Separated by four points and as many places in the Serie A standings, Juventus and Atalanta BC meet in Turin on Saturday, with the hosts seeking to make up lost ground on their rivals.
Though the Bianconeri – already qualified thanks to a previously flawless record – were thumped by Chelsea in the Champions League, they have won both of their last two league games. Their visitors, meanwhile, sit fourth after a six-game unbeaten run.
Despite meekly succumbing to a revenge mission by the European champions on Tuesday, qualification to the Champions League last 16 had already been assured by Juventus after the first four games of a continental campaign which contrasts starkly with their league form.
Therefore, a 4-0 humbling at Stamford Bridge may not overly concern coach Max Allegri, who had previously steered his side to two hard-fought victories in domestic competition either side of the international break.
Juve ended a three-game winless run in Serie A with a home victory against 10-man Fiorentina at the start of November – registering Allegri’s 200th win at the club in the process – and they followed that up with a 2-0 success against Lazio last weekend, when a penalty in each half from stand-in skipper Leonardo Bonucci secured three precious points.
Signs of a revival are possibly emerging, as over their last nine league matches, Juventus have gained 19 points: one more than Saturday’s opponents and only fewer than Milan and Napoli during that period.
Nonetheless, they sit eighth in the standings – 11 points off the summit – and are in need of an extended run of consistency following a stuttering start marked by defeats to Empoli, Sassuolo and Verona.
Precedent is certainly in favour of Juve making it three on the spin this weekend, as they are unbeaten in their last 24 home games against Atalanta in Serie A – winning on 18 occasions. However, that may count for little when they come face to face with one of Calcio’s form sides, who remain unbeaten on the road.
Travelling to Turin with a record of five wins from their first six Serie A road trips this term, Atalanta should be cautiously optimistic of ending their barren run on opposition soil in this fixture.
Such form has contributed to La Dea maintaining a top-four slot heading into the hectic winter period, but a series of draws have undermined their efforts to push on and challenge for the top honours at home and abroad.
After being held in league games against Udinese and Lazio in recent weeks, Atalanta have also dropped nine points from leading positions in the Champions League, including two capitulations to Manchester United.
Their latest failure to secure maximum points came away to Young Boys in midweek, when Gian Piero Gasperini’s men were twice pegged back by the hosts, before supersub Luis Muriel had to intervene with a late free-kick in order to salvage a 3-3 draw. Therefore, the Bergamaschi will face a decisive clash for a place in the knockout stages with Villarreal early next month.
Though they have drawn three of their five group games in pursuit of a third consecutive qualification for the last 16, Atalanta are faring better in the league, and back-to-back wins against lowly Cagliari and Spezia keep them in contention for a wide-open Scudetto race.
A tally of 17 goals from their last six outings in all competitions suggests that they are also back to their free-scoring best, and they have netted twice the number of open-play goals that Juventus have managed in Serie A this season, ahead of the clubs’ clash at the Allianz Stadium.
Juventus Serie A form:
Juventus form (all competitions):
Atalanta BC Serie A form:
Atalanta BC form (all competitions):
We say: Juventus 1-1 Atalanta BC
Despite their stumble in Switzerland this week, Atalanta’s away form this season has been mightily impressive, so they can take a point home from Turin to keep Juventus at bay in the ongoing contest for a top-four position.
La Dea’s customary attacking width can cause problems for an often unbalanced Juve midfield, but they may come up just short of a first win at the Old Lady’s home ground since the turn of the century.