March 10th, 14:00 GMT kick-off
With the formality of the second leg of their tie against Celtic done and dusted, Juventus turn their sights towards a Catania side who are at the moment punching above their weight. The Champions welcome the Sicilian outfit to the always energetic atmosphere at the Juventus Stadium. Juventus saw off Celtic in what was a thoroughly professional performance which sealed their passage through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Turning their attention back to Serie A, they will look to extend their six point lead at the top of the table over Napoli.
For Catania, they’ve once again been turning heads with their easy-on-the-eye football and with faith in that very philosophy they have found themselves in 8th place and harboring hopes of a spot in the Europa League. For a modest side with a modest budget, a spot next season in Europe represents a mighty achievement. Indeed with 42 points to their name, Catania are well on their way to breaching the 50 points wall, something they have never done in their history.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Midweek Champions League games have often caused Juventus to fumble in their following Serie A fixture as fatigue has often come into play. But the 3-0 lead that Juventus carried into the second leg of the Celtic game allowed Conte the luxury of resting a few of his players. Marchisio, Lichtsteiner, Chiellini and Vucinic were given a break and are expected to feature from kick-off on Sunday. Conte, though, does have his fair share of injury concerns. Anelka, Caceres, Bendtner, Pepe and De Ceglie are all likely to sit out Sunday’s game.
Conte will continue with his 3-5-2 formation. Asamoah should return to the starting line-up at left wing-back. The Ghanaian International has looked a shadow of his former first-half-of-the-season self since returning to Juventus back in February. He has failed to pose the threat he so often did since joining in the summer. Fatigue was cited as an issue and that may have a valid backing but now with encouraging displays from Federico Peluso, his position in the starting line-up is not the guarantee it once used to be.
Up front, Conte is expected to continue with striker rotation policy. Matri and Quagliarella were favored midweek and while both managed to get themselves on the score-sheet, the duo are expected to start from the bench. Giovinco and Vucinic are in line to spearhead the Juventus attack. Juventus should see a lot of the ball and this game will depend a lot on who comes out on top in the midfield battle. Giovinco should drop deep while Vucinic plays ahead of him.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Giovinco, Vucinic
Rolando Maran has taken over from where Montella and his predecessors have left off in employing their philosophy of football. Catania’s rise has been consistent throughout the past few seasons and the squad they have developed certainly have shown promise of doing even better. Last weekend, Catania incredibly threw away a two goal cushion at home to Inter. The Nerazzurri rallied back from the dead to snatch the three points that could dent their hopes of a European finish.
Maran does have a few headaches to contend with. Former Juventus man Nicola Legrottaglie is suspended while top-scorer Gonzalo Bergessio and Ciro Capuano are injured. Catania are expected to mirror Juventus and play with a 3-5-2 themselves. The centre of midfield boasts of an impressive unit with Almiron, Lodi and Izco. Lodi remains one of Serie A’s under-rated talents and his play-making ability from deep can hurt Juventus. Almiron and Izco are the runners around him and a lot of the game will rely on how well they manage to thwart the threat of Juventus’ midfield triumvirate.
In attack, Gomez is a sprightly customer with bags of tricks and has a penchant for causing Juventus trouble. His energy could worry the Juventus back-line and his six assists are a credit to his talent. Gomez will be partnered by Castro in attack. The duo face the strongest defense in the league and it remains an uphill task for them to breach what at times looks like an impenetrable barrier. Catania will get their chance though, and they need to be clinical as chances at the Juventus Stadium come few and far between.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Andujar; Bellusci, Spolli, Rolina; Avarez, Izco, Lodi, Almiron, Marchese; Castro, Gomez
Player To Watch Out For
Paul Pogba (Juventus)
The Frenchman has made waves with his mature performances this campaign for Juventus. In for the suspended Vidal, Pogba brings enthusiasm and has a mean shot on him. Pogba’s best performances have come on home turf for Juventus and he could make a mark yet again. With 5 goals this season, Pogba is well on his way to becoming a top-class midfielder. You wouldn’t want to bet against him scoring another screamer on Sunday.
Juventus 2-0 Catania
The scales are tilting in Juventus’ favor. They have momentum with them as well as the advantage of playing in front of a rapturous home crowd. Catania have a few key players missing and anything other than a loss at the Juventus stadium will be viewed as a positive outcome by the Elefanti. The home side, though, will have a bit too much muscle for their guests and should grind out a win despite their recent European encounter.
Blast From The Past