Stadio San Elia
January 12th 2014, 14:00 GMT kick-off
It was business as usual for Juventus as the Winter Break did not slow down the wheels of the Bianconeri steamroller. A win over nearest rivals to the Scudetto crown AS Roma, further justified the notion that the title was theirs to lose. With an eight point lead, it’s hard to argue otherwise. That win over Roma gave Antonio Conte’s side their 10th successive victory, a perfect ten that is all the more extraordinary when you consider the fact that they have let in just a single goal during that period. It also meant Juventus would be crowned Winter Champions of Serie A with an unassailable lead.
Their opponents Cagliari, have strung together a good run of 7 games unbeaten which includes two wins. Those wins came against high-flying Torino and Genoa at the San Elia. Last time out, they played a goal-less stalemate away at Chievo. It was by and large a drab affair but will be remembered for Mauricio Pinilla’s woeful penalty kick that sailed over the bar.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The Sardinians maybe unbeaten in seven but they have lost their most prized asset in the transfer window. Belgium midfielder Radja Nainggolan waved his goodbyes and headed out the exit door in a loan move to AS Roma. Arguably, their best performer, Nainggolan’s departure certainly represents a blow to Cagliari but as it is relatively early in the window, they do have the chance to bring in alternatives.
Coach Diego Lopez would no doubt be happy with his side’s unbeaten run but you can’t help but feel he’d be left ruing the fact that they’ve only recorded two wins. Nevertheless, they sit in 11th position on the league table and while priority remains to avoid relegation a top 10 finish doesn’t seem out of sight. The manager will retain his 4-3-1-2 formation and Daniele Dessena will step in for the departed Nainggolan.
Cagliari will sit deep and try to deny Juventus space in front of goal. Their midfield is quite narrow and will tuck in to make up the numbers in the defensive third. Victor Ibarbo and Andrea Cossu will drift in search of pockets of space and to stretch the Juve defense. Ibarbo’s pace in general has caused Juventus a few head-aches in the past. It’s a toss-up between Marco Sau and Mauricio Pinilla to spearhead the Islanders’ attack.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-1-2): Adan; Pisano, Rossettini, Astori, Murru; Dessena, Conti, Ekdal; Cossu; Pinilla, Ibarbo
We witnessed a different tactical approach from Conte against Roma; a strategy that he had often employed in the Champions League to good effect. Juventus were content to sit back and soak up the Roma pressure while choosing to hit them on the break. It worked. Roma’s supply lines were cut off while Juventus rarely looked exposed and their counter-attacks were threatening. It was a move that was clearly calculated and played out to perfection.
But up against Cagliari, they should resort to their more accustomed possession based football. With no real injury troubles for the manager, only Andrea Barzagli will serve a one game ban on account of accumulation of yellow cards. The very capable Martin Caceres should fill in for the big Italian. With little to no rotation expected from Conte, the same team that started against Roma can be expected.
Juventus are the best team on their travels in Italy and apart from the game against Fiorentina, they’ve rarely looked in danger. Expect them to dominate the game and carve out openings regularly through various outlets such as Andrea Pirlo and Carlos Tevez. The Argentine’s impact cannot be understated as he’s brought a whole new dimension in the final third; a cutting edge that was sorely lacking.
Possible Starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Caceres, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Asamoah; Tevez, Llorente
Player To Watch Out For
Arturo Vidal (Juventus)
You’ll have to look far and wide to find a superior midfielder in Italy right now. Vidal is the image on which this Juventus side has been built upon and is arguably the best player in the league. The goal against Roma took his tally to 8. Comfortable in defensive and offensive positions, it’s his work-ethic that has won him many admirers. Expect Vidal to put in another commanding shift.
Cagliari 0-2 Juventus
Juventus should continue from where they’ve left off last weekend. With the current breath-taking form they’re in, it will something special to halt their streak. Cagliari may not possess an answer to the questions thrown at them and could find the Juventus pressure overwhelming. It should be a comfortable victory for the visitors without too much fuss.