We’re starting to enter crunch time in the Serie A calendar and there is no bigger match this weekend than Roma hosting Juventus at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome Saturday night.
The two teams are in different points in the standings. Juve are in second, seven points off the pace set by leaders Inter Milan and are trying to keep the pressure on their Milan rivals. On the other hand, after a horrendous first half, Roma are struggling to get any more than draws as they try and get a spot for European football next season.
Juventus claimed the first match-up this season aided by a spectacular yet trademark Alessandro Del Piero free kick. Marco Marchionni added a second that sent Roma into a tailspin on just the first day of November.
With Inter hosting rock-bottom Reggina, Juventus will have to win this one to keep pace with their arch-rivals.
The Turin giants clearly enter as the team on better form, winning four-straight and are undefeated in the last six games. After dropping out of the Champions League against Chelsea, the Old Lady came from behind with four-second half goals against Bologna last weekend.
A theme from the first half of the season seems to be coming back as the stretch to the finish continues. Manager Claudio Ranieri has almost a full squad on the sidelines.
Nicola Legrottaglie, Mauro Camoranesi, Momo Sissoko, Amauri, Paolo De Ceglie, Cristiano Zanetti, Albin Ekdal, Alex Manninger, and the always-injured Jorge Andrade are all injured for the trip to Rome and the newest injury being midfielder Claudio Marchisio, who has failed to shake a knock he suffered against Bologna.
One injury that has recovered in record time is one suffered by defender Giorgio Chiellini. The beast at the middle of Juve’s defense returned to practice Wednesday just 48 hours after surgery to repair a broken nose suffered against Bologna. David Trezeguet has also returned after a one-week absence after his war of words with Ranieri in the Italian press.
Offensively, Del Piero and starlet Sebastian Giovinco have fueled the attack in recent weeks. The little man who is looked to be the heir to Del Piero’s throne was spectacular in a 30-minute appearance against Chelsea and even better against Bologna.
However, with Pavel Nedved and Marchionni recovering from their respective injuries, Ranieri will have to decide whether to keep the on-form pint-sized playmaker in the lineup or go with the Czech Fury.
Juventus (probable): Buffon, Molinaro, Chiellini, Mellberg, Grygera, Nedved, Tiago, Poulsen, Marchionni, Del Piero, Iaquinta
Three consecutive draws have slowed Roma down over the past month. The Giallorossi have only claimed six points in the past five games and are tied for fifth with Fiorentina, two points behind Genoa for the last spot in the 2009-10 Champions League.
A lot of Roma’s struggles can be attributed to the massive amount of injuries they have had to deal with over the past two months.
The list of the walking wounded that will miss the match with Juve includes Cicinho, Marco Cassetti, Juan, Rodrigo Taddei, Simone Perrotta, and Alberto Aquilani are all out and captain Francesco Totti is a doubt after missing consecutive training sessions in the middle of the week.
Throw in Daniele De Rossi, Marco Motta, David Pizarro and Souleymane Diamoutene all being suspended for the clash with the Bianconeri and Roma boss Luciano Spaletti won’t have very many options to play with.
Because of the injuries, Spalletti might have to abandon his preferred Christmas Tree formation and go with a conventional 4-4-2.
Despite all of the injuries, Roma still has its top two scorers available. Mirko Vucinic and Julio Baptista have had to shoulder the offensive load with Totti in-and-out of the lineup the entire season and with almost the entire first team out injured, Spalletti will look to his top scorers to keep things close.
Roma (probable): Doni, Riise, Loria, Mexes, Panucci, Filipe, Brighi, Tonetto, Baptista, Vucinic, Menez