Serie A title contenders Juventus host AS Roma at the Juventus Stadium on Sunday evening, with the Old Lady looking for their 11th straight league win as they continue their resurgence after a poor start to the season.

The Bianconeri cruised to a comfortable 4-0 win away at Udinese last week to bring their winning run into double figures, and are currently two points behind the leaders Napoli who take on Sampdoria. Massimiliano Allegri’s men have 42 points after matchweek 20 and are unbeaten in their last eight home games, winning six and drawing the other two.

AS Roma, under new coach Luciano Spalletii, could only manage a 1-1 draw against bottom of the table Hellas Verona last Sunday. Roma lie fifth in the table with 35 points, nine behind leaders Napoli and most importantly five points off third-place Inter Milan in the last Champions League spot. Roma have failed to win any of their last four away games, but one of those was a creditable 0-0 draw with Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo in December.

Massimiliano Allegri v Luciano Spalletti

Luciano Spalletti and Massimiliano Allegri have faced each other thrice during the period of 2008-2010 when Spalletti was Roma’s manager and Allegri represented Cagliari. Spalletti leads the head-to-head battle thanks to a 3-2 win in December, 2008. However, his record against Juventus is woeful to say the least.

Over the last 12 years, Spalletti has never beaten Juventus. In fact, he’s only managed three points in his last 17 Serie A games against the Bianconeri, recording a worrying 14 defeats. Back in August 2009, Spalletti had confidently announced he would end his hoodoo against Juve but instead lost 3-1. He resigned shortly after the loss. The two sides have already met this campaign with Roma running out 2-1 victors in Rome in gameweek two, thanks to goals from Miralem Pjanic and Edin Dzeko.

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Allegri might use the long-ball tactic again

Carpi FC vs Juventus FC

Juventus’ win over Lazio on Wednesday threw up an interesting scenario. Lazio enjoyed 57 percent possession of the ball while they also out-passed Juventus. Stefano Pioli’s men had a set plan to isolate Claudio Marchisio, who usually has the role to link the midfield and strikers. This same plan might be used by Spalletti too who is likely to field French midfielder William Vainqueur to keep an eye on the Italian international.

When the supply line to the attackers is cut off, Allegri has opted for a more direct approach. Both Simone Zaza and Mario Mandzukic have admirably lead the line, holding up the ball and playing a vital role in bringing Dybala and the midfielders into the game. If the buildup through midfield is blocked, then route one football has been used with the target-man playing a vital role.

This helps Juventus successfully bypass the opponent press in midfield and put direct pressure on the defence. Both the strikers have the attributes to become the focal point in attack with great physical presence which helps them to shield the ball with their back turned to goal.

If possession cant be safeguarded in midfield then Allegri will not hesitate to take this approach. Paul Pogba also benefits from this movement as he gets involved more thanks to the target-man bringing the midfield runners into play.

Spalletti has to fix the defence for this crunch game

AS Roma vs Hellas Verona

Luciano Spalletti failed to make an immediate impact after his return to Roma but things are expected to improve as the season progresses. The players have already claimed that they have done more tactical work under Spalletti in one week compared to Rudi Garcia’s three seasons. Roma have some pressing concerns and Spalletti has wasted little time in tackling them.

The first thing which needs to be addressed is the defensive shape of the team which has left Roma exposed many times this season. The Roma coach has been working on the defensive lines and some improvements were noticed in the game against Hellas. Castan’s clumsy challenge resulted in a penalty but the organization which was missing for the last few games was visible.

Spalletti has claimed he is working on improving the collective movement of his backline, improving the positioning and also winning second balls efficiently. Roma will be lining up with three at the back with Daniele De Rossi playing in defence – a formation previously used by the present Barcelona coach Luis Enrique. It will be a big challenge to get the best out of struggling Edin Dzeko.

The training movements have been centred around getting as much service for the Bosnian who has really struggled to get going after coming to Italy. The new coach is looking to get as much service to him so that Dzeko can build up his confidence.

