Juventus Stadium, Turin
January 26th, 19:45 GMT kick-off
It’s been an eventful week at Juventus. The convincing weekend win over Udinese was their first league victory of the year, the low-scoring stalemate with Lazio in the Coppa Italia followed and perhaps the best bit of news that came out this week was the contract extension penned by legendary keeper Gigi Buffon. The Captain took a paycut and signed on a two year extension which should keep him at the club until the summer of 2015. Of course, it is expected that the World Cup winner will finish his illustrious career off at Juventus. The week also marked the 10th death anniversary of Gianni Agnelli – a symbol of Juventus football club for so many years and a man who was born to lead. Juventus then finally announced the signing of Athletic Bilbao’s bomber Fernando Llorente on a bosman. The towering striker will arrive only in July.
Juventus now face the prospect of hosting a struggling Genoa side that just parted ways with Coach Gigi Del Neri. The Serie A Champions capitalized on the faulty form of their nearest rivals to extend their lead at the top of the table to a healthy 5 points. Genoa, meanwhile, have suffered consecutive losses thus relegating them to the drop zone.
It doesn’t take too long to upset trigger-happy President Enrico Preziosi who, unsurprisingly, had had enough and acted yet again, doing away with his second manager of the season. Del Neri suffered the same fate as his predecessor Luigi De Canio and was promptly shown the exit door last weekend. Del Neri was in charge for just three months in which he oversaw two wins, two draws and a miserable nine defeats. Davide Ballardini, who had a stint at Genoa previously, was appointed as manager of the Rossoblu.
Team News and Tactical Brief
After a slow start to the year, Antonio Conte’s Juventus returned to winning ways with a demolition of a hapless Udinese. The good form continued into midweek but what looked like a good result was ruined by lax defending as Stefano Mauri netted a priceless away goal for Lazio. The performance by Juventus was encouraging but they lacked the killer factor to finish off the tie and duly paid for it. It was a rather rotated Juventus though, as a few players were given a break by Conte. Nevertheless, they have it all do against Lazio in the intimidating Stadio Olimpico next week in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final.
Conte should stick with his 3-5-2 as his team prepare to welcome Genoa. The major injury concern surrounds the fitness of one Andrea Pirlo. The maestro looks set to miss his third game in a row. Paul Pogba looks set to deputize in the ‘Pirlo role’. Giorgio Chiellini, Simone Pepe and Nicklas Bendtner are all long term absentees for Juventus. The side put out by Conte is expected to be a full strength eleven with just a couple of changes up front. Reports suggest Mirko Vucinic will be partnered up front by Fabio Quagliarella. Conte has been known to constantly rotate his strikers, seldom offering consistency with his choices which has hampered the form of the strikers. Mirko Vucinic though, when fully fit, has been a mainstay in Conte’s eleven.
Juventus may have one eye on the upcoming must win Coppa Italia game during midweek but true to their relentless pressing philosophy, will come out all guns blazing. Tipped as heavy favorites, Conte will want his side to finish off the game as quickly as possible. Juventus will attack Genoa from the outset, piling on the pressure in a hope to breach their defence. The three man central midfield could be key to Juventus dictating the game. Vidal and Marchisio will provide the endless running and make late runs into the box to catch the Genoa defence off guard, while Pogba with his dynamic and athletic approach will control the tempo of the game. The wing-backs will look to stretch the Genoa back four and whip balls in for the strikers to target.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Caceres; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pogba, Marchisio, De Ceglie; Quagliarella, Vucinic
Davide Ballardini has quite the task at hand. Genoa are a side that are drained of confidence following disastrous weeks and the failure to reverse their fortunes. Ballardini faces the herculean task of elevating the Grifone out of the relegation zone. Indeed, the pressure on his shoulders is immense and expectations after busy transfer windows are high. But for the oldest club in Italy, safety takes the number one priority.
Ballardini is set to shift from Gigi Del Neri’s 4-4-2 formation and employ a 4-3-1-2 set-up. Wide players Juan Vargas and Bosko Jankovic are on the treatment table and should sit this game out while Eros Pisano returns from suspension. Juraj Kucka will act as a screen in front of a shaky Genoa defence. His job will be to halt Juventus attacks while initiating Genoa’s offensive play. Young Andrea Bertolacci will play in the hole behind the strikers Immobile and Borriello who have been linked with a possible move to Juventus. Bertolacci is a tricky player to handle and if he finds space and time, he could feed the attacking duo effectively.
Genoa, like most away teams, will come to defend at Juventus. They will look to counter-attack the Champions with pace and efficiency while set-pieces remain their best bet to score. They may also look to target Juventus’ left side of defence. Paolo De Ceglie and Martin Caceres who are expected to start have been far from solid and the absence of Giorgio Chiellini and Kwadwo Asamoah has been evident in recent weeks making the defence vulnerable.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-1-2): Frey; Pisano, Granqvist, Manfredini, Moretti; Rossi, Kucka, Matuzalem; Bertolacci; Immobile, Borriello
Player To Watch Out For
Paul Pogba (Juventus)
The talented 19 year old has had an explosive start to 2013. Injuries to the midfield have seen him enter the spotlight and he has seized the opportunities that have come his way with both hands. Pogba’s dominating display at the centre of midfield against Udinese was followed by a composed performance against Lazio. His ability from range coupled with his stamina make him a viable threat from centre of the park for Juventus.
Juventus 2-0 Genoa
This may not be as easy as it looks for Juventus. A new manager always brings with him enthusiasm while the players are keen to impress. But home turf should bring forth an advantage for Juventus and while fatigue does come into the frame, their sheer superior quality should enable them to take control of the game and with it the all important three points.
Blast From The Past