Juventus-Roma Preview: Claudio Ranieri Returns Amidst a Crisis In Turin
It's hard to remember the last time Juventus was on a roll and racking up victories.
Horrible form, terrible luck in terms of injuries, and anything you can thinking of has contributed to the downfall of the beloved Bianconeri.
When Juventus played Roma in September, it was the lone portion of the season where everything was going right. The Old Lady was flying high as Diego starred in a 3-1 win in Rome that saw Juve's early season form go top of the table.
It's ironic considering because Roma was the complete opposite over the course of the first few weeks of the season. The club was in total chaos as financial issues and unrest between then-coach, Luciano Spalletti, and management.
Now the two clubs have now seemed to swap places as Roma have rocketed up the table in a few short months while Juve are in total crisis mode with no end in sight.
They may be bitter rivals, but they do have one thing in common—Claudio Ranieri.
Yep, the man who was at the helm for Juve's first two years back from Serie B makes his return to the Stadio Olimpico as manager of Roma on Saturday night. He has promised that he is not out for revenge when he faces his former club, but at the same time, says he will do everything in his power to guide his team to victory.
Either way you look at it, Roma are the favored side coming in. Despite their road struggles, the way both teams are playing can't be ignored. They are on completely different ends of the spectrum right now.
Ranieri's Roma squad are playing great football at the moment after thrashing Genoa 3-0 this past Sunday. The Giallorosi are undefeated in nearly three months in all competitions with Ranieri walking the sidelines—with their last loss coming Oct. 28 against Udinese.
Roma will clearly be looking to use their positive momentum and extend their 11-game unbeaten streak in Serie A against a Juve side that can't do anything right at the moment.
Sunday's game put on-loan striker Luca Toni back on the Italian national team roster. The towering Toni was incredible in front of goal, recording a brace in just his second league start since coming back to Italy.
Toni may be available to start for Saturday's grudge match, but captain Francesco Totti is a doubt and will likely start from the bench. Because Totti isn't totally match fit yet, the people hoping for a Vucinic-Toni-Totti trident up top from the start will have to wait another week.
In defense, Ranieri has another player returning from injury, Philippe Mexes. The Frenchman will partner with Brazilian Juan, who is in very good form, in the center of the Giallorosi defense.
Predicted Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Julio Sergio; Cassetti, Mexes, Juan, Riise; Pizarro, De Rossi; Taddei, Perrotta, Vucinic; Toni
There isn't much positive mojo coming from the Juventus camp as they head into the backend of their schedule. Poor performance after poor performance has summed up the season thus far as the Old Lady continues to fall down the table.
Injuries will again play a roll in who is at Ciro Ferrara's disposal for squad selection. Forwards David Trezeguet and Vincenzo Iaquinta, midfielders Mauro Camoranesi, Sebastian Giovinco, and Christian Poulsen, and defender Martin Caceres will all miss the match. Key midfielder Felipe Melo will also miss the fixture.
Juventus do have two new midfielders in the squad to ease the pressure on one of the positions hardest hit by injuries. Ferrara will welcome back Momo Sissoko, who had been on duty with Mali in the African Cup of Nations, as well as new signing Antonio Candreva, who finalized his loan deal from parent club Udinese on Wednesday.
Because of the lack of depth in the midfield, Candreva could be thrown right into the fire against his hometown club. In a midfield struggling to generate offense, the 22-year-old Candreva will be a welcomed addition. His versatility and pace should compliment the box-to-box style of Claudio Marchisio and the defensive prowess of Sissoko.
Sissoko's return should provide cover and aid for a defense that has struggled throughout the season. Outside of Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini, the defense is average at best. The two Fabio's, Cannavaro and Grosso, have both disappointed this season after arriving in the summer.
Predicted Starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Grygera, Cannavaro, Chiellini, Grosso; Candreva, Sissoko, Marchisio; Diego; Del Piero, Amauri
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