A hotly-contested affair is expected – as always – when reigning Serie A champions welcome one of their biggest rivals AS Roma. The six-pointer ahead of us brings more than just bragging rights and a morale boost as it could have a big effect on current league standings.
Massimiliano Allegri adopted an important change in approach compared to last season. While Bianconeri were widely perceived as one of Serie A’s toughest defending sides, Juventus have now imprinted an image of a high-scoring side with 44 goals bagged in 17 matches thus far.
Juventus boss is taking full advantage of the rich attacking potential he has at his disposal with Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain flourishing upfront with 21 goals between them. Despite being slightly overshadowed by electric Napoli and resurgent Inter Milan thus far in the season, Juventus have made sure to keep pace in Scudetto race by beating Napoli early in December and holding Inter to almost no chances a week later. Without a single loss in a month’s time, Allegri’s men head into the big match against AS Roma with only one point shy of leaders Napoli and with a great desire to climb the top of the ladder if Partenopei fail to beat Atalanta earlier on Saturday.
Allegri is likely going to be without captain Gianluigi Buffon who is nurturing a calf injury, whereas the availability of Juan Cuadrado has also come into question. German defender Benedikt Howedes is a definite absentee due to his thigh injury.
Roles are reversed this season with two of Italy’s biggest rivals. Usually known for their impressive attacking exploits and high-volume football, Giallorossi have been reshaped into a tightly-packed unit who is currently revelling in the fact they’ve conceded the least number of goals (10) thus far in the season.
With Luciano Spalletti abandoning the ship for a move to Inter Milan, AS Roma turned to Eusebio Di Francesco who is universally perceived as an attack-oriented coach. Still, Giallorossi have had plenty of problems in organising the attack and mostly relied on individual efforts in front of goal. AS Roma did lose a cutting edge by selling Mohamed Salah to Liverpool during summer, while last season’s Capocannoniere Edin Dzeko is doing his best to keep the form up with 8 goals thus far in the season. AS Roma are heading into the big match on Saturday on the back of a slightly demoralising Coppa Italia defeat at the hands of Torino (1-2) and will face a challenge to lift the spirits up as they face another – but more illustrious – side from Turin.
Di Francesco will have to do without summer signing Rick Karsdorp and young defender Luca Pellegrini who are both suffering from respective knee problems. What’s more, Gregoire Defrel has had the same problem himself and could also be out of contention for Saturday.
Four of the last five meetings between Juventus and AS Roma have been won by a home side and that trend is highly likely to be extended. Whoever plays at home sucks up the energy from the stands to rise above the occasion and erase the current form for an inspired performance against fierce rivals. This time, however, both Juventus and AS Roma are enjoying a fine spell and should put in another memorable display.
Top pick: Juventus 1.83 (5/6) @StanJames
Alternative pick 1: Over 2.5 goals 2.01 (68/67) @188bet
Alternative pick 2: Paulo Dybala to score anytime 2.43 (10/7) @888sport