Serie A Week 26 – 28/2/10 (19.45 UK)
Juventus – Palermo
Just one point separates Juventus and Palermo in the battle for Champions League qualification, making this an irresistible showdown.
Juventus occupy the hallowed fourth position at present with 41 points, but Napoli, Palermo and Sampdoria are all only one point behind. Whoever wins in Turin will take pole position in this captivating four way contest, which should be one of Serie A’s most interesting storylines as the season comes to a close.
Juventus are slowly but surely getting back to their feet under the tutelage of Alberto Zaccheroni. The veteran tactician is unbeaten in his six games in charge of the Bianconeri, winning three, at home to Genoa, away to Ajax on Europa League duty, and away to Bologna last weekend.
It’s hardly champagne football from La Vecchia Signora, but Zac’s XI at least seems capable of grinding out results, something that couldn’t be said for Ciro Ferrara’s Juve. With the real Diego finally beginning to emerge Juve are slight favourites to win Sunday’s encounter.
Delio Rossi’s Palermo are formidable opponents however. Since replacing Walter Zenga in November Rossi has turned the Rosanero into genuine Champions League contenders. The Sicilians are unbeaten at the Renzo Barbera all season – only Scudetto chasers Inter and Roma have better home records – the problem is their away form. The Aquile have won just twice on the road this term, and conceded four goals in each of their last two away fixtures.
Their recent record against Juve is extremely encouraging though, with two of the last three League meetings going in the Rosanero’s favour. Davide Ballardini masterminded a 2-1 win in Turin last season, whilst Zenga led his charges to a 2-0 victory at the Barbera in Week 7 of the current campaign. Rossi will aim to maintain his predecessor’s proud record.
The home team’s Vincenzo Iaquinta, Sebastian Giovinco, Martin Caceres and Christian Poulsen are either injured or not fully fit and Claudio Marchisio is suspended. Amauri will also probably be unavailable, while Gigi Buffon has been ruled out for a month.
The visitor’s’ only absentee is the man who scored the winning goal in this fixture last season – Levan Mchedlidze.
Keep an eye on:
Diego (Juventus) – Slowly but surely the big summer signing is starting to shine. A goal last weekend and a great first half performance against Ajax on Thursday, this is the Diego who we were expecting.
Last five in Serie A: Juventus (L D D W W) Palermo (W L W L W)
Last season: Juventus 1-2 Palermo
Juventus (probable): Manninger; Cannavaro, Legrottaglie, Chiellini; Salihamidzic, Felipe Melo, Sissoko, De Ceglie; Diego; Trezeguet, Del Piero
Palermo (probable): Sirigu; Cassani, Kjaer, Bovo, Balzaretti; Migliaccio, Liverani, Nocerino, Pastore; Miccoli, Cavani
Ref: Paolo Valeri