January 25th 2014, 19:45 GMT kick-off
Following on from their disappointing Coppa Italia exit at the hands of AS Roma, Juventus now turn their attention to the ‘other’ side from the capital, Lazio. The Biancocelesti have found a new lease of life under returning manager Edy Reja. The determination and hunger that apparently ran dry under former manager Petkovic, seems to have been restored with Reja’s appointment. Lazio are unbeaten since Reja took over in the first week of this month.
It was an insipid Bianconeri performance that saw them knocked out of the Coppa Italia but Antonio Conte will tell you that he did prefer to offer the bench players a chance in what was a rotated eleven. Conte, not for the first time this season, decided to skip the customary pre-match press conference after he felt that his words were twisted and turned before his side’s game against Sampdoria. While there are whispers in Italy that suggest he will avoid press conferences until the end of the season.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The last couple of seasons have been quite predictable for Lazio. They tend to start the season on a high whilst slowly begin to fade at the turn of the year. It’s been the reverse this campaign. An underwhelming start dented their hopes of European football for next season but Reja has played the part of a doctor well by slowly aiding them back on their feet. Of course, his prophet Hernanes, has also played no small part.
Undefeated in six Serie A games now, Lazio’s most impressive victory came last weekend against Udinese. The capital came back twice from losing positions and although they finished the game with ten men, they still racked up the three points; a testament to their newly instilled fighting spirit. Senad Lulic and Ogenyi Onazi are both serving suspensions and will sit out this game alongside long term absentee Stefano Mauri. Their treatment table doesn’t make for pretty reading as well as Radu, Konko, Alfaro and Ederson will miss the game.
Reja is expected to deploy his 3-4-2-1 formation. Lazio’s play will revolve around the craft of Hernanes who does have the intelligence to pick the Juventus lock, and the pace and determined running of Antonio Candreva. With Miroslav Klose in attack, they possess a text-book poacher who can always make a nuisance of himself for the opposition.
Possible Starting XI (3-4-2-1): Marchetti; Biava, Ciani, Dias; Cavanda, Biglia, Ledesma, Crecco; Candreva, Hernanes; Klose
There’s been drama aplenty at Juventus this past week. From the eviction of the Coppa Italia to the Fredy Guarin/Mirko Vucinic swap deal that had the papers move into overdrive, it’s been a turbulent time at Vinovo. Manager Conte perhaps didn’t prioritize the Coppa Italia as much as what was expected him but retaining the Scudetto remains at the top of his to-do list.
The most startling stat of that narrow loss to Roma remains the Bianconeri’s inability to record a single shot on target. While they put three past Roma at the Juventus Stadium earlier this month, they failed to test Morgan De Sanctis on Tuesday night. Conte will hope that will change when they face Lazio.
The regular first-teamers are expected to make their return to the starting eleven. Giorgio Chiellini will sit this game out due to suspension which means Angelo Ogbonna will step in to fill his boots. Andrea Pirlo might be rested while Claudio Marchisio takes over in the regista role. It’s a new task for Marchisio in an unfamiliar position but he has performed admirably just ahead of the defense. The Italian International’s anticipation has been brought to the fore as has his ability to play small, neat passes in tight situations.
With Pirlo expected to be rested, the onus will fall on Leonardo Bonucci to provide creativity from deep. Bonucci has displayed his wide variety of passing range and will look to pick the runs of his wing-backs. Up front Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente should resume their partnership which has been developing consistently well.
Possible Starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Marchisio, Pogba, Asamoah; Tevez, Llorente
Player To Watch Out For
Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus)
The Juventus defender has, over the course of his time at Turin, firmly established himself as the best wing-back in the peninsula. On Saturday, he returns to his old hunting ground. Lichtsteiner was the scourge of Lazio in the SuperCoppa Italiana with a goal and put in a man of the match performance against Cagliari two weeks ago. His tireless, incisive running and never-say-die attitude makes him the perfect player for this Juventus side. Conte will hope Lichtsteiner goes back to haunt his old side.
Lazio 0-2 Juventus
Juventus have got the better of Lazio on two occasions already this season which should give them the edge mentally. But this Lazio side are a far cry from the team they humiliated twice this season. It won’t be easy but you’d put your money on Juventus snatching the three points that will extend their winning streak to 13 games in the league.