Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi,Verona
August 30th, 2014
The new season in Italy kicks off on Saturday as champions Juventus travel to Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi to take on Chievo in the first game of the season. It also marks the beginning of a new era under Massimiliano Allegri who replaced head coach Antonio Conte this summer. Allegri is traditionally a slow starter but he knows any slipup here will increase the pressure on him as some sections of Juventus fans have not accepted him whole-heartedly.
Chievo meanwhile face a pretty tough season as the squad lacks any significant quality plus they have already started their campaign in the worst possible fashion by getting knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Pescara. The moral of the side is down and Eugenio Corini knows the magnitude of the task ahead of him as he prepares his beleaguered side for the visit of the champions.
Team news and tactical brief
Chievo had a busy summer as 15 new faces joined Eugenio Corini’s side although they lost three of their first team players from last season as Cyril Thereau, Boukary Drame and Luca Rigoni all left. The main arrivals include Francesco Bardi (on loan from Inter) who will start this game as their new goalkeeper. The center back pair of Dario Dainelli and Alessandro Gamberini are reunited after their five year spell together at Fiorentina. They should not take much time to forge an understanding but will be in for a tough evening .Cristiano Biraghi and Nicolas Frey will find themselves in the fullback positions.
Ex-Captain Luga Rigoni might have left the club but his position as the holding midfielder will be taken up by Mariano Izco who joined from Catania.The bulk of the work in midfield is expected to be done by Perparim Hetemaj and Dejan Lazarevic. The duty to create scoring chances for the strikers will be the primary job of new signing Valter Birsa who joined on loan from Milan. The Slovenian showed promise in the early stages of his career but has stagnated. He will be hoping his new club can provide the atmosphere in which he can reignite his career. Chievo are one of the favorites to go down this season but much depends on how strike pair of Maxi Lopez and Alberto Paloschi performs together. On paper, this duo guarantees goals but they must deliver on the pitch to make this count. New signings Ruben Botta and Ezequiel Schelotto might come on as subs in the second half.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-1-2): Bardi (GK); Biraghi, Gamberini, Dainelli, Frey; Izco, Hetemaj, Lazarevic; Birsa; Lopez, Paloschi
Massimiliano Allegri generally favors a 4-3 system with a four man backline and a flat three midfield. He is still not sure as to how he will lineup the front three but early indications suggest that he will start with a 4-3-2-1 module at the beginning of the season. Gianluigi Buffon will start in goal with Leonardo Bonucci and Angelo Ogbonna taking up the center back positions. The pair have looked shaky in pre-season games and it will be a major weak point this Saturday evening for Chievo to exploit. Giorgio Chiellini is suspended while Andrea Barzagli is recovering from a surgery. New signing Patrice Evra will be on the left while Stephan Lichtsteiner will be the man patrolling the other flank.
Andrea Pirlo took a heavy knock on his knees and is likely to be out for 10 days so he will miss the season opener. Claudio Marchisio is expected to deputize for him in the regista position like last season where he performed admirably when he was asked to do so. Paul Pogba and Kwado Asamoah will be the other two midfielders and they will look to dominate an average looking Chievo midfield. Arturo Vidal is expected to feature a bit higher up the pitch this season and the experiment will begin this Saturday with the Chilean taking up a position in the hole behind the frontman. Fernando Llorente and Sebastian Giovinco are both recovering from flu and chances are Max Allegri will give debut to new signing Kingsley Coman alongside Vidal. Carlos Tevez will lead the line for Juventus and will be looking to hit the ground running against an ageing Chievo defence.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-2-1): Buffon(GK); Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Ogbonna, Evra; Marchisio, Pogba, Asamoah; Vidal, Coman; Tevez
Players to Watch Out For
Carlos Tevez (Juventus)
It was tough for the Argentine fans to watch Gonzalo Higuan and Rodrigo Palacio squandering gilt-edged chances in the World Cup final. Imagine the frustration of Carlos Tevez during those moments. The man who was comfortably ahead of both the above mentioned players in performance terms last season spent a frustrating summer watching his country agonizingly lose the World Cup final against Germany. He should be hungry and raring to go this season and has already shown sharpness in the pre-season friendlies. Plus he is expected to cover every inch of grass on the field, hassle and harry the opposition to create chances for his teammates. He is expected to get on the score-sheet tomorrow.
Maxi Lopez (Chievo)
Having endured probably the worst year in his life both on and off the pitch, Maxi Lopez will be hoping to start afresh in his new club this season. The turmoil in his personal life affected his performances on the pitch last season but he is looking to get back to his scoring best with the Flying Donkeys. His records suggest that he is a safe option upfront but the significant lack of quality in the roster means Lopez will have to work hard to create his own chances. He should be a threat tomorrow having scored a brace for Milan in a Coppa Italia game last time he faced Juventus.
Chievo 1–1 Juventus
Max Allegri is a notoriously slow starter and that is expected to continue with his new club as well. Chievo will sit back to invite pressure from Juventus and it remains to be seen whether the Bianconeri have what it takes to break their organization. A draw is expected here.
Blast From the Past
Juventus secured a 2-1 win last season at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi, a game which was marred with controversy as Alberto Paloschi’s legitimate goal was incorrectly disallowed.