Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genova
August 25th 2013
Despite a fantastic run of form in the second half of last season, Sampdoria never really made a big impact in Serie A. The Blucerciati were a far cry from the team that made it to Champions League under Gigi Delneri and were busier staving off relegation for major part of the season. Yet, they had one unique record which is not held by any other team in the peninsula right now. They were the only team not defeated by Antonio Conte’s Juventus in Italian top flight. Few expected Juventus to lose at home when they played Sampdoria in winter 2013. Sampdoria were in bottom half of the table while Juve were on pole position. Yet, Juventus dished out an abysmal performance which could rival some of the bleak days of pre-Conte era and lost at home. The loss in Genoa in return leg was in some way understandable, given the side had just wrapped the league title and players were not fully motivated. This is one record Conte would like to set straight in the opening game.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The Blucerciati had a good pre-season which included a high profile victory over Olympic Marseille. They had a healthy 6-1 win over Santhia followed by a laboured 1-0 win over Bra. But the highlight of their season was the win over Marseille in an exciting match in the first ever Trofeo Ricardo Garrone, named after the club president who passed away last season. Andre-Pierre Gignac’s opener after 5 minutes was cancelled by strikes from Eder and two from Manolo Gabbiadini just before the half hour mark. Marseille themselves scored two goals in quick succession between 53rd and 55th minutes to make it 3-3 but 84th minute effort from Renan eventually proved to be the difference between two teams. Unlike their cross town rivals Genoa, Sampdoria didn’t fall prey to a lower league table in the first round of Coppa Italia as a brace from Gabbiadini in last twenty minutes ensured that they got past Benevento.
Sampdoria haven’t made major investments in summer but have lost Mauro Icardi and Andrea Poli, two of their best players from last season. Their most exciting arrivals came in the form of Italy U21 stars Manolo Gabbiadini and Vasco Regini. Gabbiadini, who is co-owned with Juventus, is currently one of the best young strikers in Italy and already has experience of playing two seasons in top flight. He has also shown encouraging form in both pre-season as well as the Coppa game.
Delio Rossi is likely to replicate Conte’s 3-5-2 formation for his own team. Sampdoria’s youthful team will have most of its experienced heads back in defence. Angelo Palombo, who has excelled as a ball playing central defender in the three man defence will be a crucial player for Sampdoria at the back.
Their central midfield will have plenty of youthful exuberance. Nenad Krstičić had a breakthrough season in Sampdoria in 2012/13 and scored his first goal for the club in 24 appearances in all competition. He will be joined by 24 year old Mirko Eramo, who makes a return to the club after a reasonably successful loan stint in Crotone. But the real star of Sampdoria midfield is 21 year old Pedro Obiang. Since joining the club as an youngster in 2010, the Spaniard has slowly became one of the brightest youth prospects in the league. He has been ever present for the Blucerciati, playing a total of 69 games in last two seasons.
Sampdoria’s greatest goal threat, ironically, will be a player co-owned with Juventus as Manolo Gabbiadini will be looking to give a performance which will impress his parent club. The Italy U21 striker’s recent form is top notch and Juventus defence will need to weary about his aerial and positional ability.
Possible Starting XI (3-5-2): Da Costa; Gastladello, Palombo, Costa; De Silvestri, Eramo, Krstičić, Obiang, Castellini; Gabbiadini, Sansone
Under Antonio Conte Juventus has never quite satisfied fans in pre-season matches. But even by those standards Juve’s performance in current pre-season was abysmal. The team looked tired and out of ideas in general but worst of all, in majority of games the Bianconeri didn’t look interested enough to even put up a winning effort. There was a concern among fans about how well Juve’s high profile striker additions Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez will settle down after the pair flattered to deceive during the preparation.
However, as Gigi Buffon excellently put it in post match, everything changed when the Old Lady travelled to Rome to play SS Lazio in their own backyard for the Super Coppa Italia. Vladimir Petkovic’s team had made strong additions in the transfer window and were coming off a solid pre-season. Tactically one of the most flexible sides in the peninsula Lazio often troubled Juventus last season and more than deserved to knock Juve out on their way to Coppa Italia final. The first few minutes were pretty even and though Juventus looked sharper than they have looked in entire pre-season, their opponents – especially the frequently dangerous Candreva, gave a tough fight. Ironically, the match opened up when the ever reliable Claudio Marchisio was injured and he was replaced by the recent U20 World Cup winning Paul Pogba. The Frenchman’s direct style of play, combined with his dynamic movement unlocked Lazio defence as he opened the scoring on 23rd minute after a brilliant turn inside the box. The second half was slightly strange as Conte’s Juventus showed a level of counter attacking football they have not shown under his tenure. Three goals in a three minute span between 52nd and 54th minutes effectively killed the game of. The first off which came after a rarest of rare goals which saw Giorgio Chiellini trudge up the field before finishing with his right foot.
Marchisio has been ruled out for at least a month which makes the ever improving Paul Pogba an undisputed starter. He will start in central midfield of Conte’s 3-5-2 with Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal. Stefan Lichtsteiner is probably the first name on Conte’s team sheet and the Swiss man once again looked best prepared at the start of the season, dishing probably his best performance for Juventus by scoring once and assisting two other goals against his former club. Llorente’s shaky form in pre-season means that Mirko Vucinic will start with Carlos Tevez. The pair showed glimpses of combining well in the Super Coppa match.
Possible Starting XI: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Pogba, Pirlo, Vidal, Asamoah; Vucinic, Tevez
Player To Watch Out For
Angelo Palombo (Sampdoria)
The 31 year old who joined Sampdoria when his former club Fiorentina went bankrupt in 2002 has eventually became a modern legend at Sampdoria. Palombo went on to make over 300 appearances for the Blucerciati and even stayed with them through relegation, despite being wanted by bigger clubs. He is now playing a more deeper role in central defence and will need to be on his toes to keep out one of the most potent attacks in Serie A.
Stefan Lichtsteiner (Juventus)
The Swiss right back is usually the quickest off the mark when a season starts and he has already given a Man of the Match performance last week. Given the similarity of formation of the teams, central midfield is likely to be crowded and Lichtsteiner’s forays down the right wing may make the difference in the end.
Sampdoria 0-1 Juventus
This will be a tight and potentially drab encounter and both sides may cancel each other tactically. However, Juventus has already played a competitive match against a higher profile opponent and is likely to be better prepared physically for this match. Juventus should have enough quality just to nick this encounter.