In many ways, Saturday’s tie against lowly Pescara is the perfect opportunity for Juventus to bounce back from what can only be considered a sobering experience in the land of the beer halls on Tuesday. “Perfect” is always a dangerous word to use in this game, though, and exactly the “easy” nature of this game is the only real pitfall to steer clear of, if the Bianconeri are to remain on course for their 31st Scudetto over the weekend.
The Bayern tie obviously takes full priority still, as the 2-0 loss in Germany, albeit very difficult, is in no way impossible to overturn for Conte’s men. This means conducting that tightrope exercise between doing enough to secure a win whilst still saving as much energy as possible. It is exactly this type of challenges that this season has presented Juve with, and ones that should be overcome, perhaps even more in light of seasons to come than in this particular one.
It is the task of Conte to motivate his players enough to go out and beat the Dolphins while still making the required adjustments in terms of both personnel and energy levels. Not as easy as it sounds, perhaps, but the opposition considered, this shouldn’t be the sternest test the Mister has faced to date…
Even if the Munich Malaise will have left a dent in the confidence of the Juve players, it was hardly a disaster at any stretch. Bayern were favourites to win the tournament all along, and while the difference in quality seemed a bit frightening on the night, a few days of reflection should see the boys back and fired up, eager to show the real Juventus again, starting with a lesson in calcio for the last-placed Biancazzurri.
Antonio Conte has limited resources to work with though, as both Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini are suspended for this match, while Gigi Buffon suffers from “flu-symptoms” which hardly would have kept him out of an ice sculpturing competition where it not for the upcoming game…
At any rate, the absentees will see defence revamped completely, probably with Federico Peluso and Luca Marrone joining Leo Bonucci in front of Marco Storari. As a consequence of Peluso’s CB duties (Martin Caceres is still not fully recovered from his car accident), Kwadwo Asamoah is expected to get another shot at that left wing-back role in which he impressed so much early in the season before his performances began to fade. Stephan Lichtsteiner and Arturo Vidal will keep their usual places in midfield as both are sadly suspended for Wednesday’s match, while Paul Pogba is expected to fill in for either Andrea Pirlo or Claudio Marchisio in central midfield.
The strikers? Well, as ever, there is a myriad of opportunities – barring Nicolas Anelka who has had to take immediate leave due to an unspecified “family problem” – Mirko Vucinic could play to knock off some rust ahead of Bayern, but could just as well be rested for the same reason. Sebastian Giovinco could be a good bet starting as he is often very lively going up against provinciale defenders. Fabio Quagliarella scored a hat-trick at Pescara in the andate and did well against Inter, where both he and Alessandro Matri scored. So, there you have it; two of the aforementioned forwards should definitely start! Ultimately, a lot will probably depend on who Conte intends to field on Wednesday.
Another possibility for the starting XI is to include Emanuele Giaccherini (you know, the Azzurri stalwart) in case Pirlo and Marchisio are both rested. We could also see some of the guys further back in the pecking order, such as De Ceglie, Isla and the Padoin get a look-in, depending on how the match develops.
Pescara by Matt Statto
It’s no secret that Pescara’s first season since promotion to Serie A hasn’t gone exactly to plan. Propping up the Serie A table in 20th, the Biancazzurri have struggled all season long to find any sort of form and consistency. Struggling to score goals, struggling to prevent them going in too, Pescara lead the league in both the least goals scored and the most conceded – 21 and 61 respectively.
The departures of the likes of Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne have been costly, not to mention seeing the coach at the heart of their success Zdenek Zeman leave for Roma. The absence of both players and coach has been crucial in their inability to do anything more than make up the numbers this season. Most importantly though, the inability to show the ambition and desire to replace any of these individuals has proven costly, with Pescara choosing to pocket much of the fee received for selling Verratti and instead assemble their squad on a shoestring budget. It’s hardly surprising to see the Biancazzurri flailing at the foot of the table and on their way back down to Serie B.
Pescara’s form as of late demonstrates the sort of season they’ve endured – Six defeats in a row and twelve since their last victory, they’ve adapted to Serie A like a fish out of water. Little has been helped by their managerial situation. Starting the season with Giovanni Stroppa replacing Zeman, he’s since been sacked and replaced with Cristiano Bergodi, only to then sack Bergodi on March 3 and replace a coach once more. Regardless of the individual in charge, Pescara’s fate – barring a late season miracle – seems set in stone, perhaps it isn’t the fault of the coach?
Former Pescara player Cristian Bucchi now finds himself in charge, having been promoted from his role with the primavera and has looked to implement a style of play based on retaining possession of the ball using a 4-3-3 system. Against Juventus however, he’s stated his intention to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation, perhaps taking note from Bayern’s exploits against the Bianconeri in the Champions League.
However Pescara’s cause isn’t helped by a long injury list, with key players such as Gaetano D’Agostino, Vladimir Weiss and Antonio Bocchetti expected to be absent from their trip to Juventus Stadium. The bizarre situation surrounding the dropping of the excellent young goalkeeper Mattia Perin, has done little to help Pescara’s late season exploits either.
A clash between the league leaders and the side propping up the table should only have one feasible outcome – especially when you consider the 6-1 shellacking Juve gave Pescara earlier in the season and that the away side’s recent form.
However, nothing is to be taken for granted in Serie A, and considering the circumstances surrounding the match, the Dolphins will naturally be looking to pounce at any given opportunity to restore their hopes of salvation and claim the most prestigious scalp on offer.
For the Bianconeri tifosi, only one thing will count, though; to get the dominant, winning Juve back after the Red Scare of Tuesday. In order to face Bayern with the highest possible level of confidence, it is imperative that even a somewhat second-string side will put in an effort worthy of the Old Lady to restore belief in players and fans alike. To melodramatically quote The Cure song, which lent its apt title to this article:
“Come back come back
Don’t walk away
Come back come back
Come back today!”