Preview: Juve clash against Roma in Serie A’s ‘game of the season’

In a mouthwatering top of the table clash, Serie A leaders Juventus host second placed Roma, who are looking to close the four point gap. Following the high profile summer transfer of Miralem Pjanic between the two sides, the blood between the Roman and Torinese squads run deeper than the transfer market. Roma has only managed to win in Turin once in the last 14 years. Pride and reputation are on the line for both sides, and a true European clash is expected. 

Juventus are coming off a hard earned derby victory, and Allegri will be welcoming back Paulo Dybala, who came off the bench in the last two matches. There are some media whispers that hardworking Mario Mandzukic will get the nod alongside in-form Gonzalo Higuain, although Dybala has been impressive playing off the bench against both Dinamo Zagreb and Torino. His ability to play between the opposition’s defensive and midfield lines change the Bianconeri attack for the better because it allows Higuain more touches closer to goal. 

Furthermore, Allegri has both formation and squad choices that will either be applauded or criticized come Sunday. Will he go with a 4-4-2 similar to those featured in recent wins against Dinamo Zagreb and Torino? Or will he return to the 3-5-2 or the 4-3-1-2? Many of these decisions come down to injuries, with Bonucci and Dani Alves both out of the game The crux of these decisions will revolve around which midfield group Allegri chooses, and whether three or four midfielders are selected. Ex-Roma player Pjanic’s role affects how the Juve midfield will line up, as his advanced role behind the forwards has been productive recently. Depending on whether Dybala plays from the first minute or not will influence the Bosnian’s role.

Meanwhile, Luciano Spalletti enters the match with all intentions to play for three points to close the gap, both on the table and psychologically. His team has found consistency of late, especially with Edin Dzeko finding scoring form, competing with Mauro Icardi for the Capocannoniere, both currently on 12 goals. Roma are coming off an important win against Milan, and will look to use the momentum to their advantage. The midfield for the Giallorossi features Daniele De Rossi (funny eh?), Kevin Strootman, and Radja Nainggolan—a well established and experienced group that combines grit, determination, and awareness. Mohamed Salah is deemed fit to start, as the speedy winger has formed a vicious strike partnership with Dzeko thus far this season. Legendary Francesco Totti has not been included in the squad.

Both teams will likely look to take few risks, seeing that a draw at this point of the season could be a boost. This makes this a true chess match, with tacticians Allegri and Spalletti playing off one another’s every move. It will be a typical top of the table Serie A clash, filled with tackles and flaring tempers. In the end the team which is able to convert more of their chances will be the victor. Should either side be able to unbalance their opposition with an early goal, this match could end up being an end-to-end affair. Having a four point lead over Roma, Juventus will be satisfied with a draw. Therefore Roma has more to gain by taking risks, but they must be cautious with Milan and Napoli ready to pounce should the Bianconeri come out successful.

Probable Starting Line-ups:

Juventus (4-3-1-2): Buffon, Lichtsteiner, Benatia, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Marchisio, Sturaro; Pjanic; Mandzukic, Higuain 

Roma (4-2-3-1): Szczesny, Rudiger, Manolas, Fazio, Emerson; De Rossi, Strootman; Salah, Nainggolan, Perotti; Dzeko

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