Juventus set their sights on Coppa Italia as they take on Fiorentina in the first leg of the semifinal on Wednesday.
Juventus’ 2021-22 season under Massimiliano Allegri has been largely disappointing so far. Despite the heavy investment in the squad over the past few years, the club is currently fighting for a top-four place and appear unlikely to be mounting a title challenge anytime soon.
Even the chances of a top-four finish have taken a slight hit following a run of three draws in the last five Serie A matches. The Bianconeri secured a vital win over Empoli on the weekend and they will be given a welcome distraction this midweek as they take on Fiorentina in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal.
The Coppa Italia is the only realistic avenue for Allegri to secure any form of silverware for Juventus this season. The Italian tactician is one of the most successful managers in this competition, having won the cup four times in a row during his earlier stint in Turin.
However, in Fiorentina, Juve have a tough opponent who have outwitted the likes of Atalanta and Napoli in earlier rounds. Currently positioned eighth in the league table, La Viola would perhaps have hoped for better results in the league, but they certainly have what it takes to cause a major upset in the cup.
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Fiorentina have embraced a 4-3-3 formation under Vincenzo Italiano and have exhibited an attractive, attacking brand of football. However, their offensive productivity has been hit by the departure of Dusan Vlahovic in January, even though his replacement Krzysztof Piatek has done a decent job since coming in.
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— ACF Fiorentina English (@ACFFiorentinaEN) March 1, 2022
The on-loan Hertha Berlin attacker could yet again be asked to spearhead the Fiorentina frontline ahead of Arthur Cabral, who is an excellent backup to have. Alongside Piatek, Riccardo Saponara and Nicolas Gonzalez could occupy the wide attacking roles as part of Italiano’s rotation policy.
Considering Juventus’ weakness in the wide defensive areas, the Fiorentina wingers may look to attack the flanks more, especially with the aerially astute figure of Piatek leading the line.
In midfield, Giacomo Bonaventura is available as his red card suspension doesn’t apply in the Coppa Italia. The former AC Milan star is expected to be granted a start in the second line of press alongside Lucas Torreira and Gaetano Castrovilli. It will be essential for the midfield three to remain composed and break up the opposition play in the middle of the park.
Italiano is set to be boosted by the return of Nikola Milenkovic in defence. The tall centre-back should play a key role in spearheading Fiorentina’s backline, and his personal duel with Vlahovic is one to keep an eye on.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Terracciano; Odriozola, Milenkovic, Igor, Biraghi; Torreira, Bonaventura, Castrovilli; Saponara, Piatek, Gonzalez
Denis Zakaria has been ruled out after picking up a knock and has been omitted from the Juventus squad heading into this game. Manuel Locatelli is set to feature instead. The Italian may have just one partner in the middle of the park rather than two, as coach Allegri looks to persist with the 4-4-2 setup.
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This particular shape hasn’t historically worked well with teams that sit deep, but given Fiorentina’s tendency to attack the opposition, it could prove to be useful as the two banks of four cover Mattia Perin in goal, while the team can always offer additional width that will help stretch the opposition further.
While Juventus are expected to dominate possession, it would not be surprising to see the Bianconeri rely heavily on counter-attacks, with Dusan Vlahovic and Alvaro Morata likely to be utilised as runners. Morata could drop into a wider role should Allegri look to reverse to a 4-2-3-1, in which case Adrien Rabiot may have to drop into central midfield.
Nevertheless, given that the away goals rule applies in this competition, Juventus will be looking to score and then bank on their defence to retain a clean sheet. Leanardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt could be vital pawns for Allegri in that regard.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Perin; Danilo, Bonucci, De Ligt, De Sciglio; Cuadrado, Locatelli, Arthur, Rabiot; Vlahovic, Morata
- Fiorentina and Juventus last met each other in the Coppa Italia back in the semifinal stage of the 2014/15 campaign, when the Bianconeri had progressed 4-2 on aggregate.
- Fiorentina are six time winners of the Coppa Italia. However, their most recent triumph came way back in 2001.
- Juventus, meanwhile, have won the competition 14 times – four of which have come under the leadership of Massimiliano Allegri.
- Juventus last fell in the semifinal stage of Coppa Italia back in the 2012/13 campaign, losing to Lazio 2-3 on aggregate.
- Fiorentina haven’t progressed past the semifinal stage since the 2013/14 campaign when they lost to Napoli in the final.
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Dusan Vlahovic is now Serie A's top scorer with 2️⃣0️⃣ goals pic.twitter.com/XvBFl2EgoN
— GOAL (@goal) February 26, 2022
Dusan Vlahovic is undisputedly the one to keep an eye on as he takes on his former side for the first time after making a late January switch to Juventus. The Serbian had a tremendous scoring record with La Viola, and while he has enjoyed a swift start to his career at Juve, it could be tricky to maintain that goalscoringf form against his former club, who have profound knowledge of the striker’s weaknesses.
Given Vlahovic’s tendency to make runs in behind the backline, it can be expected that Fiorentina may assign the physically astute Nikola Milenkovic to mark the Serb. Their duels could go a long way in deciding the outcome of this fixture, knowing Juventus otherwise lack the creativity to cause too much trouble, especially with Paulo Dybala being unavailable.
Fiorentina 1-1 Juventus
Fiorentina are a side that love to attack. They have major firepower in the offensive department and have what it takes to cause problems for the Juventus backline. However, the away goals rule could drastically impact the approach of the two sides, with the Viola, in particular, likely to adopt an approach where they concede minimal goals at home.
We are expecting a cagey affair which may not promise a lot of goals. Juventus, in particular, may have difficulties finding the back of the net, as Fiorentina could defend Vlahovic rather well. They may end up conceding an odd goal but are expected to come away with the advantage, thanks to an away goal.