Hoping to parlay a record-breaking past year into a successful 2013, Juventus will host Sampdoria in Torino. The winter break has concluded with the team eight points clear at the top, but things look to only get tougher for the Bianconeri as a loaded schedule awaits.
The knockout rounds of the Champions League start next month as well as the same phase of the Coppa Italia – the next match of which is to begin this upcoming week versus a Milan side which handed Juve one of two defeats thus far – meaning returning
Douglas MacArthur Antonio Conte will certainly have his work cut out for him. He still has not having tasted defeat in Serie A while sitting on the Juve bench, but his calendar this year will be far more packed than this point in 2012. For the Epiphany, La Befana decided give Conte a three-front war to fight.
Coming off the heels of relegation, things have not been easy for Sampdoria. They’ve lost 10 of 18 matches and sit just 2 points clear of the relegation zone, 6 ahead of last place Siena. They’ve further lost their last three in a row, and have sacked old friend Ciro Ferrara due to the poor results thus far. New coach Delio Rossi perhaps has it worse off for different reasons as he brings his team to Turin to check out the Juventus Stadium for the first time ever, and will have to do without Enzo Maresca and Maxi “remember when Milan signed me for a minute?” LoLopez.
Juventus, meanwhile, have won four in a row, each of which were the first four games since Conte’s farcical suspension ended. Conte, however, will have to do without several key players at a crucial point in the year – particularly if his dreams of achieving a double are to come to fruition. Tomorrow he will be without Stephan Lichtsteiner, who did the Lichtsteiner thing and accumulated that yellow card too many last game, while Giorgio Chiellini will be out injured for the foreseeable future, Mirko Vucinic looked to be in doubt with a knock (but according to more recent reports could feature), and Kwadwo Asamoah is with his Ghanaian National Team for the African Cup of Nations. Simone Pepe continues his (far less egregious) Jorge Martinez impersonation, while Niklas Bendtner is doing me a favor and making me forget that he ever existed in the first place.
While I find it likely that the Blucerchiati will line up in that manner, I am not exactly convinced on the Bianconeri’s formation just yet. Throughout his tenure, Conte has demonstrated his willingness to switch up the formation based on the personnel available to him at game-time, and has dabbled in a 4-3-3 type formation as recently as this season. With Lichtsteiner and Chiellini out, it may make sense to switch from a three man backline dependent on three center backs to a four man backline where two are needed. Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci can command the center. Although he can and frequently will fill in at center back, Martin Caceres can move to right-back, arguably his best position, with Paolo De Ceglie on the opposite side, arguably his best. Conte could even turn to newcomer Frederico Peluso, who despite having just arrived is a natural left back in a four man backline, and familiar with Conte’s tactics having worked under his tutelage while the latter was at the helm of Atalanta. The probable lineup is thus listed as predicted by virtually all the other news sources, but do not be surprised if a 4-3-3 formation with the above-mentioned back-line, the M-V-P trio remaining in tact in the middle, with some combination of Alessandro Matri, Sebastian Giovinco, Emanuele Giaccherini, Fabio Quagliarella (if he’s out of Conte’s dog house), or, if indeed fit, Vucinic up top.