Juventus Stadium, Turin
15th December 2013, 17:30 GMT kick-off
It was a premature exit for Juventus in the Champions League as they walked out the exit doors in as early as the group stage. In perhaps the biggest shock of the Champions League, in a group where you’d put your money on them going through, it was a series of underwhelming results that contributed to their downfall.
Draws against Copenhagen and Galatasaray will be viewed as results in which they should have picked up more points. On the bright side, they have the chance to focus their attention on Serie A and win their third title on the trot, something that hasn’t been done by the Bianconeri since the 1930s.
Minnows Sassuolo are their opponents next and could face the wrath of an angry Juventus side. The away side obviously, will view this game as the chance to take full advantage of a potentially fatigued Juventus after their rough time in Turkey.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The past has to be put in the past and that’s what Conte will be telling his players. Juve’s current Serie A form has been tremendous with seven wins in their past seven games and having conceded nada. The wounds might still be fresh but a win will go a long way in healing the situation right now. Three points is what separates them from their nearest rivals Roma but they have the chance to stretch that lead before Roma play a tough game against Milan on Monday.
With Pirlo out till January, the side has lacked the creativity that il Maestro brings to the table. While Paul Pogba has been drafted in the regista role, he simply does not bring the same level of invention, it’s not his type of role. A few changes to the side are anticipated with Lichtsteiner, Asamoah and Llorente should be given a breather. Isla, Peluso and Quagliarella will deputise in their roles while Simone Padoin could feature in place of the suspended Claudio Marchisio.
The emphasis, as always, will be on attack from the get-go. The Juventus defense will be pressurized by Sassulo’s three pronged attack and a lot will depend on Bonucci’s ability to bring out the ball and distribute from the back in the absence of Pirlo. Possession should be dominated by the home side and will look to Carlos Tevez to open up the Sassuolo defense in the final third.
Possible Starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon(GK); Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Isla, Padoin, Pogba, Vidal, Peluso; Tevez, Quagliarella
For the first timers in the country’s top division, Sassuolo were given little hope of surviving. That very suggestion was justified in the early on-goings of Serie A as they were bullied by opposition into submission. Four losses in their first four games meant that their top flight status was in danger. Manager Eusebio Di Fracesco was on the verge of the sack but a quick tactical shift has made for a positive reading recently. From the 4-3-3 to alternating between a 3-5-2 and 3-4-3, the manager has brought out the best of his limited resources.
Three Juventus co-owned players have been at the heart of their recovery. Domenico Berardi, Simone Zaza and Luca Marrone have been impressive as I Neroverdi have got their season back on the right path and are just hovering a point and a position above the drop zone. Berardi, in particular, has raised a few eyebrows with his haul of 7 goals and a mooted return to Juventus could be on the cards soon if he progresses the way he has been. Unfortunately for Sassuolo, he won’t be available as he serves his suspension.
Di Francesco is a disciple of Zdenek Zeman’s style of play and like the Czech coach, he does like his side to employ ease-on-the-eye football. Sassuolo come into this game on the back of a slender 1-0 loss to Chievo that halted their 4 game unbeaten run. Di Francesco is expected to use a 3-4-3 formation but will see a lot less of the ball than they’d like. Counter-attacking football will be the order of the day and they’d target Juventus’ wide areas.
Possible Starting XI (3-4-3): Pegolo(GK); Antei, Bianco, Acerbi; Gazzola, Magnanelli, Marrone, Longhi; Missiroli, Zaza, Floro Flores
Players to Watch Out For
Carlos Tevez (Juventus)
El Apache has come under a lot of scrutiny for his off-colour performances in the Champions League. Having failed to score a goal in Europe’s premier competition since his time at Manchester United, critics have begun to question his European pedigree. However, it’s been a different story in Serie A. With 7 goals to his name this season, expect him to come up with goods against Sassuolo.
Juventus 2-0 Sassuolo
In the first official meeting between these two sides, Juventus are expected to emerge with the three points and get their season back on track. Sassuolo could face a backlash from an angry Old Lady as they visit the intimidating Juventus Stadium. The Bianconeri should record another victory and restore a few smiles across Turin.