Key Battles

Stephan Lichtsteiner v Mohamed Salah

Roma - Bayer Leverkusen

The Egyptian winger scored a brace in the Juventus stadium this year for Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia semifinal last season. Roma will be looking for more of the same tonight as they look to stop their opponent’s 10 match winning run. Salah sounded confident ahead of the game as he predicted a 2-1 win for Roma, although he did admit it will be the toughest game of the season so far for them.

Stephan Lichtsteiner scored the winner midweek against his former side Lazio and will be up against Salah in a battle which will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this game. The Swiss captain has returned to his brilliant best after his heart surgery and will be looking to score a double in the space of one week against the Roman clubs.

Radja Nainggolan v Sami Khedira

Carpi FC vs Juventus FC

Radja Nainggolan has been used in a new central attacking midfield role in Spalletti’s formation and he immediately made the most of his new position by scoring the opener against Hellas Verona last weekend. The game against Juventus is never a normal one for the Belgian as he had been involved in some verbal duels with the Bianconeri fans in the past.

Radja himself had posted some provocative messages earlier this season and he will no doubt get a fiery reception tomorrow at the Juventus stadium. The player has insisted that winning one trophy with Roma would be better than earning 10 with Juve, and he will look to channel his passion onto the pitch for this Sunday night’s thrilling encounter at the Juventus Stadium.

It is clear to see that Juventus in Sami Khedira have a quality operator on their hands who is capable of filling the vacuum left by the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal. Whenever Khedira has been on the pitch, Juventus have never lost. He has played 762 minutes between Serie A, the Coppa Italia and Champions League this season, registering 10 games, and come out on the winning side in eight of them, while the other two have ended in draws.

If only Serie A action is taken into account, of the 21 points on offer to Khedira when he has been out on the pitch, the former Stuttgart man has helped the Old Lady pick up 19. He wasn’t available for defeats on the road against Roma and Napoli, nor for home slip-ups against Udinese, Chievo and Frosinone, while he also missed the trip to the Mapei Stadium due to Allegri not wanting to rush him back.

The same goes for the defeat in Seville. In total, three separate injuries have hampered him and it was during these periods when the club stuttered. Thankfully for the 28-year-old, he now looks to be over the worst of his problems. He has played the last three games, all of which have ended in victories for Juventus, and he is set to form a formidable midfield alongside Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio.

Paulo Dybala v Daniele De Rossi

Roma vs Empoli

Daniele De Rossi started as a central defender in the first match this season against Juventus and he will do so again — this time in a 3-man back line. Luciano Spalletti claimed that he had a discussion with De Rossi after his appointment as the manager and he was given the green light to try something new.

It now appears that he has agreed to play as a central defender for the rest of the season. This role is not new to him as he was previously used here by former manager Luis Enrique and also by ex-Italy manager Cesare Prandelli. But he might have a tough evening as he comes up against red hot Argentine Paulo Dybala, who quite simply has been the best player in the league after Gonzalo Higuain.

De Rossi would have wished for a different game to start his new role for Spalletti’s Roma, but given his warrior like attitude on the field, this duel promises to be an enthralling prospect.

Juventus strengths and weaknesses

Sampdoria-Juventus

  • Juventus have won their last 10 league games and are on a roll. Momentum is with them and it will be hard for Roma to stop them.
  • All the strikers are working well for the system while Dybala and Khedira have been in top form.
  • A new manager usually brings new enthusiasm so Juventus will have to be careful against a determined Roma side.

AS Roma strengths and weaknesses

Roma vs Milan

  • Roma have won only two of their last 10 games and are really struggling in all departments.
  • Edin Dzeko has only scored one goal from open play this season which was against Juventus. He desperately needs to start scoring again.
  • Moving to a back three against such a formidable opposition might backfire but the players seem ready to trust Spalletti for the game tonight.

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