This weekend sees the latest instalment in one of Serie A’s most bitter rivalries, Juventus taking on Fiorentina at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
The Bianconeri are loathed by anyone who holds La Viola dear, the ethos of the two clubs so diametrically opposed that the game is always a hot-tempered affair in front of sold out stands.
A midweek win over Valencia ensured Juve will progress to the knockout rounds of the Champions League, but – even though they have just one defeat in all competitions so far this season, Max Allegri insists there is more to come from his side.
“We’ve been playing well but we could do better, some chances we should have stuck away,” the Bianconeri Coach told reporters on Tuesday evening.
“We’ve given the ball away a few times between the lines and conceded some dangerous free kicks. However, this team is constantly improving – they’re passing and putting play together more quickly.”
If that gives him hope, then his opposite number knows he must prepare his players for the challenge they will be facing on Saturday evening. “If there was a team that deserved the victory today, it was Fiorentina,” Coach Stefano Pioli told Sky Italia at the weekend.
“The lads mustn’t be depressed, as if we keep playing like this, we will get back to winning ways.
“It’s only natural that not getting results will make the players tense, but they are mature, despite their age,” he continued. “We have faith in everyone.”
Pioli’s comments were clearly aimed at raising the morale of his squad, something that has almost certainly took a dent as they remain winless since a victory over Atalanta in late September.
Their last five games have all ended in draws, the spluttering attack held to just four goals in their last six outings.
Meanwhile, Juve have been relentless both in Serie A and in Europe, winning 13 of their last 14 domestic outings and also boasting a fine record against the Viola.
Indeed, Fiorentina have won just one of their last six clashes with the Bianconeri, taking all three points in a superb display on home soil in January 2017.
As a result, it is no surprise to see – despite the hostile reception they will receive – the Turin giants favoured here in a game they will desperately want to win, and Juventus are available to do just that at a best-priced 13/20 with Betway.
Even though Fiorentina have struggled of late, the derby-type atmosphere surrounding this game is likely to see them raise their standards when they take on the Old Lady.
While they may have suffered at her hands, the Viola have almost always struck a blow, finding the back of the net in all but two of their last six meetings.
With Cristiano Ronaldo in their lineup, the Bianoneri have not struggled for goals either, as Giorgio Chiellini explained. “Keeping it tight at the back and keeping a clean sheet is the first step for us,” the Italy international told Sky Italia on Tuesday, “because we know that with all that quality we’ve got in attack, a goal will come eventually.”
He is unquestionably right, Juve scoring at least two goals in 13 of their last 14 Serie A matches, making it highly likely that the scoreboard will be busy come Saturday.
There is little doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo is enjoying life in Italy, the Portuguese megastar finding his form to weigh in with 10 goals and six assists in all competitions thus far.
Yet an unexpected side effect of his arrival has been a stunning return to form for Mario Mandzukic, who scored the only goal of the game against Valencia in midweek.
He also found the back of the net in his two previous outings against SPAL and AC Milan, the Croatian already scoring more league goals (6) in his first 10 appearances of this term than he managed in all of last season (5).
That is largely due to him spending much of the last two years in a wide role to accommodate Gonzalo Higuain, but now he is back in the centre and thriving and – having always been a player who has scored goals in bunches – it is well worth backing Mandzukic to maintain his form.
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