Juventus Stadium, Turin
Saturday 13th Sept, 2014
Juventus host Udinese in their first home game this season looking for a positive result ahead of a testing few weeks where they will meet AC Milan and AS Roma. A dominant display against Chievo yielded 3 points but Massimiliano Allegri expressed concerns over the host of missed chances in front of goal and he would be hoping that Juventus are more clinical than the first game of the season.
Udinese meanwhile have started very brightly with wins over Ternana in the Coppa Italia followed by a 2-0 win over new boys Empoli in the first game of the new Serie A season. This will be the first real test of new manager Andrea Stramaccioni as they take on the champions but the confidence of a good start should see them put up a decent challenge in the intimidating Juventus stadium.
Team news and tactical brief
Despite reports suggesting that Allegri would switch to a 4man defence against Chievo, the new head coach went for the tried and tested 3-5-2 formation with Martin Caceres, Leonardo Bonucci and Angelo Ogbonna in defence. They are expected to be retained for this game also as Andrea Barzagli has not regained full fitness although he has started training and played 45mins in a practice match against Serie D side Pro Settimo Eureka at Vinovo. Giorgio Chiellini is still serving a 3 match suspension and he is not yet fully fit. He was recalled from the national camp amidst controversy. Luca Marrone will most likely be out for 20 days after he suffered a muscle injury in his left thigh.
Paul Pogba was at his majestic best against Spain last Friday displaying his full array of skills and he will be looking to lead the line as Andrea Pirlo is still nursing an injury. Amidst reports of a fresh knee injury, Arturo Vidal played the full 90 mins against Mexico on Sunday but returned to Vinovo after that with a thigh injury. Judging by his performances against Chievo and Mexico, it is safe to say his knee is almost fine but this thigh sprain should keep him out for this game. New signing Roberto Pereyra should start in midfield against his old club alongside Claudio Marchisio who also returned early from national duty as he was suspended for the game against Norway. Kwado Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner will take up their usual positions as fullbacks in the team.
Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente were both in Vinovo during the international break but Tevez suffered a muscle injury and will miss this game. They are yet to start as a pair upfront this season. Kingsley Coman will get his home debut after a wonderful performance against Chievo and Kazaksthan u21 last week. New signing Alvaro Morata played the full 90 mins in the practice match and is very close to regaining full fitness. He is also expected to start as a substitute but Juventus fans will be looking forward to seeing him on the pitch for a few minutes after his big money move from Real Madrid this summer.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Buffon(GK); Caceres, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Lichtsteiner, Pogba, Pereyra, Marchisio, Asamoah; Coman, Llorente
For the first time since 2010-11, Udinese do not have any European commitments this season. This will allow new head coach Andrea Stramaccioni to focus only on domestic competitions. Interestingly, Stramaccioni was the first manager to get three points in the Juventus stadium with his Inter Milan side in 2012. Chances of repeating that feat looks unlikely but Udinese are buoyed by a steady start to their campaign. This will be a tough test for a relatively young looking side with teenage sensation Simone Scuffet again missing out with an ankle injury. He was not picked for the first game and his injury will mean another chance in goal for Greek international Orestis Karnezis. Gabriel Silva is out with an injury so his position on the left side of the defence will be taken up by Danilo. Pasquale and Frenchman Heurtaux will partner experienced campaigner Maurizio Domizzi in the 3man backline. Silvan Widmer will take his place on the right side of the five man midfield.
Central figure in midfield will be the ever reliable Allan who will be looking to stifle the free flowing Juventus midfield. The bulk of the dirty work is expected to be done by Ghanaian Agyemang-Badu. New summer signing Panagiotis Kone will make his debut on Saturday after coming on as a sub in the last game against Empoli. Kone was one of the few players who caught the eye in Bologna and he also had a decent outing in Brazil for his national side Greece. Upfront Luis Muriel will partner the red-hot Antonio Di Natale with new signing Cyril Thereau once again expected to come on as an impact substitute.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-2): Karnezis(GK); Danilo, Heurtaux, Domizzi; Kone, Pasquale, Widmer, Allan, Badu; Muriel, Di Natale
Players to Watch Out For
Paul Pogba (Juventus)
Paul Pogba is one of the biggest names in world football at this moment. His scintillating displays against Spain and Serbia just cemented the belief that this boy is destined for greatness in his career. Against Chievo, Pogba once again put on a decent shift and combined well with the frontmen. Reports suggest he is very close to a contract extension and he fully committed himself to his club in a recent interview with La Stampa. Max Allegri is expecting Pogba to take an advanced role in midfield and contribute more to the attacking play. It remains to be seen how he functions in this new role but early signs are good enough to suggest that the Frenchman can do justice to his new role.
Antonio Di Natale (Udinese)
The evergreen icon of the Zebrette, the talismanic captain has entered his 11th season for Udinese in the best possible fashion scoring 6 goals in two games including four against Ternana in the Coppa Italia. He bagged a brace last week against Empoli and he is definitely the man to watch out for in this game. Di Natale has not scored in the Juventus stadium as of yet but he will be looking to break his duck on Saturday. He is just five goals shy from the 200 mark in Italy.
Juventus 2–0 Udinese
Allegri will be confident of picking up three points in his first official home game as Juventus manager ahead of a busy schedule in September. Apart from Di Natale, Udinese squad looks pretty average and it should be a relatively easy win for the Bianconeri.
Blast From the Past
A tight contest was settled deep into injury time by Fernando Llorente who headed in a cross(shot) from Stephan Lichtsteiner last time these two sides met in Turin.