Juventus will be aiming for their first win in 2022 when they lock horns with AS Roma at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

After a somewhat positive end to 2021, Juventus started the new year with a 1-1 draw with Napoli. It was not the most favourable result for the Italian giants, who are still trailing fourth-placed Atalanta by three points despite playing one more game.

The Bianconeri are hoping to turn the tide on Sunday when they travel to Stadio Olimpico to face AS Roma. It is a must-win encounter for Massimiliano Allegri’s men as they look to secure their first win of 2022. Three points this weekend could not only help them maintain pressure on the top four but also thwart the competition behind them.

Roma are currently breathing down Juventus’s neck with 32 points on the board, three behind their opponent this weekend. The Giallorossi‘s hopes of competing for the top four places have already received a major blow in recent weeks thanks to disappointing results against Sampdoria and AC Milan.

Another mishap on Sunday could see them run the risk of dropping to eighth in the league table, behind Lazio, Juventus and Fiorentina. Jose Mourinho’s men have already tasted defeat at the hands of Juventus in the reverse fixture, a game where Moise Kean’s first-half striker turned out to be the only difference between the two sides.

The hosts will be keen not to face a similar fate this time around, and here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their blockbuster encounter in Rome this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

AS Roma

AS Roma’s last game against Milan saw two of their players in Rick Karsdorp and Gianluca Mancini pick up double bookings. The duo is suspended heading into this contest, joining Ebrima Darboe (AFCON), Amadou Diawara (AFCON), Borja Mayoral and Daniel Fuzato in the club’s list of absentees.

Karsdorp’s absence should give Jose Mourinho an ideal excuse to hand Ainsley Maitland-Niles his Roma debut. The Englishman has recently joined Roma on loan and will be expected to operate in the right wing-back slot. His attacking contributions alongside the left wing-back Matias Vina could go a long way in helping Roma create chances in the final third.

It won’t be surprising to see Maitland-Niles drift into midfield to aid Jordan Veretout, Bryan Cristante and Lorenzo Pellegrini in the second line of press. Veretout and Cristante should largely occupy the defensive roles, hoping to break up the Juventus play and mopping up loose balls in the middle of the pitch, whereas Pellegrini may operate in a more attacking role.

The Italian’s creativity and technical prowess should be useful when linking up with the two attackers in Nicolo Zaniolo and Tammy Abraham. Zaniolo should drop in to operate alongside Pellegrini in the defensive phase, with Abraham being deployed as the lone front-man.

Speaking of defence, Mancini’s suspension means the onus will be on Marash Kumbulla to form the Roma back three alongside Chris Smalling and Roger Ibanez. The Giallorossi are expected to operate with a low line of defence, primarily to frustrate the Juventus attack that often lacks creativity.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Patricio; Kumbulla, Smalling, Ibanez; Maitland-Niles, Veretout, Cristante, Pellegrini, Vina; Zaniolo, Abraham

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Juventus

Juventus have to deal with a few injury issues of their own, with Leonardo Bonucci and Danilo unavailable. But on a positive note, Giorgio Chiellini is back in contention after presenting a negative result.

The veteran defender is likely to re-occupy his place at the heart of the Juventus defence alongside Matthijs de Ligt. Massimiliano Allegri has also confirmed that Juan Cuadrado will start at right-back as Luca Pellegrini is not fit enough to play ninety minutes of football. The defender may appear as a substitute later on in the proceedings.

There should be no changes at left-back, though, with Alex Sandro likely to get the nod ahead of Mattia Di Sciglio once again. The Brazilian’s marauding runs forward could cause danger for the Roma backline, especially for debutant Maitland-Niles.

Moving into midfield, Allegri might be tempted to make at least one change, as the Italian keeps one eye on the important Supercoppa Italiana final against Inter Milan. Adrien Rabiot is likely to drop out, paving the way for Rodrigo Bentancur to form the three-man midfield setup alongside Weston McKennie and Manuel Locatelli.

McKennie should have the freedom to either move forward or drift into wide areas of the pitch. It will be interesting to see how Allegri picks his attacking personnel as Paulo Dybala may require a bit more time to get back to full fitness. It should force the Italian tactician to continue with the wide attacking duo of Federico Bernardeschi and Federico Chiesa, with Alvaro Morata spearheading the frontline for the Bianconeri.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Chiellini, de Ligt, Sandro; Bentancur, Locatelli, McKennie; Bernardeschi, Morata, Chiesa

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Key Stats

  • Juventus have been unbeaten in seven of their last nine league games against AS Roma and have won the most recent two – the last time the Bianconeri achieved three wins in a row against the Giallorossi in Serie A was back in 2014.
  • Juventus have defeated Roma most often in Serie A (84) and rank second in terms of goals scored against the Giallorossi (270, second only to Inter with 287).
  • Roma have won three of their six most recent home games in the league against Juventus – since 2015/16, only Napoli have achieved more home wins in the Serie A against the Bianconeri.
  • Having won their first four home games of the season in Serie A, Roma have only managed two wins in their last six most recent home matches in the competition; despite this, no team has kept a clean sheet in more home matches than the Giallorossi this season (five).
  • Roma have not won in their last two league games and could remain without a victory in three matches in a row for the first time under Jose Mourinho; the last time it happened in Serie A was in May 2021 with Paulo Fonseca in charge (four).

Player to Watch

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s loan move to AS Roma this month marks an important stage in the career of the Arsenal midfielder. The player found it difficult to get consistent game-time at the Emirates, but he will have the opportunity to showcase his talents on a more regular basis with the Giallorossi.

While making a Serie A debut against Juventus can be a daunting prospect for any player in Europe, there is reason to be optimistic for Roma fans. Especially from a tactical perspective, the Englishman should bring some much-needed athleticism on the flanks. His ability to drop into a more central role also suggests he can help out greatly in the second line of press.

It will be particularly interesting to witness the English connection between Chris Smalling, Tammy Abraham and Maitland-Niles, as Roma look to thwart Juventus this weekend.

Prediction

AS Roma 0-2 Juventus

Despite the absence of a couple of key players, Juventus have the upper hand in this contest due to the improving harmony of the team coupled with the prospect of Giorgio Chiellini and Paulo Dybala’s potential return to the starting eleven.

Perhaps more importantly, AS Roma are in a difficult situation right now, as their promising start to the campaign has recently transformed into a period of mediocrity. It appears the Jose Mourinho boom is well and truly dying off, and it won’t be surprising to see the Giallorossi face further disarray in the coming weeks, starting with a potential defeat against Juventus.

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