Juventus v Lazio Preview
Juventus Stadium, Turin
by Jerrad Peters (@peterssoccer)
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: Their loss to Inter Milan earlier this month seems to have sparked Juventus back into life, but on Saturday the Scudetto holders will be given a difficult examination by a Lazio fresh off a win in the Derby Della Capitale.
BREAKDOWN: Lazio burst out of the gate to start the season, winning their first three Serie A matches to keep pace with Juventus atop the table.
But an autumn swoon that saw them go winless in four in all competitions has seen them drop to fifth spot in the ledger, although with back-to-back wins over Panathinaikos and AS Roma the Biancocelesti appear to have regained the form that made them such a tricky opponent in August and September.
Central to the success Lazio have enjoyed this season and hope to experience more of in the coming months is Brazilian playmaker Hernanes, whose contributions to the side go far beyond the five goals he’s scored in Serie A.
Since arriving in Rome from Sao Paulo in 2010, the 27-year-old has established himself as one of Serie A’s top playmakers, and following Lazio’s 3-2 win over Roma on Sunday he bullishly remarked that Juventus were beatable as well.
“If you’d have asked me two weeks ago, I would have said it was an impossible mission and that Juventus were unbeatable,” he told reporters. “However,” he added, “after Inter’s victory something has broken—maybe even subconsciously—and now we all believe we can win there.”
Of course, Juventus aren’t about to let a single loss spoil what has been a terrific start to the campaign. The Bianconeri are still atop the table with 31 points from 12 rounds and heading into the weekend’s fixture list lead second-place Inter Milan by four points. They’re nine points up on Lazio.
If there were any concerns regarding Juve’s ability to bounce back following the Inter defeat they were quickly put to bed by back-to-back wins over Nodsjaelland and Pescara in which they waxed their opponents by a combined 10-1 scoreline.
Nevertheless, Juventus winger Kwadwo Asamoah is adamant he and his teammates have to keep working hard to ensure they retain the Scudetto.
“[The 6-1 win over Pescara] hasn’t changed anything as far as the dressing-room atmosphere is concerned,” the Ghana international told a gathering of supporters earlier in the week. “We’ve begun well and taken many points from our start to the season but there are still plenty of games to play. We need to hang in there—fighting all the way to the end.”
ESSENTIALS: Juventus are likely to have winger Simone Pepe available for selection but will be without midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who is suspended. As a result Paul Pogba, who was left out of the side that beat Pescara, will likely start in the centre of the park.
Giorgio Chiellini has publicly defended Antonio Conte after Inter Milan striker Antonio Cassano volleyed a vicious verbal assault on the Juventus manager’s “morality.”
“If I have to rate Conte’s morality on a scale from 10 to 100, then I’d give him 110,” said the Italy defender. “[Cassano] missed the opportunity to come to Juventus.”
Cassano had lashed out at Conte during an interview with Sport Mediaset where he was told the Juventus boss had said the forward was “all talk” during a fans’ forum.
“Conte said I’m all talk?” asked Cassano. “I’m not the one who is suspended for failing to report match-fixing...If Conte starts talking to me about morality then it’s the end of the world.
Lazio’s injury list includes only midfielder Ederson, although Senad Lulic and Stefano Mauri are each suspended for Saturday’s match.
KEY BATTLE: Lazio winger Antonio Candreva has enjoyed a rebirth in the Italian capital this season and was also handed a call-up to the national side for Wednesday’s friendly against France. On Saturday the 25-year-old will once again serve as one of his side’s most important attacking outlets, although with Asamoah operating on the same flank he’ll likely spend a bit more time running back into his own half than he’s used to. The winger who wins this match-up will do his side a massive favour.
FORMATIONS: Conte and Juventus assistant manager Angelo Alessio will deploy a 3-5-2 formation fronted by Sebastian Giovinco and Fabio Quagliarella, who scored a hat-trick against Pescara. Lazio boss Vladimir Petkovic will send out a 4-1-4-1 with Cristian Ledesma operating as the holding midfielder and Miroslav Klose as the lone striker, supported by Alvaro Gonzalez and Hernanes.
BETLINE: Juventus 1/2; Draw 16/5; Lazio 11/2. Juventus have won the last four meetings between these two sides—a streak dating back to a 1-1 draw in January 2010.