Empoli will need nothing short of a miracle to manage to see off Juventus at the Stadio Carlo Castellani this Sunday.
Only Crotone – who sit in 20th – have fared worse than the Azzurri. It may be in the earlier part of the season, but Empoli are already shaping up to be one of the sides locked in a relegation battle. To complicate matters, an injury crisis has stripped them of several defensive options. Both Vincent Laurini and Andrea Costa are out, as is probably Federico Barba, who could have served as an alternate choice. As such, this will likely force Giuseppe Bellusci to feature – despite he himself not being 100 per cent.
Suffice it to say, this could not come at a worse possible time for an already floundering side. Empoli have not beaten Juventus in quite some time. In fact, December 2007 was the last time they picked up a victory, and if one wants to find their last Serie A triumph, try going back to April 3, 1999.
Failing to score in all but one of their past six Serie A games does not bode well for a team welcoming a Juventus side starting to kick into another gear. The Bianconeri were far from their very best against Palermo, but really turned it up a notch as they cruised to a 4-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb. The Croatian champions really were second best from start to finish, and the score-line could have been even more disgraceful were it not for La Vecchia Signora scuffing some chances.
Juventus are not just chasing an unprecedented sixth straight Scudetto, but they also want to finally end their two-decades long wait for a Champions League trophy. Massimiliano Allegri’s men will have to make do without Kwadwo Asamoah, Claudio Marchisio, Mehdi Benatia, and Daniele Rugani, but should still come away as the victors from this fixture.
It will be very interesting to see how – and if – Allegri opts to rotate his attacking options. During the clash with Dinamo Zagreb, he decided to go with Argentinian duo Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain from the start, whilst Croatian pair Marko Pjaca and Mario Mandzukic were brought on as substitutes to face their former side.
As such, Allegri may opt to mix things up a bit. Or he may simply stick with his slowly growing-preferred strike duo of Dybala and Higuain and then bring on the two Croatian internationals. Whatever he does opt for, one thing is certain: Empoli will surely need all the luck they can get to get anything out of this fixture.