Tactical Battles That Will Shape Juventus' Clash with Fiorentina
Thursday evening sees the second of three clashes between Juventus and Fiorentina this month, the pair facing off in the first leg of their Europa League tie. The storied rivals meet in Turin just as they did on Sunday, the prize of a quarter-final berth on offer for whichever side emerges victorious.
The Bianconeri claimed all three points in their league meeting last weekend but each team was handicapped by a number of key absences. Each should be much stronger this time around, making for a number of interesting battles across the pitch, any of which could prove to be the decisive factor as they go head-to-head again.
Juventus—who stoked the rivalry on Twitter this week (via ForzaItalianFootball)—have the added incentive of the final being at their home stadium, but the Viola will not want to lose to their bitter enemy again.
Over the following pages are the three battles which will shape the match.
Kwadwo Asamoah vs. Juan Cuadrado
These two men have arguably been the players to settle their team’s two previous meetings, with Juan Cuadrado destroying the Juventus defence in October’s league meeting. Kwadwo Asamoah levelled the season series in spectacular fashion on Sunday, his stunning goal being all that separated the two teams.
Giorgio Chiellini stepped up well from the backline this past weekend to close down the space available to the Colombian flier, and it will again take a team effort if Juventus are to contain the 25-year-old.
For his part, Asamoah’s influence on the two-time champions seems to grow by the week, his recent strike marking his second in three weeks.
Andrea Pirlo vs. Borja Valero
It seems odd to think that both Andrea Pirlo and Borja Valero were suspended when these two teams met on Sunday but both will play prevalent roles in Thursday’s encounter. While they might not directly face off, whichever midfielder is able to dictate the direction of the match could well lead their side to victory.
Both men rank highly in terms of passing, although Pirlo averages almost ten passes per game more, completing 70.1 per game compared to 60.3 by the Spaniard according to WhoScored. He also edges his Viola counterpart in terms of accuracy, registering a success rate of 89.2 per cent compared to Valero’s 88.1.
With five goals and seven assists, the Fiorentina midfielder holds the edge over Pirlo, who has netted three times whilst adding four assists, and the former Milan man will hope to improve upon his last meeting with Valero back in October.
That match finished 4-2 to Fiorentina, but it was fairly even between them as Pirlo completed 52 of 61 passes, also contributing one tackle and one interception. For his part, the ex-Villarreal midfielder made 47 of his 55 pass attempts, adding an assist and a tackle.
Antonio Conte vs. Vincenzo Montella
The match pits two of Italy’s brightest coaching prospects against each other, as Antonio Conte faces Vincenzo Montella. Each has his own ideas, bringing their vast playing experience to bear on their respective sides, with their team’s coming to represent their own on-field personality.
Conte’s Juve is driven by a tireless, hard working midfield which never quits, much like the former club captain played himself, while Montella’s Viola attack relentlessly, winning many admirers across the peninsula. Both coaches have earned their positions after impressing with smaller teams, Conte with Bari and Siena, while the former Roma striker caught the eye with Catania.
Both employ a variation of the 3-5-2 formation, Conte is more pragmatic in his approach as his team play in a variety of styles, Montella favouring possession over anything else.
Recent matches against tough opponents have seen Juve retreat to the halfway line, pressing hard in their own half in order to conserve energy.
It was those tactics employed by the Turin club on Sunday which proved successful, but Conte could spring a surprise in this Europa League tie. More than any other, their battle of wits is likely to decide the game.
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