Stadio Marc`Antonio Bentegodi
February 9th 2014, 14:00 GMT kick-off
The commanding 3-1 victory in the Derby D’italia proved that the draw against Lazio the previous weekend was but a minor slip. Is there any stopping Juventus? That’s the question on the lips of Calcio followers, most of whom would agree that Juventus simply cannot be stopped. And you would be inclined to agree with that general notion. Unbeaten in the league since October, which turned out to be their only loss so far, Juventus have a 9 point lead at the top of the table (although Roma do have a game in hand).
As for their opponents, Hellas have been the revelation of the season and few would have predicted them to be among the top 5 spots in February. Yet what seems like a dream for them is a reality. Last weekend saw them claim three points off of fellow newcomers Sassuolo. January has been a difficult month for the Verona based outfit as they succumbed to three losses against Milan, Napoli and Roma. They also waved goodbye to one of their best players of the season, Jorginho, who left for greener pastures at Napoli.
Team News and Tactical Brief
With 35 points on the board, security is all but certain for Verona. They have the safety net well in sight and with a good few months of football left, they can perhaps aim for higher accolades. Few would say Verona have been punching above their weight but there’s no doubt that their position is well justified. The departure of Jorginho is a blow, there are no two ways about it, and it will take them time to get over the loss of their gifted play-maker but it’s hard to hold on to your jewels when the big clubs come sniffing around.
Coach Andrea Mandorlini has Donati and captain Maietta as doubtful for this game. He is expected to head into this game with a 4-3-3 formation. Much of Verona’s success has been credited to the form of veteran striker Luca Toni. The former Juventus man has netted 10 goals so far making him an outside favorite for a spot in Cesare Prandelli’s Azzurri World Cup squad. The chances are bleak but the motivation is evident. His audacious chip against Sassuolo last weekend remains one of his best goals.
Alongside the raw power of Toni is the guile and trickery of Juan Iturbe; a player who has captured the imagination of Serie A followers with his fearlessness and direct running. He will have his work cut out for him against the formidable duo of Asamoah and Chiellini but his burning pace could prove useful on the counter. The creativity from midfield will flow through the boots of Emil Hallfredsson who displayed his shooting range against AS Roma.
Possible Starting XI (3-4-2-1): Rafael; Cacciatore, Moras, Marques, Agostini; Romulo, Cirigliano, Hallfredsson; Iturbe, Toni, Gomez
Juventus came out of the blocks all guns blazing against Inter and managed to maintain that tempo for the best part of 60 minutes. It saw them build a cushion for themselves that allowed them to take their foot off the gas. Rolando’s goal was the only blemish on an excellent evening for the Bianconeri. It was a game that highlighted the gap between two great rivals of Italian Football.
Antonio Conte will continue to boycott the standard pre-game press conferences as a method of protest against the alleged prejudiced reporting by the media. The Juventus manager has his full squad to pick from with only Andrea Barzagli in doubt after he suffered a minor injury against Inter. Deputizing for him should be the more than capable Martin Caceres. While the rest of the eleven should remain the same outfit that took the field against Inter.
It was an explosive tempo that caught Inter off-guard last weekend and it could just be Verona’s undoing as well. To maintain that intensity is easier said than done and that is a part of the reason of you don’t see much of it especially towards the end of the season. Despite that, Juventus have controlled games at their own pace and you’d expect them to do the same against the Gialloblu.
Possible Starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Caceres, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Asamoah; Tevez, Llorente
Player To Watch Out For
Carlos Tevez (Juventus)
The diminutive Argentine is suffering a mini drought having failed to find the back of the net this calendar year. Against Hellas in the reverse fixture, Tevez had one of his more productive games and brought the Champions back on level terms. There might be no better time for him to get the monkey off of his back and end his barren patch.
Hellas Verona 0-2 Juventus
The Bentegodi hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Juventus in recent times with games against Hellas’ rivals Chievo, particularly tricky. It’s hard not to assume that Juventus will control the game and boss their opponents around like we’re accustomed to them doing. With a wealth of talent at their disposal and the morale boosting win against Inter to back them, the scales tip in favor of a Juventus win, yet again.