Juventus will be hoping to make further ground on the Serie A league table when they take on AS Roma at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
The upcoming matchday in Serie A treats us with some of the most important matches in the context of the season. The league is already tightly poised with leaders AC Milan only having a slender two-point lead over their arch-rivals Inter Milan while the chasing pack in AS Roma, Juventus and even Napoli aren’t far behind either.
For Juventus, their game against AS Roma on Saturday serves as an ideal opportunity to pip their opponent and move on in the league table. The Bianconeri are currently fourth with 39 points on the board, just one point behind their weekend rivals.
A win, therefore, should guarantee third place for the defending champions, who still have a decent chance of making a comeback during the second half of the campaign.
AS Roma have had a mixed bag of results in recent weeks, notably getting knocked out of the Coppa Italia to Spezia. But, they do have a lot of firepower in their squad. They are also the third-highest scorers in the league, having netted 44 goals so far, though the Giallorossi have also conceded more goals than any other side in the top half of the Seria A table so far.
Here, at the Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at both these teams ahead of their important match-up at the Allianz Stadium this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Andrea Pirlo will have one eye on the important matchup against Inter Milan in Coppa Italia in midweek, so the Juventus manager will have to remain cautious with his team selection against Roma. The fact that he does not face too many major injury issues serves as a massive boost for the home side.
Alvaro Morata, for one, could get a chance to perform alongside Cristiano Ronaldo in the Juve attack. The former Chelsea man has had difficulties performing against top teams this season, but his technical qualities and movement could be useful in making space for his attacking teammate this weekend.
Aaron Ramsey remains a doubt after missing the last game due to a muscular problem. His potential absence should pave the way for Federico Chiesa and Federico Bernardeschi to operate out wide as they look to provide the creativity in the Juventus attack.
In central midfield, Adrien Rabiot may have to make way for Artur Melo, with Pirlo hoping to rest the Frenchman for the upcoming game against Inter Milan. As for Arthur, his technical brilliance passing offers variety to a double-pivot that otherwise includes Rodrigo Bentancur, whose technical play has been questioned at times this season.
Things do get more interesting in the defensive unit, where Merih Demiral might be replaced by Leonardo Bonucci. Giorgio Chiellini is another option but Pirlo is likely to rest the veteran centre-back for the Inter game.
It essentially means Matthijs de Ligt should form the central defensive pairing with Bonucci, with Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado operating as fullbacks. Wojciech Szczesny may also return in goal at the expense of Gianluigi Buffon.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, de Ligt, Sandro; Chiesa, Arthur, Bentancur, Bernardeschi; Morata, Ronaldo
AS Roma were blessed with the return of Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the last game, with the former Arsenal playmaker even starring in the 3-1 win over Hellas Verona. He remains a guaranteed starter as Paulo Fonseca continues to deal with the absence of creative players like Nicolo Zaniolo and Pedro.
Mkhitaryan should, in fact, spearhead the Roma frontline alongside Lorenzo Pellegrini, with Borja Mayoral acting as the lone centre-forward. The former Real Madrid frontman has been in good form, notably being involved in four goals in last two league matches. His influence could be crucial to breaking Juventus’ shackles on the counter.
— AS Roma (@OfficialASRoma) February 4, 2021
Meanwhile, in the second line of press, Fonseca is likely to persist with the midfield pairing of Jordan Veretout and Gonzalo Villar. Their collective ability to dispossess the opposition should form the foundation of Roma’s counter-attacking gameplay, though Amadou Diawara does provide a far more defensive option should the Giallorossi defend deep.
Rick Karsdorp and Leonardo Spinazzola are likely to continue in the wingback positions, though they are expected to operate deeper than usual against a quality side. One of them could operate in a little higher in order to make overlapping runs which would help the likes of Pellegrini and Mkhitaryan as both the players like to play centrally.
And finally, in the defensive department, Chris Smalling may once again get the nod ahead of the young Marash Kumbulla. The Englishman’s robust approach should be useful in dealing with the offensive duo of Ronaldo and Morata. He will be assisted by Roger Ibanez and Gianluca Mancini in the Roma backline, with Pau Lopez starting in goal.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Lopez; Mancini, Ibanez, Smalling; Karsdorp, Veretout, Villar, Spinazzola; Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan; Mayoral
- AS Roma have lost more Serie A games against Juventus than they have vs any other side (82). Indeed, the Bianconeri have won twice the amount of Serie A games against Roma than they’ve lost.
- AS Roma could be unbeaten in three consecutive league meetings against Juventus for their first time since December 2002; five in that case under Fabio Capello.
- After a 1-3 defeat in August 2020 at Allianz Stadium, Juventus could lose two consecutive home games against AS Roma for the first time ever in Serie A.
- Juventus are looking to keep three consecutive Serie A clean sheet for the first time under Andrea Pirlo, last doing so in June 2020 under Maurizio Sarri.
- Including the awarded game against Verona, AS Roma have conceded 33 Serie A goals this season, their second-most at this stage in the last 70 years.
Player to Watch
🇪🇸 Borja Mayoral (23) for @ASRomaEN this season:
☑️ 12 starts
⚽️ 9 goals
🅰️ 6 assists
😳 Goal involvement every 63 min
🔥 5 goals in his last 3 Roma starts
Amazes me that he’s still only 23.
On loan from Real Madrid, he’s already matched his goal total from last season. pic.twitter.com/qjdTFImXly
— Football Wonderkids (@fbwonderkids) January 31, 2021
One of the key aspects that makes this such a fascinating tie is the presence of so many former Real Madrid forwards. While the spotlight will indeed be on Juventus duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata, it is Borja Mayoral who could steal the show with his performance this weekend.
After a slow start to the season, the Real Madrid academy graduate is starting to find his feet in Italy. A tally of 15 goal involvements in 23 competitive outings is enough to reflect the productivity Mayoral has yielded this season, with the forward starring in recent wins over Spezia and Hellas Verona. The 23-year-old has notably averaged a goal every 80 minutes in the league thus far.
Although technically still a Real Madrid player, Mayoral’s impressive work-ethic and combination play with Mkhitaryan and Pellegrini could be key as the Giallorossi look to register yet another win over Juventus this weekend.
Juventus 1-2 AS Roma
This is going to be a difficult game to predict as AS Roma have been scoring goals for fun while Juventus have had serious difficulties in getting their balance right under Andrea Pirlo. The Giallorossi may have the upper hand due to their clearly attacking identity, and with players like Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mayoral back in top form, we expect them to seal a narrow 2-1 win over the Bianconeri this weekend.