Serie A Week 29 – 21/3/10 (19.45 UK)
Sampdoria – Juventus
Back in October, Juventus beat Sampdoria 5-1 in Turin. They were second in Serie A and being hailed as title contenders. What a difference five months make.
The Bianconeri are now on a mission to finish in the top four and qualify for next year’s Champions League after Europa League disaster. Ciro Ferrara has gone, but the change wrought by his successor Alberto Zaccheroni hasn’t exactly been revolutionary.
Juventus have steadied the ship. In fact, they had lost only one of their first 10 games under Zac before the 4-1 loss at Fulham, but points continue to be thrown away, no more so than against Siena last weekend.
The Bianconeri were 3-0 up inside 10 minutes at home to the relegation battlers, but somehow let them back in the game and were held to a disappointing 3-3 draw.
It represented yet another missed opportunity for Juventus, as Palermo had lost, so a victory would have allowed the Turin giants to break back into the top four for the first time in nearly a month.
When Siena switched to a 4-3-3 formation shortly after conceding their third goal, Juventus didn’t know how to react. Instead, Zaccheroni brought off Marchisio, the Bianconeri’s best player on the day, and replaced him with Mauro Camoranesi, exasperating his side’s problems in midfield.
Their preparation for Sunday’s game will depend a lot on how tired the players are after Thursday night’s capitulation in the Europa League – both physically and mentally. Sampdoria are just a point behind Juventus in Serie A and they will be hoping to take advantage of any fatigue in the opposite camp.
Gigi Del Neri’s side have lost just one of their last nine games in Serie A, although Sunday’s 1-1 draw away to Bologna came as a disappointment.
The Blucerchiati thought they had all three points in the bag after Daniele Gastaldello gave them the lead after 87 minutes. But Andrea Raggi equalised in stoppage time and the points were shared.
Of greater concern to Del Neri is the injury to Nicola Pozzi who could be out for the rest of the season with a serious knee injury.
The talented young centre-forward had been keeping Antonio Cassano out of the side by virtue of his work-rate and ability to put pressure on the opposition’s defenders.
Whether Cassano can start showing the same sort of form that was a hallmark of his performances at the start of the season remains to be seen. But Samp will be hoping he turns a corner and provides the spark that could ensure qualification to either next year’s Europa League or Champions League.
Keep an eye on: Antonio Chimenti (Juventus) – The veteran goalkeeper had a nightmare against Siena on Sunday, throwing away his side’s 3-0 lead, and let in four against Fulham. Will he leave Juventus fans ruing injuries to Gigi Buffon and Alex Manninger all over again?
Last five in Serie A: Sampdoria (W D L W D) Juventus (W W L W D)
Last season: Sampdoria 0-0 Juventus
Sampdoria (probable): Storari; Zauri, Gastaldello, Lucchini, Ziegler; Semioli, Palombo, Poli, Guberti; Pazzini, Cassano
Juventus (probable): Chimenti; Zebina, Legrottaglie, Cannavaro, De Ceglie; Marchisio, Melo, Sissoko; Diego; Del Piero, Trezeguet