Preview: Juventus vs. Fiorentina

Preview: Juventus vs. Fiorentina

Holding a slim advantage from the first leg, Juventus will seek to finish the job against form side Fiorentina, in Wednesday’s Coppa Italia semi-final decider.

Following a last-gasp winner in Florence, the Bianconeri now aim to take one step closer to defending the trophy and ultimately extending their record haul to 15.

Exiting the Champions League to Villarreal and then slipping up twice in Serie A since the start of April sees Juventus staring at a season free of silverware for the first time in over a decade if they cannot claim the Coppa Italia next month.

Max Allegri’s men have not only seen their long unbeaten run in domestic competition ended by arch-rivals Inter, but were also held to a 1-1 draw by nine-man Bologna on Saturday – and even that result required the stoppage-time intervention of former Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic, who nodded in Alvaro Morata’s bicycle kick on the goal line.

Now eight points adrift of Milan at the Serie A summit, Juve’s objectives are merely to secure a top-four finish and to continue their supremacy in Italy’s national cup.

Winners over Atalanta in last year’s final, having lifted the Coppa in four consecutive seasons from 2015-18, the Bianconeri are specialists in this competition and recorded home victories over Salernitana and Sassuolo to reach the final four once again.

Though, since the first leg, Juventus have finally lost after a 16-match Serie A streak without defeat, they reprise their febrile relationship with Fiorentina having a vital away goal in hand: that rule will not be phased out until next season.

With a pair of one-goal wins coming courtesy of late strikes in both prior meetings this term, the Old Lady also hold a psychological edge in this match-up, partly borne of their ability to lure away Viola stars such as Vlahovic and Federico Chiesa.

Despite their dominance at the Allianz Stadium last month – when they fired in 22 shots at goal to their hosts’ tally of six – Fiorentina trail after the first 90 minutes of a tie that pits them together with opponents reviled since even before the controversial departure of Roberto Baggio’s ‘divine ponytail’ for Turin.

Given their rapid progress, though, under the progressive management of Vincenzo Italiano, the Tuscan outfit will not just be concerned with getting one over on their northern rivals, as silverware is in the sights of an upwardly mobile club.

Having overcome Cosenza and Benevento in the earlier rounds – which they took part in due to last year’s low league finish – successive away wins at Napoli and Atalanta brought them to the semi-finals, and Lorenzo Venuti’s own goal in the first leg remains one of few moments of regret amid a sparkling campaign.

After securing their third win on the spin by beating lowly Venezia last Saturday – also their fourth from the last five – Fiorentina have not only gone unbeaten since losing out in the first leg, but also sit sixth in the Serie A standings, having inched ahead of Lazio and Atalanta.

They are, therefore, in contention for a return to European competition next term, where their brand of front-foot football would surely make a big impression on the continental scene.

Making light of the budget deficit between them and Juve, the Viola have actually outscored Wednesday’s opponents in the league – Vlahovic, of course, previously played a large part – but in contrast to the second-best home record in Serie A they tend to struggle away from Florence.

Juventus Coppa Italia form:
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Juventus form (all competitions):
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Fiorentina Coppa Italia form:
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Fiorentina form (all competitions):
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We say: Juventus 1-1 Fiorentina (Juventus win 2-1 on aggregate)
An intriguing tie between two very different sides will decide who claims a place in next month’s final against either Milan or Inter, and the hosts’ greater nous and knowhow could be enough to help them make it through to Rome.

Though the Allianz Stadium is no longer a stronghold for the Bianconeri – who have lost there five times in a season for the first time since its inauguration 11 years ago – a draw would secure aggregate victory and extend the Viola’s Coppa Italia drought dating back to 2001.

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