Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 8/11
Juventus are set to welcome AS Roma to the Allianz Stadium in Turin on Saturday afternoon, in what could be described as arguably the most interesting match of the 21st round in this season’s Serie A roller coaster.
Having dominated the landscape of Italian football for the last decade, Juventus have rarely been properly challenged in the Serie A title race. It could be argued that this campaign seems to their greatest challenge in that time yet.
At the moment, the Old Lady sit in in fourth place with 39 points, seven less than AC Milan at the top, five less than Inter Milan in second, and one less than Roma in third, though they have the benefit of a game in hand on all these teams. Looking below, they should be wary of Napoli (37 points, also a game in hand), Lazio (37 points) and Atalanta (36).
Juventus won five of their last six league outings, beating Udinese 4-1 at home, table toppers Milan away by 1-3, Sassuolo at home by 3-1, Bologna at home 2-0 and Sampdoria away 0-2. The only game they failed to win in that span was a 2-0 defeat away to Inter.
At the moment, Andrea Pirlo’s team are on the verge of reaching the Coppa Italia final, having avenged themselves on Inter by beating them 1-2 in the first leg of the semifinals. The rematch is set to take place next Tuesday in Turin.
In the Champions League, Juventus finished top of Group H, ahead of Barcelona, Dynamo Kyiv and Ferencvaros, and their set to face FC Porto in the round of 16.
Paulo Dybala has been missing through a medial collateral ligament injury since mid-January. The Argentine forward could be involved in this match, but it’s not very likely and Alvaro Morata will probably pair up with Cristiano Ronaldo upfront again.
Meanwhile, midfielder Aaron Ramsey missed the Coppa clash with Inter through a minor muscular issue, but he is expected to be fit to play on Saturday.
As has been said above, Roma are currently in third place with 40 points from 20 games, and even though it’s hardly a better position than the one Juventus are in at this point in the season, the difference in expectations makes this a fine output for the team from the capital. A good look at the general situation at the top of the table should tell you that they are very much in the title race, or as much in it as Juventus are, though unlike the defending champions, they’d probably be completely content with a place in the top four at the end of the campaign.
Roma’s last six matches in the league include a 1-0 win at home against Sampdoria, a 1-3 win away to Crotone, a 2-2 draw at home against Inter, a 3-0 defeat in the city derby (officially away) to Lazio, a 4-3 win at home over Spezia, and a 3-1 win at home against Verona – so all in all, four wins, one draw and one defeat. Not a bad run of form at all.
Paulo Fonseca’s team are competing in the Europa League this season. Having won Group A ahead of Young Boys, CFR Cluj and CSKA Sofia, they will now play against Braga in the round of 32.
Fonseca is expected to be without defender Chris Smalling and forward Pedro Rodriguez, both through muscle issues, and it’ll be a few months more before midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo is back from his cruciate ligament rupture.
Lorenzo Pellegrini and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are likely to play in support of captain Edin Dzeko upfront. Jordan Veretout is nailed on to start in the middle of the park, probably joined by Gonzalo Villar. In the absence of Smalling, Marash Kumbulla could play alongside Gianluca Mancini and Ibanez.
Juventus are the favourites to win pretty much any game in the Serie A, and despite Roma’s good form, this one is no exception. The three points are far from guaranteed against such opposition, but you might want to play the odds on this one.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 8/11
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