Juventus will welcome bitter rivals Fiorentina to Juventus Stadium for matchday one of the 2016/2017 Serie A season this Saturday.
The Bianconeri are seeking to make it an unprecedented sixth straight Scudetto next year. However, as we all know, a season is a marathon, and not a sprint. Furthermore, Massimiliano Allegri’s side will want to avoid a repeat of what transpired last season.
At the start of the prior campaign, Juventus lost to Udinese on matchday one. It was the first time the Bianconeri had lost their season opener at home in their entire history. Of course, it turned out to be a moot point as they surged up the table to fend off Napoli, Roma, and Inter for the Scudetto. Nonetheless, La Vecchia Signora’s fans will still remember that match uncomfortably and will not rest easy until the final whistle arrives.
Just like last summer, Juve have been active in the transfer market. Paul Pogba was sold to Manchester United for €1105 million, whilst Gonzalo Higuain arrived from Napoli for €90 million. Both are record-setting fees. Pogba is now the most expensive player on the planet, whilst Higuain is the most expensive transfer between Italian clubs. Other notable additions include Miralem Pjanic from Roma, Dani Alves from Barcelona, and Mehdi Benatia from Bayern Munich.
Despite his mammoth fee, Higuain is not expected to start. Anyone who watched him in action during two friendlies for his new club can see he’s put on quite a few kilos. So, whilst they whip him back into shape, Mario Mandzukic will partner Paulo Dybala for this season opener. The two did combine well last season, and as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. However, Alves and Pjanic will definitely be in the starting XI. As for injuries and suspensions, the only player of note out is Claudio Marchisio, whilst Patrice Evra is not 100 per cent match fit.
As for Fiorentina, the Viola may have to make do without Borja Valero due to a sprained ankle. However, if he starts, then that will relegate Josip Ilicic to the bench. With Giuseppe Rossi back from his loan, he will likely start up top with Croatian striker Nikola Kalinic. It goes without saying that Fiorentina supporters will be happy to have him back – as in 2013, his brilliant hat-trick versus the Bianconeri helped turn a 2-0 half-time deficit into a 4-2 win.
Fiorentina will be definitely looking to Udinese for inspiration. They’ll need it. Despite beating the Bianconeri in the 2015 Coppa Italia – in Turin – clean sheets on the road have been hard to come by. In fact, the Tuscan side have not managed an away clean sheet since 1981. Meanwhile, both Dybala and Mandzukic have been pretty solid in pre-season, which does not bode well for the visitors.
Will Juventus avoid a second consecutive home opening loss? Or will Fiorentina kick-start their season with what would be a morale-boosting win?