Artemio Franchi, Florence
March 20th 2014
The final round of the triple header between two of the peninsula’s most exciting teams will commence this Thursday as Juventus travel to the Artemio Franchi to take on Fiorentina. Fair to say La Viola have the advantage with an away goal and a very confident second half in Turin. Montella (not for the first time this season) tactically outwitted Conte but Juventus were themselves guilty of missing some good chances in the first half. Despite winning two successive titles and well on-course for a historic third, Juventus have not reproduced this form in cup competitions. A strong performance in the Europa League would have slightly compensated a disastrous Champions League campaign but despite professionally seeing off Trabzonspor in the round of 32 it seems Juventus have it all to do now to reach the quarterfinal. Juventus have been branded a ‘local’ team in some quarters and even though these accusations are over the top yet failure to bring in continental success since 1999 has given critics the necessary ammunitions.
Previous two games saw Juventus charge off the blocks and Asamoah in particular created a number of threatening opportunities from the left. But for some reasons a significant lack of tempo was noticed in the second half allowing Fiorentina to claw back in these games. Matos could well have grabbed the equalizer in the league game but Gomez did not miss his chance and got a priceless away goal in Europe. Conte himself has rubbished claims that it was his order to sit on a one goal lead but maybe his orders were not particularly clear to his players as they looked very slack and unnecessarily cautious in the second period. Juventus surely have to improve over the 90mins if they harbor any ambitions to win a European trophy after 15 long years.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Fiorentina have already shown that they are a very efficient cup side as they are the one of the teams who remains unbeaten in EL so far. Plus they have also reached the Coppa Italia final this season for the first time since 2001. Losing Giuseppe Rossi for the entire season was a body blow for their league campaign but they have kept up their amazing form in the cup competitions.
Mario Gomez has sat out for the best part of the campaign but his goal in Turin showed that he is regaining his sharpness and he looks to be the man to take Fiorentina further in this cup. He should start in place of Matri. Midfield artist Borja Valero was absent in the league game but he was ever present in the EL game. He is set to start with midfield orchestrator David Pizarro alongside former Juventus player Alberto Aquilani. Manual Pasqual and Juan Cuadrado were tactically dropped for the first leg but both are expected to return for this game. Although Josip Ilicic was anonymous for most of the game he did provide the assist for the Gomez goal and he will regain his place. Matti Fernandez picked up an ankle injury so he misses out.
Montella is expected to favor the 4-3-3 formation with three passers and no real destroyer in midfield. Pace and directness from Juan Cuadrado can trouble the Juventus backline and can cause some serious nuisance. Facundo Roncaglia was pretty poor last Thursday but Modibo Diakiate does not present himself as a worthy upgrade so expect the Argentine to start. The centre back pair should remain intact but Pasqual may take the place of Tomovic.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Neto; Roncaglia, Rodriguez, Savic, Pasqual; Aquilani, Pizarro, Borja; Cuadrado,Gomez, Ilicic
For Antonio Conte the news from the medical team would be a cause for concern as Claudio Marchisio is feared to be out for atleast ten days. Carlos Tevez was not fit for the first leg but he is expected to start in this game. Fernando Llorente also took a knock during the last game after replacing Giovinco, who himself was taken off in the 64th minute after being injured. Mirko Vucinic is a long term absentee while Fabio Quagliarella was not shortlisted for the Europa League. In midfield Juventus have no option to rotate so ArturoVidal, Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba will definitely start. Kwadwo Asamoah should start on the left with Stefan Lichtsteiner on the right in place of Mauricio Isla. The back three should have been the first choice centre backs as Conte knew the margin for error in this game would be very small but Andrea Barzagli looks likely to miss out after suffering a muscle pull during the warm-up prior to the Genoa game. Martin Caceres is likely to step in alongside Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.
Juventus’ approach to this game may change compared to the previous games. Against the top sides, they’ve been happy to play on the counter but this time they may take the game to their opponents. The understanding between Llorente and Tevez has been one of the key factors behind their success in Serie A but would be a surprise not to see Pablo Osvaldo starting here. Osvaldo for his part, did not look that bright in the first leg but his two goals in this Europa League campaign and three starts suggest Conte considers him as a regular starter in Europa League.
Possible Starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon;Caceres, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Asamoah; Tevez, Osvaldo
Players To Watch Out For
Arturo Vidal (Juventus)
Arturo Vidal has been a colossal presence for the Old Lady this season particularly in Europe, with 7 goals including a goal in the first leg and Juventus will be counting on him in this massive clash. Vidal was risking a disqualification for this game and his altercations with his fellow countryman Pizarro could have been costly but fortunately he is available and should be the number one threat for Fiorentina. Vidal has already scored in Florence (5-0 win in 2012) and he would be looking to add to his goal tally as an away goal is needed at any cost. Plus he is expected to stifle the free flowing midfield of Fiorentina and keep Borja Valero in check.
Mario Gomez (Fiorentina)
More than 20,000 people turned up at the Artemio Franchi on 15th July this year as Gomez was unveiled by Andrea Della Valle. Gomez began well scoring a brace against Genoa but a horrific clash with Cagliari goalkeeper Michael Agazzi ruled him out for 3 months. It seemed that Gomez might not make the impact which was expected from him but he has signaled his comeback with a vital away goal in the first leg. This is not the first time he has scored a vital goal against the Old Lady. In 2010 also Gomez scored for Bayern in their 4-1 thumping at the Stadio delle Alpii. He also scored against Chievo this weekend which just about cements the fact that Gomez is coming back to his brilliant best. Juventus must keep an eye on him and make sure he does not get a sniff in and around the goal as recent form suggests Gomez will pounce on anything loose and will be looking to break Bianconeri hearts once again.
Fiorentina 2–2 Juventus
Fiorentina are unbeaten so far in Europe. They would feel confident about their progress to the next round after their performance in the first leg. Juventus have to look for the away goal so Cuadrado might expose the advanced positions of wingbacks in the counter. But Juventus were not overwhelmed in any of the games against Fiorentina this season. They have goals in them and should neutralize the away goal in this leg. Expect a very tense and fiery encounter with goals in it.
Blast From the Past
The first final between two Italian sides in the UEFA competitions history took place in 1990 when Juventus and Fiorentina met in the UEFA Cup final. Juventus under the guidance of Dino Zoff won the trophy over the two legs thanks to a 3-1 win in the first leg followed by a 0-0 draw in Avellino. Juventus would like history to repeat itself but they have to work hard and earn it.
Written by Devrup Jyoti Gupta