Having won their past eight league fixtures, Juventus face Sampdoria in Genoa on Sunday evening, the reigning champions looking to keep pace with the early leaders and maintain their bid for a fifth consecutive Serie A title.
Now sitting just three points behind first place, the Bianconeri have shrugged off their poor early form and begun to steadily climb the table as Kwadwo Asamoah explained to the club’s in-house television channel.
"We didn’t make a great start but we then did very well to return to our winning ways," the midfielder said per the official Juventus website. "As a team, we have a clear goal in mind and that gives us the motivation and the desire to keep winning and to fight to the very last game of the season."
This weekend will see them meet a Sampdoria side looking for a similar resurgence, sacking coach Walter Zenga back in November and replacing him with Vincenzo Montella. The former AS Roma striker has failed to arrest their issues, however, with only four clubs—Carpi, Frosinone, Palermo and Hellas Verona—having conceded more than their tally of 28 goals.
Ahead of this next round of matches, they sit in 12th place and will be buoyed by their midweek win over city rivals Genoa. Yet even in that clash, they looked vulnerable, giving up two late goals to almost throw away what had appeared to be a routine victory, much to the dismay of Montella.
"In the memory of the fans we want this great performance and not the final 10 minutes," the coach told Mediaset Premium shortly after the final whistle (h/t Football Italia). "Genoa did not give up after going 3-0 down and we did very well to take our chances. You can’t lower the concentration levels in Serie A, as there’s always a risk.
"This will serve us well for the future," he added, and that is certainly true as they prepare to host a Juventus side that has scored 10 goals in their last three outings.
Date: Sunday, January 10, 2016
Time: 7:45 p.m. GMT/2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
TV Info: BT Sport Europe (UK) BeInSports 1 (U.S.)
Live Stream: BT Connect (UK)
Last five domestic results:
|Milan 4-1 Sampdoria||Palermo 0-3 Juventus|
|Sampdoria 1-3 Sassuolo||Lazio 0-2 Juventus|
|Lazio 1-1 Sampdoria||Juventus 3-1 Fiorentina|
|Sampdoria 2-0 Palermo||Carpi 2-3 Juventus|
|Genoa 2-3 Sampdoria||Juventus 3-0 Hellas Verona|
Sampdoria: (4-3-3): Emiliano Viviano; Mattia Cassani, Niklas Moisander, Ervin Zukanovic, Vasco Regini; Edgar Barreto, Fernando, Roberto Soriano; Carlos Carbonero, Antonio Cassano, Eder
Unavailable: Lorenzo De Silvestri (injured)
Juventus (3-5-2): Gigi Buffon; Daniele Rugani, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Sami Khedira, Stefano Sturaro, Paul Pogba, Alex Sandro; Alvaro Morata, Paulo Dybala
Unavailable: Kwadwo Asamoah, Andrea Barzagli, Mario Lemina, Mario Mandzukic and Roberto Pereyra (all injured), Claudio Marchisio (suspended)
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Perhaps the most interesting storyline heading into this clash is that of Daniele Rugani, the defender having been somewhat underused so far this season. The 21-year-old played every minute of 2014/15 with Empoli but has made just one start in all competitions during 2015/16 following his summer move to Juventus.
While that may be understandable in many ways given the presence of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in Turin, an injury to the first name on that list seemed to mean Rugani would take his place in the starting XI this week.
Instead, however, Allegri opted to give Martin Caceres the nod, prompting a confused outburst from Rugani’s representative Davide Torchia during an interview with Radio CRC.
"This decision left me rather perplexed, seeing as the lad did so well in the Coppa Italia," the agent said (h/t Football Italia). "In any case, I hope the club will keep its word, seeing as it claims Rugani is the first choice after that trio."
It will be intriguing to see if Rugani does win a place in the side against Sampdoria, with the future of this seriously talented young player appearing to hang in the balance now the transfer window has reopened.
If Rugani is looking to capitalise following his move to one of Serie A’s biggest clubs, then there is little doubt that Sampdoria’s Roberto Soriano may soon be doing the same. The 24-year-old midfielder is now seen as ready to take the next step, but his current club insist they will not sell him cheaply.
"Soriano? Give me the money and I’ll show you the camel," president Massimo Ferrero told Radio 24 (h/t Football Italia) after the player had been linked to a raft of clubs. "He has a release clause [€15 million] which must be paid."
Having seen the former Bayern Munich man net twice in the midweek win over cross-town rivals Genoa, the Bianconeri will need to keep a close eye on him, a task that may well fall to Stefano Sturaro.
The youngster is expected to step into the Juventus starting XI as Claudio Marchisio is suspended, and his ability to negate the threat of Soriano could well prove crucial once this match is underway.
Odds (via Odds Shark)
Away win: 100-167
Home win: 21-4