Reigning Serie A champions Juventus will be looking to extend their lead at the top of the table when they take on fifth-placed Atalanta on Saturday afternoon.

After a two-week hiatus due to the international break, the 2019-20 Serie A returns to action this weekend as champions Juventus kick things off with a trip to Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia to lock horns with Atalanta on Saturday.

Juventus are perched at the top of the table following their 1-0 win over AC Milan prior to the international break. Currently on a four-game winning streak in all competitions, Maurizio Sarri’s side have a narrow one-point lead over second-placed Inter Milan and will want to widen the gap before the Nerazzurri take on Torino later in the day.

Atalanta, on the other hand, are without a win in their last four matches in all competitions since their 7-1 thumping of Udinese last month (D3 L1). Gian Piero Gasperini’s side were held to a goalless draw by relegation battlers Sampdoria in their most recent fixture and they will be keen on returning to winning ways against Juventus.

The corresponding fixture last season ended in a 2-2 draw with Juventus seeing a man sent off. But, Atalanta did go on to defeat the Bianconeri 3-0 at home in the Coppa Italia quarter-final in January earlier this year. And ahead of the latest encounter, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the sides.

Team News & Tactics

Atalanta

The home team will be without the services of Josip Ilicic and Ruslan Malinovskiy due to suspension. Star striker Duvan Zapata has returned to training and could be involved on Saturday, while midfielder Remo Freuler is also expected to be available, despite picking up a knock on international duty with Switzerland.

Gasperini is expected to set his team up in a 3-4-1-2 formation with Pierluigi Gollini manning the goal. The three-man backline shielding the Italian custodian ought to consist of Rafael Toloi, Berat Djimsiti and Jose Luis Palomino. Timothy Castagne and Robin Gosens should occupy the wing-back slots on the right and left sides respectively.

Marten de Roon is guaranteed to take up one of the two midfield slots for Atalanta against the champions. The second slot is likely to be occupied by Freuler, with Mario Pasalic expected to fill in the attacking midfield role in the absence of Malinovskiy on Saturday afternoon.

Captain Alejandro Gomez is assured to start as one of the two forwards. With Zapata returning, there will be a contest between him and Luis Muriel for the second striker’s spot, but the latter is likely to get the nod against Juventus this weekend.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Gollini; Toloi, Djimsiti, Palomino; Castagne. de Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pasalic; Gomez, Muriel

Juventus

Juventus have a number of injury concerns heading into the trip to Bergamo this weekend. Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has not been included in the traveling squad by manager Sarri due to an injury he picked up on international duty, while Alex Sandro and Adrien Rabiot are also unavailable. Captain Giorgio Chiellini remains a long-term absentee.

Wojciech Szczesny is sure to start in goal for the reigning champions ahead of club legend Gianluigi Buffon. Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt ought to form the central defensive partnership, flanked by Danilo and Mattia De Sciglio as the full-backs on the right and left sides respectively.

Miralem Pjanic has recovered from his injury issue and should start at the base of the Juventus midfield on Saturday. He will be supported by the experienced duo of Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi in the middle of the park, while Federico Bernardeschi is expected to edge out Aaron Ramsey for the spot in the hole behind the two strikers.

With Ronaldo ruled out, Sarri will have no option but to go in with the Argentine duo of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain as his two forwards against Atalanta this weekend.

Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Szczesny; Danilo, Bonucci, de Ligt, De Sciglio; Khedira, Pjanic, Matuidi; Bernardeschi; Dybala, Higuain

Key Stats

  • Juventus last lost to Atalanta in Serie A way back in February 2001. Since then, the Bianconeri have won 75 points out of 87 available against them (W23 D6).
  • Atalanta have won 22 points from their first 12 league games this season – their highest tally at this stage of the competition.
  • Juventus have scored in each of their last 20 away games against Atalanta in Serie A, last failing to do so in September 1991 (0-0). This is the longest such streak for the Bianconeri against an opponent in Serie A.
  • Atalanta are the side with the highest difference (8) between points won at home (seven) and points won away (15) in Serie A 2019-20.
  • Juventus (alongside Sampdoria) haven’t conceded a single Serie A goal in November, whilst Atalanta (alongside SPAL) have failed to score a single Serie A goal in November.

Player to Watch

Gonzalo Higuain

Time for Higuain to step up (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Time for Higuain to step up (Photo by Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images)

After his failed stint with Chelsea last season, the 31-year-old Gonzalo Higuain hasn’t quite been able to hit top gear for Juventus this campaign. So far in the 2019-20 season, the Argentine forward has netted just three goals in 14 matches across all competitions for the Bianconeri, while setting up four more.

Against Atalanta, however, Higuain will need to step up as Juventus will be missing star man Cristiano Ronaldo. The former Real Madrid and Napoli striker enjoys a healthy record against the weekend’s opponents, having scored 10 goals in 11 matches against them. Only against Lazio does he enjoy a better record (13 goals in 13 games). He will need to be at the top of his game on Saturday.

Prediction

Atalanta 0-1 Juventus

Juventus failed to register a win on their previous two visits to Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia, but considering that Atalanta have registered just one win in their last six matches in all competitions, they have a great chance of picking up a victory on Saturday.

Moreover, Atalanta have failed to score in their last two Serie A games, while Juventus haven’t conceded in their last two league outings. Despite there being some injury-enforced absentees for the Bianconeri, most notably Cristiano Ronaldo, they should have enough to edge out a narrow win against Atalanta and strengthen their hold at the top of the table.

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