Juventus Stadium, Turin
January 19th, 19:45 GMT kick-off
The turn of the year hasn’t produced the kind of results that Juventus would have hoped for. The momentum that they had built with so much of effort seems to have been stopped with the winter break. Antonio Conte’s side has hit a slump in Serie A this year and are yet to record a league win. A loss to lowly Sampdoria at the Juventus Stadium was followed by a stalemate at the Tardini against Roberto Donadoni’s Parma side. Their nearest rivals, Lazio, wasted no time and took due advantage of Juventus’ slip-ups which makes the title race a bit more interesting. Thankfully for Juventus though, the lead they constructed over the course of the season still sees them at the top of the table with a three point advantage.
For their opponents Udinese, this calendar year has seen a few upsets. Guidolin’s side has hit top gear since returning from the traditional winter break, claiming the impressive scalps of Inter and Fiorentina, both at the Friuli. The back-to-back victories have propelled them to 8th place in the league table and have extended their unbeaten run to an excellent six games, thus keeping hopes alive of a possible finish in the European zone.
The last meeting between these two sides took place in Udine back in September. Juventus were utterly dominant and were aided by the man advantage they held. Goal-keeper Brkic was given his marching orders and Juventus capitalized. Sebastian Giovinco netted a brace with Mirko Vucinic and Arturo Vidal also getting their names on the score-sheet. Andrea Lazzari had scored the consolation goal for the home side.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Antonio Conte won’t be a pleased man with the way 2013 has begun for Juventus. Failing to register a win in two league outings is uncharacteristic for Conte’s side especially given the rather modest level of opposition they’ve locked horns against. Sampdoria and Parma were viewed as routine wins for the Serie A Champions but lackluster performances proved to be pretty costly. The absence of key players on the left-hand side in Giorgio Chiellini and Kwadwo Asamoah has been telling. Two players who have stood out this campaign have been missed by Juventus. Claudio Marchisio picked up a knock against Sampdoria and his drive and determination haven’t been replaced yet. Marchisio, though, could make it in time for this game but Conte isn’t expected to risk Il Principino.
The Achilles Heel has been an area that has been targeted by Juventus’ opponents and it comes as no surprise that all the three goals that the Bianconeri have conceded in the league this year, have come from the left side. Federico Peluso has been bought in but has yet to stake a claim for a starting role. The same can be said for Martin Caceres whose shaky display against Parma does anything but guarantee a place in the playing eleven.
No significant changes are expected to the side although latest reports suggest Arturo Vidal, Fabio Quagliarella and Andrea Pirlo are in danger of missing this game. If indeed they are ruled out of the fixture, they will represent blows for a team that is struggling to find its feet. Conte will hope his side manages to deliver the much required intensity – something that has been sorely lacking this year; the intensity that is the cornerstone to this successful Juventus foundation. Paul Pogba showed promise against Parma with his athleticism and energy and will play in a new look Juventus left-side.
Mirko Vucinic has recovered from a niggling ankle problem but is expected to start from the bench thus offering Alessandro Matri another attempt at regaining lost confidence and hopefully for his manager and himself, a goal or two.
Update: Pirlo, Marchisio and Quagliarella have not been included in the squad for the game. Young Luca Marrone could take Pirlo’s place in midfield.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Caceres; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo (Marrone), Pogba, De Ceglie; Giovinco, Matri
Udinese have been inconsistent this term but one factor that remains consistent as always is the finishing ability of Antonio Di Natale. Captain dependable has produced the goods yet again with 14 goals to his credit and as always is leading by example. Colombian Luis Muriel has been the perfect partner in crime and is living up to expectations after sitting out most of the first half of the season through injury. Muriel has scored three goals in as many games for Udinese which makes the front duo a frightening prospect for any side.
In what will be his 500th Serie A game as a manager, Francesco Guidolin won’t shift away from his 3-5-1-1 formation. Notable absentees include Badu and Mehdi Benatia who are both on International duty at the African Cup of Nations. Benatia, in particular, is one of the most highly-rated and sought after defenders in the peninsula. First choice keeper Zelkjo Brkic is suspended following his dismissal against Fiorentina.
Udinese are a counter-attacking side and will be happy to let Juventus keep possession. Their pace on the break in the form of Basta and Muriel could be potentially harmful for a Bianconeri back-line that has left holes and doesn’t look as sturdy as they did when Chiellini was fit. Juventus have been exposed on the counter and with the trickery of Muriel and killer instinct of Di Natale up front, Udinese have the combination at hand to unlock the Old Lady. Basta at right wing-back will maraud up and down his side all night long and could be a real thorn to the Juventus defence and expose the evident vulnerability of Juventus’ left side.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-1-1): Padelli; Heurtaux, Danilo, Domizzi; Basta, Pinzi, Allan, Lazzari, Pasquale; Muriel; Di Natale
Player To Watch Out For
Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus)
Giovinco will fancy his chances against Udinese having already slotted a couple past them in the previous encounter. The Atomic Ant has grown in confidence and in the potential absence of Mirko Vucinic, remains the most dangerous player in the forward line. The diminutive attacker has 6 goals and 5 assists to his name so far. Giovinco’s set-piece prowess and his ability to create openings for others marks him out as our player to watch out for.
Juventus 2-1 Udinese
It won’t be an easy game for Juventus considering Udinese will be arriving in Turin brimming with confidence and will set their sights on another upset. The visitors will come with a well laid out game-plan as one can expect from a side bossed by Guidolin. The home side though, have enough quality and in front of the vociferous home support should grind out a victory and get their season back on track.
Blast From The Past