Serie A: Juventus vs. Roma
Juventus Stadium Sunday 05.10.2014 Kick Off 17:00 BST
The best two teams in Italy square off for the first time this season in a game eagerly anticipated by all fans of Italian football. After five games, both Juventus and Roma have a maximum of fifteen points, with Juventus topping the table with a slightly better goal difference. Both sides were in Champions League action during the week, they will be keen to keep momentum going and make an early claim to the title of best team in the country.
The race for the Scudetto hasn’t been much of a race over the last three seasons given the complete dominance of Juventus. Under manager Antonio Conte they reclaimed their position as the strongest team in the country, and have displayed such a level of dominance that it seemed unlikely any team would be able to mount a serious challenge for the title for some time to come. The departure of Conte for the national team, however, coupled with some excellent purchases by nearest challengers Roma over the summer means that some believe the title could be heading to the capital for the first time since 2001. I personally believe that the reason Juventus have been so special over the last few years is the quality of their midfield. This season, however, there is not much between Roma and Juventus in this department; it is for this reason their genuinely could be a newly crowned champion come May. It also remains to be seen if new coach Max Allegri can maintain the momentum that Conte had started.
This week both sides were in Champions League action, with Roma being the happier side with their result. They travelled to Manchester and secured a 1-1 draw with City having dominated the game for large spells. The ageless Francesco Totti scored a deft lob to become the oldest goalscorer in Champions League history, at 38 years old. Radja Nainggolan bossed the middle of the park in some of the most illustrious company in European football, and Ashley Cole showed why some think Chelsea were a little hasty in letting him go, and why Roy Hodgson is an utter tit of a football manager given his decision to not take him to the World Cup. Coupled with their 5-1 victory over CSKA Moscow, Rudi Garcia’s side now have an excellent chance to qualify from an extremely difficult group, and will take great confidence from their performances.
Juventus were not so fortunate on their travels to Spain, and will feel a little aggrieved at their 1-0 loss away to Atletico Madrid. The game was not a classic by any means, and chances were few and far between. The game seemed headed for a stalemate when Arda Turan popped up to sneak it home at the back post. Boss Allegri feels his side deserved more:
“They took advantage of their only chance. We go away with a defeat after playing very well, but it is clear we have paid dearly for that one error,” he said.
“In the first-half we didn’t have very many chances, but in the second we had three or four clear ones on counter-attacks where we failed with the last pass.”
In terms of qualification from the group, it’s completely open given that all four sides find themselves on three points. The one main criticism of the Conte era would be that his side could not seem to transfer their dominance in Italy to the European stage. They will take heart from how well they competed with last season’s beaten finalists, but it remains to be seen if they can make an impact in the latter stages of the tournament.
It’s too early to say that this game will be decisive with regards to the destination of the title, but it will give us a sign of where both teams are at. For Juventus, they have made a habit of winning big games like this over the last few years. When any questions were asked of Conte, he answered them – usually emphatically. It remains to be seen just how important the manger was. Conversely, Roma have not been able to consistently challenge for the title, and last year’s campaign was something of a surprise. Despite an unbelievable start (10 straight league victories), they were unable to maintain this, and finished the season a significant margin behind Juventus. Despite the blow of losing Benatia to Bayern Munich, it is clear that this squad is improved – to what level is the question at hand. The main issue for Roma is that they are missing some keys players and this could be the factor which tips the balance to I Bianconeri
Juventus have an injury headache with Martin Caceres and Alvaro Morata both doubts having picked up injuries in Champions League action midweek. Roma are still without Daniele De Rossi, Leandro Castan and Kevin Strootman.
What’s that? Oh aye, it’s the splinters in my arse as I predict a 1-1 draw between both sides. An early goal from Alessandro Florenzi will be cancelled out by Carlos Tevez and we’ll still not be able to separate both sides in the league. Given that Juventus never dropped a single point at home last season, this would be a sensational result for Roma.
90 Minute Cynic Prediction: Juventus 1 – Roma 1
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