Juventus Stadium, Turin
February 9th, 17:00 GMT kick-off
Juventus have one of the most crucial weeks of the year coming up with games that could very well decide the course of their season. Fiorentina, Celtic and Roma loom on the horizon for the Old Lady as she tries to maintain her form after putting behind a forgettable January. Last weekend’s slim victory over a tricky Chievo side brought the Bianconeri back to winning ways and at an important time as February promises to be hectic and vital towards their challenge for title on the remaining two fronts they find themselves fighting on.
Fiorentina, like their illustrious opponents, would like to flush the memories of an awful January that saw them fail to record a win. Vincenzo Montella’s side have been the revelation of the season with their easy on the eye football capturing the imaginations of many Serie A fans. The enthusiasm that surrounded the Viola prior to the season kicking-off has been warranted by the fact that Montella’s troops are right up there pushing for a spot in Europe.
Juventus are in top spot with a slender three point lead over nearest rivals, Napoli, who are hot on the heels of the Old Lady. Fiorentina are harboring hopes of a place in Europe next season, which remains the objective. They lie in 6th place, 13 points adrift of their opponents.
Team News and Tactical Brief
With the midweek Champions League clash against Celtic right around the corner, manager Antonio Conte could rest a few players. Claudio Marchisio and Sebastian Giovinco aren’t expected to start the encounter while Leonardo Bonucci is banned following his protests in the Genoa game. Giorgio Chiellini, Simone Pepe and Nicklas Bendtner are on the treatment table. Kwadwo Asamoah hasn’t returned from his international duty. On the touchline, Conte too will be absent, serving his final game suspension which means his deputy Angelo Alessio will be the one screaming orders.
Juventus should elect to stick to their tried and tested 3-5-2 formation. Stephan Lichtsteiner and Andrea Pirlo picked up minor knocks during the midweek, the manager said in his press conference, yet both are expected to feature from the outset. Young Luca Marrone will shift back into the heart of defence alongside Andrea Barzagli and Martin Caceres. Alessandro Matri should retain his spot following his sublime volley that had shades of Marco Van Basten and Francesco Totti in it.
Juventus’ approach to this game should be interesting. Fiorentina can argue that they’re the only side to really outplay Juventus this season during the corresponding fixture. The Viola dominated possession and played on their own terms, something which Juventus are not accustomed to doing. On home soil, Juventus should cease the initiative and dictate proceedings. The players may not play with the intensity that you normally associate with Juventus, with the Bianconeri possibly opting to keep a bit of fuel in the tank and keep an eye on the clash against Celtic.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Marrone, Caceres; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, De Ceglie; Vucinic, Matri
Vincenzo Montella has his fair share of absentees to deal with. Midfielders Alberto Aquilani and Giulio Migliaccio are serving bans while Mati Fernandez, Michele Camporese, Giuseppe Rossi and Ahmed Hegazy won’t make the trip to Turin on account of injuries.
Coach Montella is set to deploy his standard 3-5-2 formation. Fiorentina’s attractive brand of football and philosophy employed by Vincenzo Montella has won admirers in the world of Calcio. With passers in midfield and the creativity of Stevan Jovetic up front, Montella’s side has achieved success. Borja Valero on the left of Claudio Pizarro is Fiorentina’s leading goal-provider with 8 assists to his credit. The width provided by Cuadrado and Pasqual adds to their impressive unit. Cuadrado is a sly customer to deal with and Juventus’ wing-back Paolo De Ceglie could be worried by the Colombians bag of tricks and pace.
Luca Toni as the prima punta may not produce the same form that he did for Fiorentina back in his magical 05-06 season but he has undergone a renaissance of sorts since returning to his beloved Viola. His aerial threat is obvious and Juventus lack the sort of presence and authority that Giorgio Chiellini provides. Luca Marrone and Martin Caceres may find it hard to outmuscle the lumbering forward.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Viviano; Roncaglia, Rodriguez, Savic; Cuadrado, Romulo, Pizarro, Borja Valero, Pasqual; Jovetic, Toni
Players To Watch Out For
Paul Pogba (Juventus)
The dynamic Frenchman didn’t make the cut for Didier Deschamps’ squad for France’s International friendly against Germany but his displays since the turn of the year deservedly saw him bag Juventus’ player of the month award for January. His absence from the midweek friendly should allow him to be fresh and energetic on Saturday. Pogba’s drive and his ability to strike a ball from range could trouble Emiliano Viviano who hasn’t put in the most convincing displays for Fiorentina.
Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina)
The most talented player for the visitors, Stevan Jovetic has long been on Juventus’ radar. The 23 year old Montenegrin is one of the most coveted players in the peninsula and it isn’t hard to see why. With 9 goals and 3 assists, Jovetic has been the driving force behind Fiorentina’s entertaining season. The onus will fall on his young shoulders to provide the cutting edge upfront and test the Juventus defence.
Juventus 2–1 Fiorentina
From a tactical perspective, this game will pit two of Italy’s most promising young coaches against each other who employ a brand of football that is as exciting as their futures. Juventus have the advantage on home soil and that should tilt the scales in their favor as depth of both sides will be tested with the absence of vital players. Expect the Bianconeri to grind out a victory and keep the momentum going.
Blast From The Past