Stadio Dino Manuzzi, Cesena
Sunday 15th Feb, 2015, 19:45 GMT
After gaining promotion via the play-offs last season, Cesena are finding life tough in the top flight. With the exception of Parma, the Seahorses have the worst stats of any side in Serie A, and currently lie second from bottom. Following back-to-back wins, Cesena came crashing back down to earth last week after a defeat at Empoli. With both teams at the wrong end of the table, it was seen as a crucial six-pointer in the battle for relegation. The thought of facing the Juventus juggernaut is therefore daunting to say the least. However coach Domenico Di Carlo will be breathing a sigh of relief that Carlos Tevez is suspended for this encounter. The Argentine has been inspirational with 14 goals and 7 assists, and is currently the Capocannoniere.
The contrast in form could not be greater with Juventus. The Bianconeri are seven points clear at the summit, boast the best attack and defence, and are on course for a fourth consecutive Scudetto.Credit must be given to coach Max Allegri. Taking over Antonio Conte’s record-breaking side was never going to be an easy task. Allegri though, has given Juve tactical flexibility and slowly tweaked the side in his own style, winning fans over.
Team news and tactical brief
Cesena have managed only one clean sheet all season and suffered their 13th Serie A defeat last Sunday at Empoli after winning successive Serie A matches for the first time this campaign against Parma and Lazio. Former Torino, Lazio, Bologna and Inter midfielder Gaby Mudingayi could make his debut for the Romagnoli after terminating his contract at Elche by mutual consent. Nico Pulzetti is expected to miss out through a left thigh strain and Francesco Renzetti is a doubt having suffered a right ankle sprain in an afternoon training session on Wednesday. Guido Marilungo, Luca Valzania and Andrea Tabanelli also remain injured, but Davide Succi has returned to training.
Promising custodian Nicola Leali will have his hands full. The 21-year-old, on loan from the visitors, will face the most prolific team in the league. With only one clean sheet kept, and 43 goals conceded, it’s going to be a busy evening for the young keeper. On a positive note Cesena have been boosted by the capture of veteran midfielder Gaby Mudingayi. The Belgian has signed from La Liga outfit Elche, and brings plenty of Serie A experience after spending 10 years on the peninsula.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-1-2): Leali(Gk); Perico, Capelli, Krajnc, Renzetti; Giorgi, De Feudis, Ze Eduardo; Brienza; Djuric, Defrel
Juventus will look to extend their seven-point lead at the top of the Serie A table when they travel to the Stadio Dino Manuzzi to play relegation-threatened Cesena on Sunday evening. The champions are unbeaten in Serie A against Cesena since 1987 and dominated when the two sides met at the Juventus Stadium in September as Arturo Vidal scored two goals and Stephan Lichtsteiner added another in a 3-0 win.Alessandro Matri will have to wait to make his second Juventus debut as he is still recovering from a calf injury, although Andrea Barzagli could make his first appearance of the season from the bench after a long-term achilles injury.
Top scorer Carlos Tevez is suspended after reaching the yellow card limit against AC Milan, however Stephan Lichtsteiner returns after observing a one-match ban. Long- term absentee Andrea Barzagli has returned to the squad after finally recovering from an Achilles injury. His availability will only strengthen an already formidable rearguard. With 13 clean sheets and only 10 goals conceded, the Old Lady have one of the strongest defences in Europe. Stephan Lichtsteiner also returns from suspension after sitting out last week’s 3-1 win over Milan.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-1-2):Buffon(Gk); Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba; Vidal; Llorente, Morata
Juventus have kept a clean sheet in their last 4 matches against Cesena in all competitions
Juventus are undefeated in their last 9 matches against Cesena in all competitions
Juventus have conceded only four goals away from home – a record amongst the top-European leagues.
Players to Watch Out For
Grégoire Defrel (Cesena)
The Frenchman is a skilful, left-footed striker who can also play on the wing. He has spent all of his career so far in Italy, having started with Parma in 2011. He only played one game before being loaned to Foggia before moving to Cesena. Defrel has already notched up five goals in 16 games and registered two assists to his name. He will look to make an impact against the champions on Sunday.
Alvaro Morata (Juventus)
Now established as preferred partner to Tevez, the pressure will be on the young Spaniard to deliver, especially in the absence of L’Apache who has contributed 30 per cent of Juve’s goals this season.
Cesena 0–2 Juventus
Cesena beat Parma and Lazio, thus surprisingly leaving the Crociati bottom of the table and themselves showing a glimpse of life in the relegation battle. But then the three points dropped against Empoli last time out round could prove costly. Juventus won without fuss in what used to be an Italian football classic against AC Milan in the last round of fixtures, and they are preparing for the final straight with a comfortable advantage over their opponents. Any result different from Juventus winning here would be both a disappointment for the visitors and a huge surprise. Cesena have been battling the prediction of being doomed to go down in recent games, but this challenge will be too hard for them.
Blast From the Past
On-loan forward Marco Borriello came off the bench to score his first Serie A goal of the season with just 10 minutes remaining in a 1-0 win as Juve went on to secure a first Scudetto under Antonio Conte.