What: Italian Serie A
Who: Roma vs Juventus
When: Monday, 12th December, 2011, at 19.45 UK time
Where: Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy

Countering Turmoil

Roma are enduring a tough period. Last summer, when Luis Enrique was appointed as Giallorossi coach, he promised to create a “little Barcelona” in La Capitale but, after four months of controversial results stands at a watershed moment.

The Giallorossi lost in the preliminary round of the Europa League in August and, after some better performances in Serie A, were defeated in the Rome derby to Lazio and in an important clash at the Olimpico to reigning champions AC Milan.

Last week, Enrique’s men went down 3-0 in Florence and ended the match without three players as Brazilian centre back Juan, Argentine midfielder Fernando Gargo and Spanish forward Bojan Krkic saw red. Enrique was heavily criticised by the club’s fans and during the week met with the board and players – it was agreed that the match against Juventus will be decisive for the Giallorossi’s season.

Missing several key men, the former Barcelona B coach has to trust in club icon Francesco Totti as trequartista, with Erik Lamela and Pablo Osvaldo up front. Enrique is conflicted however over midfielder Daniele De Rossi – is it better to play the 28-year-old at the back or in his normal midfield role?

Scudetto Contenders Once Again

Antonio Conte’s Juventus are the surprise package of this season’s Serie A. The Bianconeri came into this campaign off the back of two consecutive seventh place finishes and restricted their ambitions to a Champions League spot for this year.

At the moment though, Juventus are title challengers and can return to the top of Serie A with a draw here. The Bianconeri have won a series of big battles so far, beating Milan 2-0, Inter 2-1 and Lazio 1-0. Conte’s men drew against Napoli but via a remarkable recovery, being 3-1 down with just 20 minutes left.

Now Juventus are aiming to win in Rome for the second time in two weeks to confirm their continued title push. Conte will opt for Alessandro Matri up front with Andrea Pirlo alongside Claudio Marchisio further back, the latter being one of the side’s key men.

Recent form

Roma 2-1 Lecce (19/11; Serie A)
Udinese 2-0 Roma (25/11; Serie A)
Fiorentina 3-0 Roma (04/12; Serie A)

Lazio 0-1 Juventus (26/11; Serie A)
Napoli 3-3 Juventus (29/11; Serie A)
Juventus 2-0 Cesena (04/12; Serie A)

Key absences

Roma: Juan; Fernando Gago; Bojan Krkic

Juventus: Mirko Vucinic

Players to watch

Roma – Pablo Osvaldo: The forward arrived in the summer from Espanyol and has shown fine skills, scoring spectacular goals, but also suffering from nervousness. After the match in Udine, Osvaldo argued with Erik Lamela and gave the Argentine a slap. He was left out for the game against Fiorentina immediately by Luis Enrique.

Juventus – Claudio Marchisio: This could be the Italian’s best season yet. Marchisio scored twice against Milan and has been central to Juventus’ superb form this year. He could also provide Italy coach Cesare Prandelli with a surprise option at Euro 2012.

Match Prediction

For both teams this is an important clash. Roma have lost six games so far and simply cannot afford to fail again. And so Luis Enrique will most probably opt for an unusual, for him, 4-3-1-2, with Totti behind Osvaldo and Lamela.

Conte changed his tactics early in the campaign and plays a more balanced 4-2-3-1. Juventus are desperate to be top of Serie A at Christmas, while Roma want to claw back ground on local rivals Lazio and establish themselves in a more comfortable position. Juventus though are in better shape. Roma 1-2 Juventus.


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