How Juventus Will Line Up Against Fiorentina

Jack Alexandros RathbornContributor IIIMarch 12, 2014

Juventus midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah, center of Ghana, celebrates after scoring during a Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Fiorentina at the Juventus stadium, in Turin, Italy, Sunday, March 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Massimo Pinca)
Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

Juventus brushed aside Fiorentina at the weekend in their second meeting of the Serie A season. It was revenge, to an extent, for the Viola's stunning triumph at the Stadio Artemio Franchi back in October.

Now the two sides meet on Thursday for the first leg of their last-16 Europa League tie.

The crest of the wave that Vincenzo Montella's side were riding has long since crashed, with Giuseppe Rossi one of the casualties to dismount the board, succumbing to another serious injury.

Mario Gomez's return was long and drawn out, and since the German has returned to the pitch it has been tough to recognise the former Bayern star.

This is a tie that appeals to calcio fans and even branches over to the more casual football fan. There is going to be a certain amount of glamour with the inevitable tifos (choreography) displayed by both sets of fans over the two legs.

However, the result at the end of 180 minutes is almost a formality. Juve are a juggernaut who will dispatch Fiorentina even if the Viola flirt with their best form.

Antonio Conte will refuse to accept this reality though, perhaps due to the fact that the title race back in Italy is wrapped up for another season, meaning the Old Lady's exertions over the next week will be concentrated on this tie.

Juve's rotation should be limited, and when changes are made, the replacements should be those capable of snatching a start moving forward, not those who are squad players and just need appeasing with minutes on the pitch.

With Leonardo Bonucci resting at the weekend, we can expect him to return to the line-up, as will be the case with Martin Caceres, who came on as a substitute with 12 minutes remaining as a right-midfielder at the weekend.

The Uruguayan returned prematurely from the international break and did not feature for La Celeste against Austria, so Conte presumably decided not to risk him in the first match back after the break, instead opting for the Italian Angelo Ogbonna, who was not called by Cesare Prandelli for the Azzurri.

Thus, Conte will in all likelihood look to rest one of Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, with the former the favourite.

Stephan Lichtsteiner will drop out of the side, as has been the case for each of the three cup matches in 2014, with the Chilean Mauricio Isla ready to start for the fourth time in this calendar year.

Andrea Pirlo was missing from the weekend's match through suspension, so the maestro will surely come back into the line-up, leaving the Mister to decide which two from Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio will join the 34-year-old to complete the midfield trio.

Kwadwo Asamoah has been spectacular in recent weeks, and while he has also missed all three of the cup matches in 2014 (the second leg of the Trabzonspor tie was through injury), Conte may be tempted to keep the Ghanaian in the line-up while he is in such a rich vein of form.

Carlos Tevez was set to keep his place in the team, despite being rested for the match in Turkey in the last round, but El Apache is now a doubt for the starting line-up due to a knee injury, per Tuttosport (h/t Football Italia).

Thus Dani Osvaldo, who was rested completely at the weekend and could be seen in the stands of the Juventus Stadium, could take Tevez's place. The Azzurri international will join Fernando Llorente, who was absent from the starting line-up in the last three cup matches.

Despite the inclusion of a couple of players who would not be present if Conte was forced to name his strongest line-up, the team is formidable.

The Bianconeri will look for a sizable advantage to take to Florence, even if their exertions lead to a hangover of sorts at the weekend when they travel to Genoa to face the Grifone. Conte will be satisfied knowing they are in the driver's seat to reach the quarter-finals.

Expected line-up: Gianluigi Buffon; Martin Caceres, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Mauricio Isla, Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Kwadwo Asamoh; Fernando Llorente, Dani Osvaldo.