Genoa v Juventus, Serie A, September 24, 2009
Serie A awaits a mouth-watering match-up on Thursday night as Genoa host Juventus in a midweek fixture that could go some way to establishing the relative merits of each side’s title credentials.
On goal difference only, Juventus lie second in the Serie A table just behind surprise leaders Sampdoria. Samp’s city rivals Genoa, currently holding down fourth-spot in the league, had been the previous pace-setters until the weekend when a 3-1 reverse at Chievo halted their own 100 percent run.
Genoa’s weekend defeat at the Flying Donkeys came off the back of a tough Europa League match against Sparta Prague, and the early-season fixture pile-up already appears to have made the Rossoblu troops look a little battle weary. But if they retain hopes of keeping pace with the front-runners in Italy this season and progress in the Europa League at the same time, they are going to have to get used to playing twice a week and recovering quickly.
Taking the previous defeat on the chin, Genoa coach Gian Piero Gasperini is expected to field a similar line-up that lost at Chievo against the Old Lady of Italian football. This means Genoa will likely line up in a 3-4-3 formation with ex-Juve forward Raffaele Palladino (11/4 to score) sent out to lead the line alongside Giandomenico Mesto (10/3 to score) and Sergio Floccari (7/1 to score first), at the expense of Rodrigo Palacio and Hernan Crespo (7/1 to score last).
In the centre of the park, 24-year-old Spaniard Alberto Zapater has impressed since his summer arrival from Real Zaragoza, and the upstart should continue his impressive partnership with fellow Moroccan newbie Houssine Kharja (7/2 to score).
On the downside, defender Domenico Criscito will be missing after receiving a one-match ban. Genoa will still be confident of keeping a watertight backline with Giuseppe Biava and the hugely promisingÂ 21-year-old Greek upstart Sokratis Papastathopoulos (6/1 to score) marshalling the home defence.
Since taking over in Turin at the end of last season, Ciro Ferrara has been blessed with the midas touch having steered Juve to six straight league wins. But life is slowly starting to get tougher, and with Bologna at home at the weekend followed by an away day in the Champions League at Bayern Munich Juve will have to start employing more of a squad game as matches come thick and fast.
Juve, who have Gigi Buffon in fantastic form having conceded just once so far this season, are likely to have right-back Zdenek Grygera absent following a thigh injury, so Martin Caceres should get the nod with Fabio Grosso continuing his impressive return to Italy since coming back from his time at Lyon.
With three goals in five league outings so-far, in-form Vincenzo Iaquinta (9/1 to score a brace) is set to start with a rejuvenated David Trezeguet (5/2 to score & Juve win) in attack. (9/4 for either Iaquinta or Trezeguet to score first.) Juve’s forward-line has been somewhat disrupted in the early parts of the season with Alessandro Del Piero sidelined with injury, while Amauri (7/4 to score) is currently majorly out of favour having not scored in Serie A in seven long months.
Elsewhere, Sebastian Giovinco (16/5 to score & Juve win) will again deputise for the missing Diego, while late fitness checks will be made on Fabio Cannavaro, Felipe Melo and Tiago.
This match presents Genoa with the opportunity to demonstrate whether or not that Chievo defeat was just a blip and that they really can mix it with the best, or whether their early season form was merely a false dawn. For Juventus, this game will show whether or not they have the capacity to go to tough away grounds and come away with the kind of results that turn pretenders into title challengers.
101predicts: Genoa 1 – Juventus 2
Full match odds here.