Juventus will hope to end their domestic season on a high as they get ready to host AS Roma at the Allianz Stadium.
The last of the top five leagues, Serie A, calls curtains on its season on Saturday after a month of quick and intense fixtures which saw several changes in the table. On the final matchday, AS Roma visit the Allianz Stadium to lock horns with Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus.
Juventus were crowned champions of Italy for a ninth consecutive time after their 2-0 victory over Sampdoria. However, the joy of being crowned champs took over them as they fell to Cagliari during midweek with the same scoreline. This was the Bianconeri’s first loss against Cagliari since 2009/10. Additionally, this was their third loss in 11 games since the restart.
Things have been better for Roma, though, who are one of the most in-form sides in the league as of now. After losing three consecutive games against AC Milan, Udinese, and Napoli, the capital outfit has gone undefeated for seven games which includes a draw sandwiched by two three-game winning streaks.
Their last outing came against Torino, who were beaten 3-2 with goals from Edin Dzeko, Chris Smalling and Amadou Diawara. The reverse fixture between Juventus and Roma ended in a 2-1 defeat for the latter after Diego Perotti’s penalty halved the early lead from Merih Demiral and Ronaldo. The Hard Tackle takes a deeper dive into Saturday’s fixture.
Team News & Tactics
Following their end to a very congested fixture schedule, Maurizio Sarri has hinted that he could field a more relaxed team with the Champions League game next week taking priority.
That said, Douglas Costa, Sami Khedira, Mattia De Sciglio and Giorgio Chiellini are out injured while Adrien Rabiot has returned from his suspension. Paulo Dybala, Danilo and Matthijs de Ligt are expected to be benched to avoid worsening their injuries.
Gianluigi Buffon will keep his place between the sticks as Wojciech Szczesny will be kept fresh and ready for their game against Olympique Lyon. In front of him, the centre-half duo of Daniele Rugani and Leonardo Bonucci are expected to keep their place in the side. We could see Juan Cuadrado partnered up with U-23 player Gianluca Frabotta as the right and left full-backs.
Rodrigo Bentancur should continue as the deepest of the three midfielders. Rabiot is set to return to the pitch as the right central midfielder. Simone Muratore will join Bentancur and Rabiot in midfield as he is set to feature one last time before departing for Atalanta next season.
It will not be shocking to see Cristiano Ronaldo feature in attack yet again as he is chasing the Golden Boot, sitting three goals off Robert Lewandowski and four adrift of Ciro Immobile. Marco Olivieri will occupy the role of the central striker as Federico Bernardeschi assumes responsibility on the right.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Buffon; Cuadrado, Rugani, Bonucci, Frabotta; Rabiot, Pjanic, Muratore; Bernardeschi, Olivieri, Ronaldo
Paulo Fonseca has to cater to a few glaring holes in the squad as well ahead of their big game against the champions. This includes Lorenzo Pellegrini, who underwent surgery on his fractured nose and is yet to be given the green light. Davide Santon and Antonio Mirante, too, will miss the game because of injuries, while Gianluca Mancini is suspended after picking up a yellow card against Torino.
Roma are likely to give their European fixture precedent over this, as well, now that their place in 5th is secure. Daniel Fuzato is set for his Serie A debut in goal this weekend. He will be screened by a three-man backline that consists of Federico Fazio on the right, Aleksandar Kolarov on the left and Chris Smalling marshalling the defence from the centre.
Davide Zappacosta will start as the right-wingback replacing Bruno Peres who picked up a minor knock against Torino and will be kept safe for their game against Sevilla. Riccardo Calafiori is another player set for his Serie A debut as the left wing-back. Jordan Veretout and Bryan Cristante will play as the double pivot in the centre of the park.
The attack will feature a three-man frontline with Edin Dzeko leading it as the sole striker. He will be flanked by Carles Perez on the right and Justin Kluivert on the left. Nicolo Zaniolo is also in contention to start this game, and is it is likely that we see him on the right instead of Perez.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Fuzato; Fazio, Smalling, Kolarov; Zappacosta, Veretout, Cristante, Calafiori; Perez, Dzeko, Kluivert
- Maurizio Sarri and Paulo Fonseca have locked horns four times previously, with the record standing at 3-0-1 right now.
- Of their last ten meetings in the league, Juventus have won five times and lost thrice. The aggregate score stands at 9-9.
- Juventus have won their previous four games against AS Roma at the Allianz Stadium with a 1-0 margin.
- The last time Roma recorded a win at the Allianz Stadium was in the 2009/10 season with a 2-1 win thanks to a John Arne Riise winner in the 90th minute.
- Ronaldo has scored just one goal less than Roma’s top three goalscorers combined. 31 vs 32 from Edin Dzeko (16), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (9), and Aleksandar Kolarov (7).
Player to Watch
If UEFA came up with an award similar to NBA’s ‘Most Improved Player’, it would probably go to Chris Smalling. The Englishman joined Roma last summer on loan, and has been the only shining light in what has otherwise a very disappointing performance from AS Roma’s backline.
In his 29 appearances in Serie A, Smalling has kept only six clean sheets in the league, but for context, Roma have kept only one clean sheet in the eight games he has missed.
He has also played his part in the attack, scoring three goals and providing two assists – the most recent one coming during the midweek game against Torino. However, he will be up against a motivated Cristiano Ronaldo who will be chasing another significant individual accolade, but you can bet on the #6 to deliver another masterclass on Saturday.
Juventus 1-3 AS Roma
Juventus may have won the title, but the victory was extremely delayed compared to the last few years, and there were a lot more obstacles for them as well. And now that they have fulfilled their task, the Old Lady seems to have slowed down, especially after facing an acute fixture course over the past two months, playing two games every week.
Their fatigue was visible against Sampdoria, and then again in midweek against Cagliari. Maurizio Sarri has already admitted that he will field a team consisting of up-and-coming players from the youth setup, and that already spells trouble for them.
As they get ready to lock horns with one of the most in-form teams in Italy, we can only expect it go wrong again for the 36-time Scudetto winners.