Juventus return to Serie A action on Saturday after their UEFA Champions League assignment, as they travel to the Stadio Carlo Castellani to take on Empoli.
Reigning Serie A champions Juventus will be hoping to extend their unbeaten start to the season when they face off against relegation battlers Empoli this weekend.
Juventus have begun the defence of their Serie A title in fine fashion once again, picking up 25 points from their first nine fixtures. Having been held to a 1-1 draw by Genoa at home last weekend, the Bianconeri defeated Manchester United 1-0 in their European assignment in the midweek.
Massimiliano Allegri’s men haven’t been defeated in their last 17 away games in the Serie A (W14, D3). They have a four-point lead over second-placed Napoli and they will be aiming to widen that gap further with a victory on Saturday.
Empoli, on the other hand, find themselves staring at the prospect of relegation very early into the season. The Tuscans are stationed in the 18th spot in the table, having picked up just six points from their nine matches this term (W1, D3, L5). Last time out they played out a 3-3 draw against fellow strugglers Frosinone, but are winless in eight fixtures in a row now.
Manager Aurelio Andreazzoli, having helped Empoli earn promotion to the Italian top-flight with the Serie B triumph last season, finds himself under pressure to turn things around. And he will be hoping to rally his troops and lead them to an upset result against the league leaders this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Alejandro Rodriguez, Frederic Veseli and Lorenzo Polvani remain sidelined for the Tuscans, when they welcome the champions on Saturday. Andreazzoli is expected to set his team up in the 4-3-1-2 formation that he used in the last game against Frosinone.
Ivan Provedel will continue between the sticks for the home team and will be screened by a back four comprising of Giovanni Di Lorenzo at right-back and Luca Antonelli at left-back, with Domenico Maietta and Matias Silvestre in the heart of the defence.
Ghanaian midfielder Afriye Acquah will occupy one of the three midfield slots and look to provide the box-to-box presence for Empoli, while Leonardo Capezzi will essay the anchorman role in the middle. 25-year-old Rade Krunic will be in charge of bringing the creativity on the field.
Miha Zajc, who was on the scoresheet in the draw against Frosinone last time out, will occupy the No.10 role for the Tuscans and look to create opportunities for the strike partnership of Francesco Caputo and Antonino La Gumina to pounce upon against the reigning champions.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Provedel; Di Lorenzo, Maietta, Silvestre, Antonelli; Acquah, Capezzi, Krunic; Zajc; Caputo, La Gumina;
Midfielder Emre Can is ruled out for the champions, amid fears that he might have to undergo a surgery that could sideline for a him a lengthy spell. Fellow German midfielder Sami Khedira also remains absent for the Bianconeri, while forward Mario Mandzukic will also miss out, owing to a training injury he picked up ahead of the Manchester United game.
Wojciech Szczesny will continue between the sticks for Allegri’s side ahead of Mattia Perin. There is a change on the cards at right-back with Joao Cancelo likely to be given a breather and Juan Cuadrado in line to start in his spot instead, having done so on a couple of occasions already this term.
Alex Sandro will be retained on the opposite side for the weekend trip, while Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will also start in defence. No changes are expected in the three-man midfield for the Old Lady with Rodrigo Bentancur, Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi likely to feature from the kick off once again.
Douglas Costa is likely to get a look-in into the team on the left side of the attacking trident for the visitors, with Federico Bernardeschi expected to come in on the right flank. Star summer signing Cristiano Ronaldo will lead the line for Juve, meaning match winner against Manchester United, Paulo Dybala, misses out.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro; Bentancur, Pjanic, Matuidi; Bernardeschi, Ronaldo, Costa;
- Juventus are unbeaten in their last 14 games against Empoli in the Serie A, winning 12 and drawing twice.
- The Bianconeri have won their last six matches against their Saturday’s opponents in all competitions, conceding only one goal in the process.
- Empoli are without a victory in their last eight matches in the Serie A.
- The only time the two managers have faced each other previously in Serie A was in 2013, when Allegri was in charge of AC Milan and Andreazzoli was managing AS Roma. The game finished in a 0-0 draw.
- Juventus have scored at least 2 goals in 5 of their last 6 matches against Empoli in all competitions.
Player to Watch
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Ronaldo, since arriving in Italy in the summer, has gone on to score five times in nine Serie A appearances thus far and is currently Juventus’ leading goalscorer. The 33-year-old has also registered four assists, which is the second best tally in the division, only bettered by AC Milan’s Suso (6).
Fresh from an emotional return to his old stomping ground, i.e., Old Trafford earlier this week, where he played an important hand in the victory, the Portuguese maverick will be hoping to inspire the Bianconeri to another victory on Saturday and strengthen their stranglehold on the top spot in Serie A.
Empoli 0-2 Juventus
Having dropped their first points of the campaign against Genoa last weekend, Juventus will be aiming to get back to winning ways in the Serie A on Saturday. While the margin of victory might have been narrow, the Bianconeri absolutely dominated Manchester United in the midweek fixture and will be high on confidence after such a commanding display.
Empoli find themselves at the other end of the spectrum, having failed to register a single victory in eight matches now. They have managed to collect just two points since the international break in September and have managed to score just a solitary goal in their last three matches at home.
Given the gulf of class between the two oppositions and the form that Juventus are in currently, an easy victory for Allegri’s men seems the most likely outcome at the Stadio Carlo Castellani on Saturday.