Juventus Stadium, Turin
May 5th, 13:00 GMT kick-off
The Scudetto is so close, you can almost touch it. Indeed, just a point separates Juventus from their second consecutive Serie A title and from the inevitable celebrations. Their recent run of form has been impeccable and while they may not put in extremely convincing displays, they are getting the job done. The bare minimum to cross the finish line and now for the biggest race in Italy, they are merely a few inches away.
As for Palermo, they’ve shown the heart and belief that comes with the trembling thought of relegation. Giusppe Sannino has spurred them on to a five-game unbeaten run claiming the scalps of Roma and Inter on the way. That string of positive results has seen force themselves into safety, for now. They remain level on points with Genoa but their superior head-to-head record sees them hover above Italy’s oldest club.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The morale-boosting derby win has given Juventus the opportunity to successfully defend title this weekend. A draw will be enough regardless of Napoli’s result. Conte has continued to experiment with the 3-5-1-1 formation, a tactical set-up that allows him to field eleven of the best players in his squad. The winning hasn’t halted though, as they currently find themselves on a seven-game winning streak, with momentum firmly behind them.
Much has been said about the new formation Conte has introduced. But there’s still not enough clarity surrounding it’s pros and cons. While it does allow Conte to field his strongest set, it also limits the impact of someone like Mirko Vucinic – a player whose ability to hold up the ball isn’t his forte. Vucinic has suffered in this formation and his ability to go missing has been magnified.
Juventus should have the lion’s share of the possession and while the midfield will be packed, the Bianconeri will want to dictate play. With both teams who play with a heavy midfield, this should be a scrappy and tight affair. There won’t be much space for players to maneuver and the team that can work most with the limited space will have a foothold in the game. Juventus do have the far more technical players capable of wriggling out of crowded area and this will go a long way in influencing the tide.
Nicolas Anelka and Simone Pepe are injured while Sebastian Giovinco should return to the squad.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-1-1): Buffon(GK); Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Pogba, Pirlo, Vidal, Asamoah; Marchisio; Vucinic
For a team that looked doomed for Serie B at one point of time, Palermo have seen their fortunes take a dramatic turn. Suddenly, the belief of maintaining their Serie A status is there and the side have been giving it their all. But the road ahead is a long one and the race for survival is only just heating up. Genoa, Torino and Siena have it all to play for in the coming final weeks of Serie A.
Palermo have Josip Ilicic to thank for their resurgence. The Slovenian attacker has got his act together in recent weeks churning out performances of the highest quality that have reflected his undoubted talent. Ilicic remains one of the most mercurial players in the league and has been the protagonist behind Palermo’s excellent run. He remains a doubt for Palermo and will be evaluated closer to the game.
Sannino will stick with his 3-5-2 formation. Morganella is suspended while Mantovani is on the treatment table. The team have no option but to go for a win from the first whistle but whether they will be allowed to, remains to be seen. Rios will be the hard-man in midfield and will screen his back three with the aim of obstructing Juventus’ attacks. Up front, Miccoli is the danger-man for Palermo. Aronica has been exposed time and time again this season with his short-comings as a defender brought to the fore regularly. He will have his hands full with Lichtsteiner bombarding down Palermo’s left flank.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Sorrentino(GK); Von Bergen, Donati, Aronica; Nelson, Barreto, Rios, Kurtic, Garcia; Hernandez, Miccoli
Player To Watch Out For
Arturo Vidal (Juventus)
Juventus’ Chilean hot shot has been playing at a level occupied only by him this season. With 9 goals, Vidal is just three away from equaling Rui Barrios’ record as the club’s most prolific midfielder in a single Serie A season. With unmatched energy and enviable quality, you wouldn’t bet against Vidal slotting in a goal or two past Sorrentino.
Juventus 2 – 1 Palermo
Both teams have enough motivation to go into this game with the view of bagging the three points. Yes, Juventus need just a solitary point but it isn’t in their DNA to look for the draw. Palermo will have the purgatory of Serie B playing on their mind and with Genoa sniffing down their neck, they will go all out as well. Expect Juventus to edge this contest by the narrowest of margins.