’s last standing participants in European competitions were both humbled in mid-week as they bowed out meekly. Both teams will be looking to bounce back from those disappointments, but Lazio will have the extra incentive for a Champions League berth from this encounter.
The Romans were once tipped to be a prime competitor to Juventus and Napoli for the Scudetto, but they have slumped to an all too familiar loss of form after winter break. A steady downslide has seen the Aquile drop from a potential top-3 finish to outside the top 5. They have done better in Cup competitions as they have already reached the Coppa Italia final after knocking Juventus out in the semi-finals. They were also the last remaining side from the peninsula in Europa league. Lazio lost a man and conceded two goals in last the 12 minutes to lose to Fenerbahce in Turkey before managing just a 1-1 draw at home as they were knocked out in the quarter-finals.
Lazio will line up in a 4-5-1 formation with a fit Miroslav Klose as the lone striker. Italy international Marchetti has been particularly inspirational for Lazio this season and the custodian will hope to continue his streak of great form against Juventus from the past couple of seasons.
Influential full-back Senad Lulic will miss out because of suspension and is likely to be replaced by Uruguayan Alvaro Gonzalez. Experienced Albanian Lorik Cana is likely to partner Michael Ciani in Lazio’s central defence.
Lazio’s midfield has been one of the most consistent in this season’s Serie A, and they will have an interesting battle with Juventus’ 5-man midfield. Antonio Candreva, who spent a loan season in Turin a few years ago, has found his form in the Capital club and will be partnered with Stefano Mauri on the opposite wing. Candreva and Mauri are more offensive wingers than Juventus’ wing-backs, and it will be interesting to see how they can cope with Juventus’ lateral movement.
Brazilian Hernanes has undoubtedly been one of the best transfers in Serie A in the past few seasons, and he will once again be the life force of Lazio’s attacks. Hernanes had a wonderful first half in the Roman derby last week but somehow managed to turn up a totally different player in the second half, giving away a penalty and missing one himself as the match ended 1-1. Twenty-year-old Nigerian Ogenyi Onazi has been impressive for Lazio during their Europa League campaign and is likely to slot in as the defensive component in their midfield.
The return of Miroslav Klose from injury will be a major boost for Lazio. The German legend’s injury after winter break was one of the main reasons why his side lost form, and his experience will be absolutely vital against a Juventus defence which will miss Giorgio Chiellini.
Probable Starting XI (4-5-1): Marchetti; Gonzalez, Cana, Ciani, Stankevicius; Candreva, Ledesma, Onazi, Hernanes, Mauri; Klose
The much hyped clash against Bayern Munich finally turned out to be a damp squib for Juventus as the club barely mustered a fight before exiting after losing both legs by the same 2-0 margin. Juve’s loss against Bayern showed exactly the difference in level that exists between Serie A and Bundesliga currently, and the fact that being the best in Italy doesn’t go far in competing with the best in Europe. Antonio Conte’s team need to ensure that their exit from Champions League doesn’t impact their Serie A campaign negatively.
Giorgio Chiellini injured himself during training and is expected to be out for a couple of weeks. Federico Peluso is likely to be a direct replacement for Chiellini on the left side of the three-man defence after he sat out the last two matches. Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci will complete Juve’s defensive line along with Peluso.
Both Stefan Lichtsteiner and Arturo Vidal sat out of Juventus’ loss against Bayern and will come back into the starting XI. Lichtsteiner has often performed well for Juventus against his old club, while Vidal was absolutely monstrous when Juventus beat Lazio last season on their way to the title. Both Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio looked completely out of sorts against Bayern, and one of them is likely to be rested to accommodate Paul Pogba.
Most Juventus players had bad games against Bayern but the poorest of them, unarguably, was the department often rightly pointed out to be the club’s weakest: attack. None among Vucinic, Matri, Giovinco or Quagliarella managed to make the barest minimum of impact against Bayern, and Juventus almost never looked like scoring a goal. It was evident once again that should Juventus want to compete for bigger prize in Europe, they need to upgrade their frontline significantly. Fabio Quagliarella has played major portions of three matches in the past one week and is likely to be benched for this one in favour of Alessandro Matri. Mirko Vucinic’s form, despite the brace he scored against Pescara last week, has been very ordinary recently and he would be looking to make an impact against his former rival club.
With both teams stacking players in the central midfield, the match will belong to the side which takes control of the midfield quicker. In this respect Lazio have a slight disadvantage of playing a high intensity match against Fenerbahce in mid-week and getting a day less of rest. Serie A fans will also be eager to take a look at two of the brightest young midfielders in the league this season when Pogba squares off against Onazi.
Probable Starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Peluso; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pogba, Marchisio, Asamoah; Vucinic, Matri
Players To Watch Out For
Arturo Vidal (Juventus):
Vidal had a good and week-long rest after playing against Pescara, and he will be gunning to show the same form he showed against Lazio almost an exact year ago. Vidal set up several chances for his teammates in that game but had to watch them squander them before Del Piero came off the bench to win the match.
Arguably Lazio’s main creative outlet, the Brazilian will be looking to make amends for his disastrous performance in the second half of the derby last week. He also needs to be at the top of his game, because otherwise the best midfield in Serie A can knock Lazio out of the game quickly.
Lazio 1-2 Juventus
Lazio’s fatigue will make a difference in the end. Lazio have played two taxing games against Roma and Fenerbahce in the last few days, while Juventus had an easy run in against Pescara and gave very little effort in the last 20 minutes against Bayern as the result was beyond doubt.