Juventus will be hoping to wrap up their eighth consecutive Serie A title win, when they take on SPAL away from home on Saturday afternoon.
Just one point. That is all Juventus need from their trip to the Stadio Paolo Mazza on Saturday where they clash against SPAL, to create history and seal their eighth consecutive Serie A title triumph.
It has been a sensational season for Massimiliano Allegri’s men in the 2018-19 Serie A. In 31 matches so far, Juventus have just lost one time and drawn only three, accumulating 84 points already. Second-placed Napoli are a whopping 20 points behind them at this stage and a draw would be enough for the Bianconeri to lift the Scudetto for an extraordinary eighth time in a row.
Last time they were in action in the Serie A, Juventus came back from a goal down to beat AC Milan 2-1 at home. Following that game, the Old Lady played out a tightly-contested 1-1 draw against AFC Ajax in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final. With the second leg only a matter of days away, Allegri might consider tweaking his side a little this weekend.
SPAL, on the other hand, find themselves battling to survive the drop from the Italian top-flight. Currently in the 16th position, Leonardo Semplici’s side are just four points above 18th-placed Empoli and a few poor results could see them drop into the relegation zone.
While their latest game ended in a 2-1 defeat to Cagliari, SPAL had racked up three back-to-back wins prior to that, beating AS Roma, Frosinone and Lazio. They were beaten 2-0 by Juventus last time the two teams met, but having won their previous two home matches, they will go into the weekend encounter with a confident mindset.
Team News & Tactics
Vasco Regini, Mattia Valoti and Jasmin Kurtic are major doubts for the game due to injuries. Manuel Lazzari is back in contention for the game, after serving his one-match suspension, handing a boost to manager Semplici. SPAL are unlikely to change their shape from the 3-5-2 that they have used for most of the season.
Emiliano Viviano is a guaranteed starter between the sticks for the home team against the champions. He will be seeking all the protection he can get from the three-man backline comprising of Francesco Vicari, Felipe and Thiago Cionek, who will be back into the lineup after sitting out the last game against Cagliari.
Lazzari will slot in as the right-sided wing-back now that he is available again, while Mohamed Fares should hold on to his spot on the opposite flank. The duo will be key to providing width going forward for SPAL, but will need to be mindful of the aggressive Juventus full-backs as well.
Simone Missiroli should start in the three-man central midfield for the hosts against Juventus. He will be partnered by Alessandro Murgia, who did not feature against Cagliari, while the third slot is likely to be taken up by Pasquale Schiattarella, with Kurtic unlikely to be available.
Captain Mirco Antenucci, who scored in the defeat against Cagliari, will hold on to his spot in attack for SPAL. He will be partnered by leading goalscorer Andrea Petagna, who has netted 13 times in all competitions this season.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Viviano; Vicari, Cionek, Felipe; Lazzari, Missiroli, Murgia, Schiattarella, Fares; Petagna, Antenucci
The impending second leg quarter-final tie against Ajax might force Allegri to field a much-changed side against SPAL on Saturday. The manager has already confirmed in his press conference that he will not be risking star man Cristiano Ronaldo, who has only recently recovered from an injury.
Giorgio Chiellini and Emre Can remain unavailable with injuries, while Blaise Matuidi, Daniele Rugani, Douglas Costa, Miralem Pjanic and Mario Mandzukic all miss out of the squad.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) April 12, 2019
Mattia Perin is set to step in between the sticks for Juventus in place of first-choice Wojciech Szczesny on Saturday afternoon. There will be changes in both full-back slots, with Mattia De Sciglio and Leonardo Spinazzola both coming into the team, in place of Joao Cancelo and Alex Sandro respectively.
With no Martin Caceres, Rugani and Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci should start on Saturday. He could be paired up with highly-rated 21-year-old defender Luca Coccolo, who will be making his first-team debut.
The midfield too will see some changes, with Sami Khedira set to feature from the kick-off, after making an appearance from the bench in the midweek. With no Pjanic and Matuidi, Rodrigo Bentancur is expected to start again, with Allegri likely to opt for a two-man midfield pivot. 18-year-old Hans Nicolussi Caviglia is also an option in the middle of the park.
Juan Cuadrado is back to fitness and is likely to slot in on the right flank for Juventus, while Federico Bernardeschi should move out to the left side of the attack. Paulo Dybala will take up the creative mantle, operating in the hole behind the striker, Moise Kean, who has been in sensational form of late.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Perin; De Sciglio, Bonucci, Coccolo, Spinazzola; Bentancur, Khedira; Cuadrado, Dybala, Bernardeschi; Kean;
- Saturday’s encounter will be the 36th contest between Juventus and SPAL in the Serie A. The Bianconeri have won 22 of the previous 35 matches, while SPAL have come out on top only once, way back in 1957.
- If Juventus avoid defeat in this game, they’ll be crowned league champions with six matchdays remaining – a new record for the earliest title win in Serie A.
- SPAL have won their last two home games in Serie A – against Roma and Lazio. They haven’t been able to win more than two matches at home in a succession in a single campaign since 1968.
- Juventus have lost only one of their last 28 Serie A matches away from home (W23 D4) – a 2-0 defeat to Genoa that came in the ongoing campaign.
- Juventus have scored 30 goals in the last 30 minutes of play in Serie A this season, more than any other side. SPAL, meanwhile, have scored the fewest in this period (three).
Player to Watch
The past month has been a dream come true for teenage sensation Moise Kean. The 19-year-old striker has gone on to score five goals in his last five Serie A appearances, including a brace against Udinese and crucial winners against Empoli and AC Milan. The striker was also on target for the Italian national team in their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers against Finland and Liechtenstein last month.
Kean has scored in each of last three Serie A appearances, the youngest player to do so since Mario Balotelli in 2009. With no Ronaldo and Mandzukic in the squad, the teenager is almost certain to start against SPAL on Saturday and should he score, he will become the youngest player to net in four consecutive Serie A games in the three points per win era. A big game awaits the striker.
SPAL 1-2 Juventus
Juventus will go into the game seeking glory. A point is all they need to confirm their status as the Champions of Italy for the eighth season in running. However, SPAL have shown in recent games that they are certainly no pushovers by any means. Wins against AS Roma and Lazio in their last two matches indicate that they will put up a big fight.
The second leg quarter-final tie against Ajax might prove to be a distraction for Juventus, with manager Allegri set to chop and change his team for Saturday’s game. However, the Bianconeri should have enough in their tanks to edge out a narrow victory against Semplici’s men and lift their eighth Scudetto in a row. History awaits for Juventus at Stadio Paolo Mazza.