It goes without saying that it will be a tough task for the Viola. Paulo Sousa’s side have won just one out of their past five matches and come into this game having suffered a 2-1 defeat to Udinese. Currently in fifth, Fiorentina are still in contention for Europa League football and enjoy a comfortable lead over AC Milan. They are also still within touching distance of Inter and fourth place, which would guarantee them automatic qualification for Europe’s second-tier competition for next season.
However, their inconsistent form will certainly be a major source of worry for Fiorentina fans. Fortunately for the hosts, they will only be missing a handful of players for today’s match: Khouma Babacar and Yohan Benalouane both sit out as a consequence of injury. Moreover, despite Juve’s impressive form, Fiorentina are no strangers to pulling off impressive results against the Turin giants.
Flash back to March 5, 2015. During the 2014/2015 Coppa Italia, Mohamed Salah (now with Roma) netted a brace at Juventus Stadium, which was enough to give the Viola a 2-1 first leg lead. More important, that result meant that Fiorentina became the first Italian side to win at Juventus Stadium – despite not being enough to ultimately knock the Bianconeri out of the competition.
And on October 20, 2013, Giuseppe Rossi’s hat-trick exploits were enough to inspire the Viola to turn a 2-0 deficit into an eventual 4-2 defeat to shock the Turin giants, who were then led by Antonio Conte. Of course, it was not enough to prevent Juventus from winning the Scudetto, and even if Fiorentina do win today, it is unlikely to prevent them from winning yet again. However, it would certainly go a long way in boosting the team’s confidence – something that they will desperately need if they want to turn around their bad form to finish this campaign on a good note.
As for Juventus, where to begin? The Bianconeri have been simply unstoppable. Massimiliano Allegri’s men cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win over Lazio and set a new club record for nine consecutive clean sheets at home. La Vecchia Signora are now nine points clear at the top of the table. And should Roma do them a huge favor and beat Napoli on Monday, they could extend that to 12 and effectively end the Scudetto race with a couple of games to spare.
Whilst they will welcome Roberto Pereyra back into the fold, Giorgio Chiellini suffered another injury setback and so will not be able to feature. Stefano Sturaro is out due to a ban. Alvaro Morata, however, now will be eligible after serving a suspension of his own,but Allegri will likely start with Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic again up top. Both the Argentinian and Croatian internationals were responsible for all three goals against the Aquile earlier this week (with Dybala netting a brace).
Back-up goalkeeper Neto is still out, as are, of course, Claudio Marchisio and Martin Caceres. However, as Juve have shown, they clearly have the squad depth to compete with any side in Italy and on paper at least, should have no trouble dealing with a Fiorentina side still struggling to right their wobbly ship. Expect the Viola to pose some trouble, but ultimately Juventus to come out on top as they continue their march towards a fifth consecutive Scudetto as we near what has been a very interesting edition of Serie A thus far.
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