Juventus-Fulham Preview: Five Keys To Victory for the Old Lady In London
It had been awhile since Juventus put in a performance like what was saw against Fulham last week.
Juve's 3-1 victory at the Stadio Olimpico last Thursday was not only one where the offense came through, but one where the much-maligned defense came through in a big way as well. Even the older players played well enough to give the Old Lady an early advantage.
However, even with a two-goal advantage as they head into the second leg at Craven Cottage, the feeling around Juventus is not exactly "fine and dandy" after the horror show against Siena over the weekend, which saw a three-goal lead go up in smoke.
If Juve want to continue their Europa League challenge, the older players will once again be counted on to play a vital role in the team's success.
Can they do it a second time? Seeing how they played Sunday, it's hard to give a definite answer to that.
1. Will the patchwork defense be able to keep Fulham under control?
Injuries have hurt just about every position on the Juventus squad this season. That's not exactly a secret to anybody out there.
While the midfield and attack seem to be getting back to full health, the same can't be said about the defense. Giorgio Chiellini and Martin Caceres will miss the trip to London because of injuries, meaning that Nicola Legrottaglie, although he is suspended for the second leg, has to travel with the team.
Another week, another reason to stress about Juve's defense.
The lone natural central defender who will be healthy for this match is Fabio Cannavaro. He may be playing better as of late, but seeing how he has played over the course of the entire season, getting overly optimistic about Cannavaro's recent stretch of form could spell trouble.
After that, it's anybody's guess as to who will be selected and where they will play.
With no defenders called up from the youth sector, Zdenek Grygera and Jonathan Zebina are going to be playing crucial roles in the back. That's not always a good thing, especially with how inconsistent both have been over the course of their Juventus careers.
One of them is going to be forced to play in the center. We just don't know who it will be. Not exactly how you want to be thinking going into a decisive second leg.
What's the worst thought in a lot of people's heads? Fulham needs at least two goals and Juventus' defense, at least on paper, is the worst it has looked this season.
2. Who Starts In Goal—Antonio Chimenti or Carlo Pinsoglio?
When Gianluigi Buffon went down with an injury a few weeks back, there wasn't much fear because he had Alexander Manninger as his understudy.
But when Manninger pulled up lame with a thigh injury, the somewhat relaxed feeling turned into absolute panic because 39-year-old Antonio Chimenti, who had not played a professional game in two years, had to step between the pipes.
Zaccheroni was reportedly not very impressed with Chimenti's performance over the weekend against Siena—which isn't very surprising. He's old and he is not very good anymore, making him the classic No. 3 keeper who is never supposed to see the field.
Could this be the ticket for Primavera keeper Carlo Pinsoglio to make his first team debut? It might be.
Pinsoglio, who has been with the Juve youth academy since 2001, was voted the best goalkeeper at last month's Viareggio tournament where the Juve Primavera squad defended their title. He's a big and technically sound keeper who is known for his quality reactions in goal.
But putting a kid who celebrated his 20th birthday just yesterday into a huge European contest, there are bound to be some nerves. That could affect his performance, but you never know until he is actually given the opportunity to make his debut.
Will Zaccheroni go with the experience of Chimenti or the raw skill and potential of Pinsoglio?
3. Can Juventus Do What They Weren't Able To Do Against Siena and Play a Complete Match?
A 3-0 lead within the first 10 minutes of a game means you're cruising to victory, right?
After they got up big, Juve shut it down on Sunday. They figured, "Hey, we're playing the worst team in the league, we're up three at home, we can just cruise to victory."
Well, not so much.
They forgot that there was still 80 minutes to go. Siena kept their foot on the gas as Juve clearly figured they were going to win the game no matter what kind of pressure they were under.
The result was a 3-3 draw. It was just another example of how this team will always be its own worst enemy. If you can't hold a lead against the worst team in Serie A, how are you expected to challenge for a European title?
This tie is certainly not over even with Juve holding a two-goal advantage. Seeing how strong Fulham are at home and how little confidence people are going to have in the defense Juve are going to be rolling out there, it's going to be an interesting 90 minutes.
4.Who Will Be Playing Up Top?
Depth up top? That hasn't been said much this year.
While the defense is in a selection crisis, Zaccheroni has some options to chose from up top—something that Ciro Ferrara never had the ability to do during his time as Juve manager. While Amauri and Sebastian Giovinco are still out injured, everybody else is healthy.
Some players may not be as match fit as others—Vincenzo Iaquinta compared to David Trezeguet—but for a crucial away match, Zaccheroni has the luxury of choosing from a few different formations to go with.
It basically comes down to which triangle Zac wants to go with. Does he want to get festive and go with the Christmas tree and have a lone striker up top or does he want to have only Diego playing behind the strikers?
Seeing how efficient the 4-3-2-1 was against Fulham in the first leg, that may be the way Zaccheroni goes in London. Add to that the fact the Antonio Candreva has shown that his quality of play falls off significantly in the second half and you could see Alessandro Del Piero making a second half appearance off the bench.
Either way, no matter what formation Zaccheroni's goes with, it's nice to see Zac have some choices up top.
5. Can Juventus Slow Down Fulham's Sat the Cottage?
While playing on the road has been a struggle for Fulham both domestically and in Europe, the same can't be said when they play at home.
The reason Fulham are where they are in the Premiership is because of their dominance at Craven Cottage. Their numbers at home are almost completely opposite to those on the road.
How opposite you ask?
Fulham's goal differential away from the Cottage: minus 12. Fulham's goal differential at home: plus 12. In those 14 home games, Fulham's opponents have scored only nine goals.
That's not only getting it done on the offensive side of the game, but also playing some pretty shutdown defense.
Because of the crisis in defense, Juve playing a high offensive-minded game is not very likely. That means the difference will be how the midfield plays and keeps Fulham's attack neutralized before they put significant pressure on the old guys in the back.
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