Preview: Empoli vs. Juventus

Preview: Empoli vs. Juventus

Following three successive draws, Juventus travel to Empoli on Saturday in search of both three points to aid their top-four pursuit and a small slice of revenge.

Beaten by the Tuscan outfit back in August – kickstarting a remarkable Autumn period for the Serie B champions – the Bianconeri will now meet a nosediving home side at Stadio Carlo Castellani.

Despite the January signings of Capocannoniere contender Dusan Vlahovic and Switzerland midfielder Denis Zakaria apparently heralding a new horizon for Juventus, the Old Lady has once again started to falter in Serie A.

After relying on the unlikely source of Danilo to rescue a barely-deserved point away to Atalanta, the Turin giants were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw in the Derby della Mole last weekend – one of several failures to win by the division’s top sides.

Having seen Matthijs de Ligt’s early effort cancelled out by Torino talisman Andrea Belotti’s second-half equaliser, coach Max Allegri was under pressure to produce a positive result in Europe as Juve travelled to Spain in midweek.

While Vlahovic set them on the road to victory at Villarreal – scoring the quickest Champions League debut goal in history – Juventus were later pegged back to 1-1 in the first leg of their last 16 tie.

Allegri’s men were made to pay for their negativity at Estadio de la Ceramica, as they dropped deeper after seizing such an early lead, and then allowed Dani Parejo to drift past a number of defenders to fire home a crucial goal for the Yellow Submarine.

Nevertheless, Juve remain unbeaten in 90 minutes since November – only losing to Inter in the Supercoppa with virtually the last kick of extra time – and have not been beaten in Serie A for 12 matches.

Currently fourth in the standings, nine points behind leaders Milan and just three above Atalanta – who have a game in hand – they visit Fiorentina for the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final next week. Without doubt, Allegri will demand that they travel to Florence with three points added to their tally, given the predicament of Saturday’s opposition.

One of several peaks in the first half of their comeback campaign, Empoli shocked a newly Ronaldo-less Juve by winning 1-0 in Turin last August, but in recent weeks have seen themselves tumbling down the standings due to a series of draws and defeats.

Having now conceded 50 goals in Serie A – only rock-bottom Salernitana have fared worse in that regard – the Azzurri have not tasted victory since mid-December and are now mired in lower mid-table.

Sitting 13th heading into this weekend’s action, Empoli’s winless streak encompasses 10 league and cup games following a 2-0 defeat at struggling Sampdoria last Saturday, in which veteran striker Fabio Quagliarella put the hosts two up before half an hour had been played, and the visitors were unable to recover.

As Aurelio Andreazzoli’s side have shipped goals at a rate of 2.3 per game during their barren run, the visit of Juve’s expensively assembled attack will hardly be welcome this week – particularly as they have lost each of their last four encounters with the Bianconeri at Stadio Carlo Castellani.

With just three wins from 13 attempts at their Tuscan headquarters so far this term – conceding 34 times in the process – Empoli will certainly be up against the odds when they kick off on Sunday evening.

Empoli Serie A form:
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Empoli form (all competitions):
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Juventus Serie A form:
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Juventus form (all competitions):
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We say: Empoli 1-3 Juventus
Juventus will not make the same mistake twice against an ailing Empoli side, and with renewed coherence since the sides last met, should be able to breach their hosts’ flimsy rearguard on more than one occasion.

With the Azzurri in a downward spiral, they may have to change approach in order to arrest their decline, but even shuffling the pack would not stop Juve from claiming maximum points this weekend.

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