Fiorentina vs. Juventus: Issues and Decisions That Will Shape Serie A Game
Juventus travel to Florence on Friday evening, the Stadio Artemio Franchi set to host the latest instalment of a storied rivalry.
Fiorentina have grown to loathe the sight of the black and white stripes, seeing the Turin giants as perhaps their most bitter enemy.
A Liam Brady penalty in 1982 and Roberto Baggio’s transfer to the Bianconeri almost a decade later form the basis for those feelings, the bitterness explained in detail here by Bleacher Report's Giancarlo Rinaldi.
Last season saw four meetings between the two, with a Europa League tie adding to their regular encounters in Serie A.
That the Bianconeri won just two of those clashes—beaten 4-2 and held to a draw in the others—was a source of pride for the Viola, given the sheer dominance Juventus enjoyed domestically last term.
Now under the guidance Massimiliano Allegri, the Turin giants are once again in stunning form, winning all six of their fixtures last month.
Keeping four clean sheets, they outscored their opponents by 19 goals to three, their recent switch in formation paying off handsomely for the players and coach. That 4-3-2-1 shape now appears here to stay, and Vincenzo Montella will face a tough task in attempting to match Juve’s recent intensity.
His side have won their last three matches, the last an emphatic demolition of Zdenek Zeman’s Cagliari on Sunday.
Over the following pages is a look at the key issues and decisions which will decide this latest chapter in the story of two bitter rivals.
Can the Viola Stop Andrea Pirlo?
Following his match-winning display in Sunday’s Turin derby, Andrea Pirlo has once again shown he is one of Serie A’s most dangerous midfielders.
The performance will have served as a timely reminder to Fiorentina of just how crucial the 35-year-old is to Juventus.
With that being said, the Viola already know all too well what Pirlo is capable of, the World Cup winner having netted the free-kick which ultimately eliminated them from Europe last season.
Borja Valero and his team-mates in midfield will have to be constantly aware of him, while also monitoring Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba.
The Juventus midfield has slowly begun to round into form, and that makes them a formidable challenge for any opponent.
Juve’s Right-Back Conundrum
Perhaps the only blight on the magnificent derby win enjoyed by Juventus was the sending off of Stephan Lichtsteiner. He will now miss this match through suspension, leaving Allegri with a tough decision to make as to who will step in at right-back.
Martin Caceres has yet to fully recover from injury and Romulo has suffered with problems of his own, meaning Roberto Pereyra could be asked to provide cover. The 23-year-old has been in superb form and has shown he is more than capable of filling the role.
However, against Fiorentina, it will be a tougher-than-usual task.
It may yet fall to Simone Padoin, the midfielder having filled in on the opposite flank in recent weeks. Aside from the Champions League tie against Malmo, the 30-year-old has impressed at left-back and the return of Patrice Evra could see him swap to the right here.
Fiorentina’s Attacking Options
Montella will hope to have Mario Gomez available, the German striker slowly returning to form after missing a month of action due to injury.
He netted his first goal for the club in 259 days against Cagliari, also adding an assist in what was an excellent all-round performance.
Without Gomez—and of course Giuseppe Rossi—Fiorentina have lacked the incisive edge in attack, and his return to full fitness is a huge boost for the side.
Gigi Buffon’s Fitness
It came as something of a surprise on Sunday as Juventus announced Gigi Buffon was unfit and would not play against Torino.
The news had been kept quiet all week, but an ongoing issue with his shoulder flared up after the Malmo game and ultimately forced him to sit out of the derby.
Marco Storari played between the posts instead, and while he is a quality backup, Juventus would clearly prefer to have their captain available.