What: Italian Serie A
Who: Roma vs Juventus
When: Saturday 16th February, 2013, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy
Back To Square One For Giallarossi
It has been a traumatic time of late for Roma, who fired the charismatic Zdenek Zeman after a 4-2 home loss to Cagliari, replacing him with Aurelio Andreazzoli until the end of the season. Having failed to win in Serie A in 2013, Andreazzoli’s reign got off to an inauspicious start when Roma were beaten 3-1 by Sampdoria at the weekend.
Roma’s main problem this season has been obvious – their defence has been woeful, conceding 45 times in the league, the second worst record in Serie A. A good run in the Coppa Italia has not papered over the cracks and the Giallarossi have conceded 10 goals in their last three league games. Andreazzoli made a host of changes to his team, fielding a 3-5-2 system and bringing back Daniele De Rossi and Maarten Stekelenburg, both of whom had been dropped by Zeman and enjoyed an uneasy relationship with him.
Zeman, like his predecessor Luis Enrique, was meant to bring some style and sophistication to Roma, and ensure that they retained a unique identity in Serie A. Although his team had some sparkling moments, including victories over both Milan giants, the experiment comprehensively failed and Roma now find themselves back at square one trying to find a formula which works. Sitting in ninth place, 10 points adrift of fierce rivals Lazio, rubs salt into Roma wounds, and a fast recovery from their present slump is an urgent necessity.
Juventus Cruising Again After Mini Slump
Juventus appear to have arrested a worrying slump which was threatening to derail their season following two convincing wins in the last week. A comfortable 3-0 victory in Glasgow against Celtic as good as puts Juventus into the Champions League quarter-finals, whilst last weekend the Bianconeri restored a five-point gap between them and Napoli after beating fierce rivals Fiorentina.
Perhaps most pleasing was that Juve managed to keep two clean sheets in a row, having seen uncharacteristic defensive issues compromising their game in recent weeks during the absences of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci through injury and suspension respectively. Chiellini is still out, but Bonucci is back, and that can only be a good thing for Conte, who himself returns after sitting out two games with a touchline ban.
The visit to Roma is one that is fraught with risk, as the capital club are capable on their day of beating anyone. But it is crucial that Juventus start to regain the sense of invincibility which has been lost in the last six weeks. A gap of five points to second place Napoli is positive but not watertight, and Conte will be keen to ensure his team do not allow them to close in on them again.
Bologna 3-3 Roma (27/01; Serie A)
Roma 2-4 Cagliari (01/02; Serie A)
Sampdoria 3-1 Roma (10/02; Serie A)
Chievo 1-2 Juventus (03/02; Serie A)
Juventus 2-0 Fiorentina (09/02; Serie A)
Celtic 0-3 Juventus (12/02; Champions League)
Roma: Marquinhos (doubt); Dodo; Leandro Castan; Mattia Destro; Federico Balzaretti; Pablo Osvaldo (doubt); Daniele De Rossi (doubt)
Juventus: Federico Peluso; Claudio Marchisio; Giorgio Chiellini; Nicklas Bendtner; Simone Pepe; Mauricio Isla
Players to watch
Roma – Erik Lamela: The bright spot in Roma’s season so far, the 20-year-old has excelled, scoring regularly and building up a good relationship going forward with club legend Francesco Totti. The Argentine, compared in his youth to Lionel Messi, was pitched out wide in Andreazzoli’s new system against Sampdoria; it remains to be seen whether that will get the best out of the talented Lamela. But this young prodigy, who boasts a wonderful left-footed shot, is fast becoming the figurehead of a new Roma generation.
Juventus – Mirko Vucinic: Vucinic takes on his former team this weekend having started to rediscover his fitness and form. Goals in his last two games, against Celtic and Fiorentina, seem to signal that the Montenegrin is back. With a sharp turn of pace and an equally piercing finish, Vucinic could tear into Roma given the state of the home team’s defence. With Leandro Castan out and Marquinhos struggling to be fit, this could be a long night for the Roma defence.
Using a 3-5-2 system is a brave gambit by Andreazzoli and particularly interesting against Juventus, a team who have mastered the formation. With Leandro Castan injured, Roma’s defence is weakened further and last weekend’s defeat to Sampdoria showed the same vulnerabilities which dogged them under Zeman this season. Whilst Juventus’ strength lies in defence and midfield rather than attack, the form of Vucinic and Alessandro Matri should worry Roma.
Fortunately for the capital club, Claudio Marchisio is absent through suspension, which could help them in the middle of the park, where Michael Bradley has played well for much of this season. Alongside Daniele De Rossi, they are capable of matching Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, in what promises to be a tasty battle for possession and territory.
Expect Juventus to keep things tight defensively though, and the forward rampages of Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichsteiner can stretch and cause havoc with Roma’s backline. This should be a game in which both teams have spells in possession, but whilst it is hard to see Roma being able to do much with theirs, Juventus can and should be clinical. Roma 1-3 Juventus.
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