Tactical Battles That Will Shape Fiorentina's Clash with Juventus

Jack Alexandros Rathborn@@jackrathbornContributor IIIMarch 19, 2014

Tactical Battles That Will Shape Fiorentina's Clash with Juventus

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    Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

    Fiorentina host Juventus on Thursday in a last 16 Europa League tie that hangs in the balance.

    The Viola have a marginal advantage, having come away from the Juventus Stadium with a 1-1 draw last Thursday. 

    The Bianconeri are a superior side, of course, but having under-performed in the first leg and with the probable self-belief that Vincenzo Montella's side will have after triumphing in the league 4-2 at the Stadio Artemio Franchi earlier in the season, the result is not cut and dried.

    Defeat for Antonio Conte would compound the club's underachievement under his tenure and give the Viola another highlight in what has been a decent season thus far, despite the injuries to Mario Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi.

    Here are some tactical battles to focus on.

Carlos Tevez vs. Gonzalo Rodriguez

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    Luca Bruno/Associated Press

    Carlo Tevez is hoping to shake off a niggle that kept him out of the Genoa match on Sunday.

    If the Argentine pulls through, it will be a massive game for him personally, as well as for the side.

    El Apache has been poor in Europe for a while now, failing to score at all this season, and even though this is not the Champions League, given the intense rivalry and how balanced the tie is, the second leg will have the feel of a game in Europe's elite competition.

    Gonzalo Rodriguez is a class operator, and even though Stefan Savic is capable of reaching a high level in the future, his consistency is often a problem, meaning the Argentine will be tasked with commanding the back three.

    Despite Tevez's poor record in European competitions, keeping his compatriot quiet will prove to be a tricky task.

    Fiorentina will stand a wonderful chance if this can be done, though, knowing they do not actually have to score a goal to progress in this tie.

Leonardo Bonucci vs. Mario Gomez

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    Fabrizio Giovannozzi/Associated Press

    Andrea Barzagli is out with injury, so Leonardo Bonucci will be pivotal in keeping Mario Gomez quiet as he will likely be the pivot of the back three.

    The German's form has suddenly resurfaced after a quiet return since his serious injury, scoring in the first leg and grabbing the match-clinching goal in the 3-1 victory over Chievo on Sunday.

    Bonucci will be the deepest of the three centre-backs and will need to be alert to the former Bayern striker's clever movement, which was crucial to grabbing that away goal one week ago.

    Gomez looks fit and strong, and Montella will hope that he can be alert enough inside the penalty area to make the most of his side's creativity and vision.

    With Borja Valero, Alberto Aquilani and David Pizarro all likely to feature, in addition to Josip Ilicic who provided that wonderful assist for his first goal since his injury, the Viola will be confident of exposing an unsettled back line.

    Juve have been troubled by the injuries to Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini in recent weeks, in addition to this busy schedule, which has seen Conte deem it necessary to rest Bonucci as well.

    This has meant that he has not been able to start all three of his Azzurri international centre-backs in one match since February 2 against Inter.

    With Martin Caceres likely to complete the trio of defenders, alongside Bonucci and Chiellini, Montella must realise his best chance of upsetting Juve is to probe the organisational skills of this defence, with Gomez's movement key to finding the openings necessary to score the goals that will secure their progress to the next round.

Neto vs. Pirlo and Juve's Long-Range Shooters

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    Anders Brohus/Associated Press

    Neto has been in fine form this season and appears to be fulfilling his potential as a goalkeeper after some shaky moments last season.

    The Brazilian is athletically gifted and can pull off some spectacular saves.

    As Fiorentina's central midfielders lack athleticism, they will tend to drop deeper without the ball, minimising the risk of Juve opening up the spaces vacated between the lines.

    This could encourage Juve to take aim from distance, in particular Pirlo, who showed what accuracy he has from distance with the winning goal against Genoa.

    It appears likely that Neto will be in for a busy night, so if he can perform as he has been doing recently, Fiorentina will stand a fantastic chance of progressing.

    Paul Pogba, in particular, is highly capable of hitting the target from distance, but the Frenchman is in a small dip in form.

    The 20-year-old is not one to duck an opportunity when confronted with one, and if he has time and space to shoot, he will do so.

    In addition to Pirlo, Pogba will be Juve's main threat when there is the opportunity to shoot from distance.