Two giants of Calcio clash in the Sunday evening kickoff upon the resumption of Serie A, as Juventus welcome Roma to Turin.
While Juve’s recovery from a sluggish start to the season gathered pace before the international break, their visitors have been largely impressive since the appointment of Jose Mourinho and sit fourth in the standings – four points above the Bianconeri.
When midfielder Manuel Locatelli struck the winner four minutes from time in the Turin derby a fortnight ago, not only did Juventus continue their customary dominance over city rivals Torino, but they also moved above the Granata into the top half of the table.
Furthermore, keeping a clean sheet in the Derby della Mole halted an unedifying run of conceding goals in consecutive matches, a streak which was stopped just short of a club record 21 straight league outings.
While such defensive deficiencies would have been unthinkable in the first reign of head coach Max Allegri, since he departed to be replaced by Andrea Pirlo in a failed experiment and then returned this summer, Juve have been in flux at the back, with their identity as an impenetrable force severely diminished.
An impressive old-school resistance against Chelsea in the Champions League, plus success in the derby meant back-to-back blanks for the side which are now up to eighth in Serie A, but still seven points adrift of the summit.
Four straight wins have released a little of the intense pressure building around the cool-headed Allegri and his charges, providing a platform for them to tackle one of their most challenging contests of the campaign so far.
Though the Bianconeri are traditionally dominant against Roma at the Allianz Stadium – having won nine of their 10 league encounters played at the venue – they will take to the field on Sunday trailing their capital counterparts in the standings and wary of their potent attacking threat.
In fact, among the teams he has faced more than three times as a manager in Serie A, Roma are the one against which Allegri has the lowest win percentage – just 35% – and he will find himself up against a wily old competitor in the opposition dugout, who is intent on worsening that record.
Having bounced back from the bitter disappointment of losing the Derby della Capitale to Lazio with a Europa Conference League win and victory over promoted Empoli – previously victors versus Juventus – the international break paused a positive spell for Roma under Jose Mourinho.
The Portuguese master’s return to Serie A has engendered fresh enthusiasm in the capital, and though they still trail both Milan clubs and flawless Napoli in the early stages of the Scudetto race, hope of a concerted challenge for the championship remains intact.
While Roma have now won six successive home games, they have underwhelmed as the away side this year, under both Mourinho and his predecessor Paulo Fonseca. The Giallorossi have lost nine away games in the league during 2021, and the last time they lost at least 10 in a calendar year was in 2012 – before that, in 1977.
Their attempts to rise above mediocrity under ambitious owners and a single-minded manager will continue to be hamstrung if they cannot end such a malaise, and a statement win in Turin this week could prove a catalyst for better times on the road.
There could be no better timing for a morale-boosting victory, as they face a trip to Norway in the Europa Conference League next week, before welcoming southern rivals Napoli to the Olimpico next weekend.
Juventus Serie A form:
Juventus form (all competitions):
Roma Serie A form:
Roma form (all competitions):
We say: Juventus 1-0 Roma
Though far from the finished article, as they undergo what is sure to be a challenging period of reconstruction post-Cristiano Ronaldo, an improved Juventus can keep out Roma for 90 minutes and continue their supremacy over the Giallorossi on Turin turf.
Mourinho’s men are still somewhat brittle on their travels, and an appalling record at the Allianz Stadium is unlikely to improve on Sunday night.