Juventus Stadium, Turin
February 24th, 14:00 GMT kick-off
Antonio Conte welcomes his former side, Siena, to the Juventus Stadium on Sunday as the Bianconeri look to get back to their winning ways. Their Champions League triumph at Celtic Park was followed by a fatigued performance against Roma. Juventus lost by a slender margin to the Romans as inevitable tiredness crept in. The performance by the Serie A Champions was below-par and Conte cited fixture congestion as a possible explanation for their uninspired performance.
As for Siena, they may be at the bottom of the pile, but they don’t look like going down without a fight. Conte’s old side have risen to 18th position in the league table and they certainly will be in a confident mood ahead of their trip to the Juventus Stadium. The Tuscan based outfit have lost just once in their last 5 outings with two wins that include the scalps of Inter and Lazio. They now face a true test of their mini rejuvenation in the form of the intimidating league leaders.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Antonio Conte was honored this week as he received his Panchina d’Oro award, given to the best manager in Serie A. An award that was justified by the unbeaten season his Juventus went on to record last term. Indeed, Conte has turned many heads since his appointment at Juventus, by his side’s footballing philosophy and by his meticulous attention to detail.
He should stick with his favored 3-5-2 formation. Giorgio Chiellini isn’t expected to play a role on Sunday as he makes his return from a long injury lay-off. The big defender should start from the bench. Simone Pepe suffered a thigh injury that puts his season in jeopardy. Nicklas Bendtner and Paolo De Ceglie remain unavailable to the manager.
Conte faces a selection head-ache as Vidal, Pirlo, Barzagli, Matri and Chiellini are all a booking away from missing next weekend’s top-of-the-table clash with Napoli. Juventus could opt to field just Pirlo if reports emanating from Italy are to be believed. The depth of the squad will be put to the test against in-form Siena side.
The side, understandably, didn’t show the kind of pressing and intensity against Roma that has carried them on to success. Conte will shuffle and change and the two forwards up front should feature Giovinco and Quagliarella. The former has failed to hang on to the form he showed towards the end of last year while the latter has been pushed himself into the shadows following his controversial comments aimed at Angelo Alessio. Both should be presented the opportunity to lay a claim for a permanent starting role.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Buffon; Bonucci, Marrone, Caceres; Lichtsteiner, Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Quagliarella, Giovinco
Siena have a long road ahead of them and their positive run of form should act as motivation as they look to avoid the drop. Beppe Iachini has done a commendable job since taking over the reins at Siena. But of course, the work isn’t complete yet and he will truly gain recognition for his efforts, if he manages to drag the Robur out of the relegation zone and keep them in the top flight of Italian Football for another season. Angelo is the only injury concern for Iachini as he continues to deploy a 3-4-2-1 formation.
Striker Innocent Emeghara has come into the spot-light in recent weeks. Having netted 4 times in 4 appearances, Emeghara has garnered attention from the Italian media and remains Siena’s biggest hope. The Swiss striker has been ruthless in front of goal and each shot on target has resulted in him finding the back of the net.
He comes up against Luca Marrone who should play at the heart of the Juventus defence and should test the Juventus youth product who, by trade, is a central midfielder. Rosina and Sestu will play just behind Emeghara, supplying him with the ammunition he needs. The front trio remains key to Pirlo’s influence on the game. Expect them to put the pressure on the playmaker and try to negate him. Marrone comes into the play here as the onus then falls on him to distribute from the back; a tactic that Conte has used with Bonucci, another ball-playing defender.
Expect Siena to shut shop and defend deep in numbers as they try to contain the Juventus onslaught that should pour in from the outset. Aerially, they could expose a Juventus defence devoid of Chiellini, who is an uncompromising customer in the air. Siena could take full advantage of his absence by whipping in a few balls from the wide areas in Emeghara’s direction.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-4-2-1): Pegolo; Texeira, Terlizzi, Felipe; Belmonte, Vergassola, Della Rocca, Rubin; Rosina, Sestu; Emeghara
Player To Watch Out For
Claudio Marchisio (Juventus)
Marchisio returns to the side after his suspension against Roma. The Juventus youth product’s absence was felt by the Bianconeri as they failed to stamp any sort of authority on the game. His late runs into the box have gone untracked and have become characteristic of his overall game. Marchisio will need to establish a grip on the game and drive his side towards the three points as Juventus look to extend their lead at the top of the table.
Juventus 2-0 Siena
At home, Juventus are a formidable side to face. Siena may have form on their side heading into this one but they simply cannot match up – in quality to this Juventus side. Antonio Conte’s side will be determined to put behind last weekend’s negative result behind them and march on to the title. A Juventus win looks on the cards.
Blast From The Past