Juventus Stadium, Turin
Sunday, January 19, 2014; 19:45 GMT
A brilliant run of form has seen Juventus somewhat compensate for an early Champions League exit. During this winning streak of eleven games Antonio Conte’s side has ruthlessly dispatched title rivals Roma and Napoli with identical scorelines and has built up a highly comfortable eight point lead at the top of Serie A table. Sampdoria on the other hand, started the season in poor state and were looking favourites for relegation at one point. However, the entrance of Sinisa Mihajlovic has somewhat improved their form curve.
Juventus – Team News, Line-up and Formation
Last weekend the Old Lady was aiming to break a club record set in the 1930s for maximum consecutive victories. The first half hour though, didn’t go according to plan at all. Juventus were looking lethargic and an uncharacteristic lapse in defence saw underdogs Cagliari take a 1-0 lead. Fernando Llorente soon drew level but it was Gigi Buffon’s heroics that ensured that Juventus didn’t trail at half time. The second half was a marked improvement as Juve grabbed three more goals to clinch three points which keep them eight points away from second placed AS Roma.
Andrea Barzagli missed last weekend’s match due to a niggle but the veteran defender is likely to replace Martin Caceres in the starting line-up. Conte has changed his formation slightly in Champions League but in Serie A the 3-5-2 has been successful. Therefore Barzagli is likely to be partnered by the usual pairing of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
Just like defence, Juventus’ midfield also has neither suspension nor injury problems, which means the preferred trio of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Andrea Pirlo will start in central midfield. Juve’s three first choice midfielders didn’t have a good match against Cagliari, while Claudio Marchisio came off the bench and was arguably the biggest difference maker. However, Conte is likely to persist with the same line-up with Marchisio making a second half appearance just like the last match.
Fernando Llorente grabbed a poacher’s brace against Cagliari. His first goal was an atypical finish which Juventus has often lacked in past couple of seasons. The former Athletic Bilbao overpowered his marker in the area and headed in a cross from Lichtsteiner. After a rough start Llorente has settled down very well in Turin and provides a solid focal point to the crosses coming from wings. Llorente’s partnership with a more mobile and hardworking Carlos Tevez has also flourished and the pair has cemented their spots in starting line-up.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Buffon(GK); Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Pogba, Pirlo, Vidal, Asamoah; Llorente, Tevez
Sampdoria – Team News, Line-up and Formation
Sinisa Mihajlovic has sparked off a tremendous turnaround since taking over the reins from Delio Rossi in November. The Blucerciati were down in the dumps after losing seven times since the season started but under the ex-Lazio star, they have lost just once – that too to third placed Napoli in Naples. Sampdoria picked up a commanding 3-0 win over Udinese last weekend and their current run of form of winning three out of last five matches has seen them climb up the table just behind AC Milan and cross town rivals Genoa.
Mihajlovic is likely to field a 4-2-3-1 formation with the intention of clogging up the central midfield. Sampdoria’s porous defence has recovered under the new coach, conceding just three goals in last five matches. Former Azzurini star Lorenzo Di Silvestri has been ever present for Sampdoria as a right back this season and is likely to start against Juventus. Former Hamburg SV defender and 21 year old Shkodran Mustafi has been reasonably solid in central defence with over a hundred clearances and 50 interceptions. His partnership with veteran Daniel Gastaldello is just starting to flourish and they will need to be on constant watch to deny Juve’s in form front line.
Pedro Obiang started the season slowly as Sampdoria’s midfield struggled for creativity. Just like the rest of his team-mates, Obiang’s form has also improved under the new coach though he is yet to hit the heights he reached in large parts of last season. Veteran Angelo Palombo is a club legend and how much he manages to cope with Juve’s energetic midfield may decide Sampdoria’s fate.
Manolo Gabbiadini who is part owned by Juventus has had a mixed run in Sampdoria so far. He has not been deployed in his natural position as a centre-forward but will be playing as an attacking wide-man behind Eder. The 27 year old Brazilian striker is in prime form and has scored five goals in his last five outings.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Da Costa (GK); Di Silvestri, Gastaldello, Mustafi, Costa; Palombo, Obiang; Gabbiadini, Bjarnason, Wszolek; Eder
Players to Watch Out For
Fernando Llorente (Juventus)
After a self-admitted difficult start in Juventus, the former Athletic Bilbao star has finally found his feet in Serie A. Llorente has slowly but steadily displaced Mirko Vuncinic as a first choice striker and with seven goals and three assists has been one of the major difference makers for Juventus in the winning run. Sampdoria defence is not the strongest in air and Llorente may find the crosses from either wing very useful against them.
Sampdoria’s top scorer this season is in excellent recent form and grabbed a brace last week against Udinese. Juventus defence as well as Gigi Buffon have been in close to unbreachable in the league in past two months but Eder’s goal-scoring run means that Barzagli & Co. need to weary of the Sampdoria centre forward.
Juventus 2 – 1 Sampdoria
Sampdoria is a side which has troubled Juventus in last three matches. Their last encounter in January ended with the Blucerciati picking up a shock victory in Turin in what proved to be the first ever loss of Juventus with Antonio Conte present on the bench. Juventus did just enough to win the away game in first round of current season and is likely to eke out yet another narrow win at home.