Seeking to replicate their European form on the Serie A stage after successive league defeats, Juventus host improving Fiorentina on Saturday evening.
The Bianconeri may have been comprehensive winners as they progressed in the Champions League during midweek, but have much catching-up to do domestically and trail the Viola by three points in the standings.
Leaving their domestic difficulties behind them on Tuesday, Juventus confirmed their qualification to the knockout stage of the Champions League, as Paulo Dybala scored twice to help defeat Zenit St Petersburg in Turin.
A 4-2 win over the Russian champions came after claiming maximum points from all three of their previous Group H fixtures without conceding a goal; a record which contrasts starkly with their form on the Italian peninsula.
Max Allegri’s side sit a remarkable 16 points off the top of the Serie A table, as Napoli and Milan streak off into the distance while they toil against some of the league’s so-called lesser lights.
The Bianconeri’s last-gasp loss to Sassuolo was considered a bitter blow, bearing in mind their recent upturn in results, but defeat away to Hellas Verona – managed by former Juve defender and discarded assistant Igor Tudor – left Allegri searching for a credible explanation.
Just a single point from their last three outings – Juventus had previously needed a late Dybala penalty to draw the Derby d’Italia with Inter – leaves the Turin giants in danger of recording their worst start to a Serie A season since the turn of the century, as they would have less than 18 points from their first 12 league games.
Furthermore, in 82 previous encounters with Fiorentina on home soil, Juve have never lost twice in a row, but could do so on Saturday following a 3-0 upset the last time the clubs met at the Allianz Stadium almost a year ago.
While there were no Viola tifosi present to witness that remarkable victory on enemy soil last December, it was wildly celebrated in Tuscany nonetheless, as Juventus represent perhaps Fiorentina’s bitterest rivals in Serie A.
The long-standing enmity dates back to some controversial clashes in the last century, while Juve have felt free to plunder their more modestly-funded counterparts for star players on a regular basis.
Roberto Baggio’s departure for Turin may have caused the greatest furore, but current Bianconeri boys Giorgio Chiellini, Juan Cuadrado, Federico Bernardeschi and Federico Chiesa were also spirited away from Stadio Artemio Franchi by the 36-times national champions in more recent times.
Fiorentina prepare for the trip north in good spirits, though, as their latest prized player – top scorer Dusan Vlahovic – netted a hat-trick in the 3-0 win over Spezia last time out, which followed the Serbian’s goal in a victory by the same scoreline a week earlier.
Though those successes were split by a 1-0 loss to Lazio, there is no doubt that the attacking potential at coach Vincenzo Italiano’s fingertips can help his hit-and-miss side rattle their more illustrious opponents this weekend.
With six wins and five defeats from their 11 top-flight fixtures so far, Fiorentina have proved one of the division’s more unpredictable teams under the highly-rated Italiano.
Following his admirable work at Spezia over the past two years, their new boss has helped the Tuscan team to post the second-highest possession figures in Serie A this season, while Vlahovic sets the tone in the final third. Such a potent recipe will have surely Juventus concerned ahead of Saturday evening’s clash.
Juventus Serie A form:
Juventus form (all competitions):
Fiorentina Serie A form:
We say: Juventus 2-1 Fiorentina
Having so far failed to cope with the pressure in the league, inconsistent Juventus can turn a page with victory over the Viola on Saturday.
Their attacking potential through the width of Fiorentina alumni Chiesa and Bernardeschi can trouble the visitors full-backs and create enough opportunities for the improving front pair to dispatch