First-place Juventus take on a Fiorentina side in panic mode. Having only picked up four points from their last five matches, the Viola face a tough test against the Old Lady, playing at the highly intimidating Juventus Stadium, where they've only conceded eight goals all season in Serie A. Fortunately for the Florence faithfuls, Juventus have cooled off significantly after their near historic 49-match undefeated run late last year.
Projected lineups for both sides:
Juventus (3-5-2): Buffon, Barzagli, Marrone, Caceres; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, De Ceglie; Vucinic, Matri
Fiorentina (3-5-2): Viviano, Roncaglia, G.Rodriguez, Savic; Cuadrado, Romulo, Pizarro, Borja Valero, Pasqual; Jovetic, Toni
So, what are the top stories in this pivotal Serie A fixture? Let's take a look at the top three matchups ahead of one of the most anticipated games in Europe.
For the past two seasons, the bane of Juventus has been their lack of a world-class striker. Boasting one of the best defenses and midfields in all of Europe, their revolving door of mediocrity up front caused Juventus director Giuseppe Marotta to splurge in the January transfer window, buying Fernando Llorente from Athletic Bilbao, who won't arrive until summer, and Nicolas Anelka for the present.
Reports from La Gazzetta show that Juventus coach Antonio Conte will most likely go with a pairing of Mirko Vucinic and Alessandro Matri. While Vucinic has had his moments, his flashes of brilliance are negated by uneventful 90-minutes periods of action. The man they have to score against is Emiliano Viviano, who has replaced struggling goalkeeper Neto between the sticks for Fiorentina.
The two best midfields in Serie A square off for what will be an incredible tactical battle between two of the brightest Italian coaches. David Pizarro and Borja Valero have turned the Viola into a Barcelona-esque tiki-taka type team, often pressing the opposition in their own half with suffocating periods of ball possession.
On the other side, a midfield trio of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, and the young sensation Paul Pogba are expected to start. Claudio Marchisio is expected to start from the bench, so you see why Juventus is one of the deepest teams in all of Europe.
The massive Luca Toni has seemingly revived his career during his second stint at the club where he had his best domestic season, scoring 31 goals in the 2005-06 season with Fiorentina. This time around, big Luca has netted seven goals domestically thanks to quality crosses from the likes of offensive winger Juan Cuadrado and the reliable Manuel Pasqual.
Juventus' defense is missing their leader Giorgio Chiellini due to injury and ball-playing central defender Leonardo Bonucci, who is out due to suspension. Converted midfielder Luca Marrone and Martin Caceres have the task of stepping in and stopping a highly offensive Viola side.