Tactical Battles That Will Shape Juventus' Clash with Sampdoria
Juventus are fresh off breaking their own record for consecutive victories in Serie A—after an 11th successive triumph last Sunday against Cagliari, they will be bidding to make it 12 against Sampdoria this weekend.
The Bianconeri appear to have put their Champions League woes behind them and are instead concentrating on a rare feat.
Three scudetti in a row.
Samp will present a challenge, though. After all, they claimed victory at the Juventus Stadium last season with heroics from striker Mauro Icardi, now at Inter.
The gap between the Old Lady and Roma is currently eight points, but the Giallorossi could insert some pressure by winning against Livorno beforehand.
Therefore, Juve will know they must continue their dominating run and dispatch Sinisa Mihajlovic's side.
Here are some tactical battles worth following closely.
Angelo Palombo vs. Arturo Vidal
This should be a terrific battle in the middle of the park.
Arturo Vidal will look to push forward when he can, and Angelo Palombo will be tasked with tracing one of the best off-the-ball runners in the game.
Palombo is a wily character who may attempt to get underneath the Chilean's skin, which could be dangerous for the Juve midfielder, as he is one booking away from a suspension.
With games away at Lazio and home to Inter coming up, Antonio Conte will be hammering home the importance of maintaining his discipline.
Daniele Gastaldello and Shkodran Mustafi will likely have their hands full with Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez. Therefore, Juve could find plenty of success through Vidal's clever movement and timed runs into the penalty area.
If Palombo can nullify this to some extent, Juve may be reduced to moving the ball out wide or looking to shoot from range.
Pedro Obiang vs. Paul Pogba
Pedro Obiang and Paul Pogba are two of Serie A's finest athletes, which should make this a fascinating watch.
Tall, strong, quick—they are both blessed physically, and while Pogba possesses world-class technique, Obiang has quick feet and the ability to stretch play with his long-range passing.
Both players have the ability to dominate a game from both ends of the pitch, and the 21-year-old Obiang has a marvellous opportunity to show his quality against the champions.
It seems as if Obiang is destined for bigger things down the line, so it will be great to see whether he can impose himself against a player of a similar ilk in Pogba. The former Manchester United man is already being linked with a €50 million move, according to La Stampa (via Forza Italian Football).
Obiang typifies the modern-day midfielder and is adding tactical nous to his physical gifts in maybe the most difficult league to adjust to tactically in Europe.
Watching him shine against an elite midfield like Juve will only emphasise the point that he has a big-time future ahead of him.
Manolo Gabbiadini and Eder vs. Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci
Manolo Gabbiadini and Eder are forging one of the best attacking partnerships in Serie A.
Technically, Mihajlovic lines up Gabbiadini a little deeper in a trident to support Eder. However, the Brazilian is not an out-and-out forward, and naturally drifts wide to make space for the Azzurri international to cut inside from the right flank.
With Andrea Barzagli's suspension last week, Martin Caceres came into the side and created a little confusion in the defence surrounding their marking responsibilities.
It will be interesting to see how Conte tackles the interchangeability and fluidity of Samp's most potent attacking duo. Man-marking may be the best strategy.
Mihajlovic should be positive after witnessing the partnership blossom in a 3-0 victory over Udinese on Monday, with Eder scoring twice and Gabbiadini providing two assists.
Juve's defensive solidarity should be back, and lessons will have been learned from the dreadful marking of Mauricio Pinilla for Cagliari's opening goal, and shortly after for a Daniele Conti free header from a corner.
Samp will certainly pose a threat, and if Juve can deal with it, a home win should be quite comfortable.