Following a disappointing draw at home to Genoa, Juventus faces Lazio away in the 2nd leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals. The Roman side came away with a decent 1-1 away draw last week, thanks to Stefano Mauri’s late goal. The winner of this tie will move on into the final to face the winner of the Inter-Roma semifinal.
Lazio are unquestionably the most underrated team of the 2012-2013 season. The team started off with the relatively unknown Swiss coach Vladimir Petković, who has taken the Eagles to a new level. The team has 3 winning streaks of 3 matches or more and boast the league’s 3rd stingiest defense. They do not play a naive form of attacking football, unlike their city cousin’s, but a very pragmatic one that gets results.
As stated, Lazio’s base of success resides in their strong defense. This does not come from a few individual superstars at the back, but rather, a collective fortress formed by the entire team. At times they certainly do play defensive, but their resolute defending is admirable even so. Their defense played well at the Juventus Stadium, although it was bailed out on a few occasions by the superb form of Lazio keeper Federico Marchetti.
If Juventus has been profligate in their attacking season, Lazio have been the opposite. Primarily a counter-attacking team, they do not get an enormous amount of chances to score, but their forwards convert. Miroslav Klose and Hernanes both already have double digit figures, the second year in a row for both and they are on track to beat their personal records last season.
The Coppa Italia is clearly a priority for Lazio – while Juventus rested a number of starters for the Coppa tie, Petkovic in fact didn’t even call up some of his starters for the Serie A match against Chievo this weekend. Hernanes, Ederson, and Klose were omitted from the team, and they went on to lose to Chievo 1-0 at home, snapping a 16 game unbeaten streak. Expect to see a number of starters back in the lineup, and some real desire to win the match.
The Bianconeri are coming off an incredibly disappointing draw at home to Genoa. For the umpteenth time in recent weeks, Juventus conceded a goal after being up and failed to secure all the points. There’s turmoil at the club, as a number of Juventus players (Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Mirko Vucinic) and management figures (Antonio Conte, Beppe Marotta) have been issued bans for their complaints over Guida’s refereeing at the weekend.
The refereeing was undoubtedly atrocious, and Juventus should be angry. But rather than go on national TV and throw out a variety of insinuations, the club should show the anger on the pitch, like they did demolishing Nordsjaelland after a very depressing home loss to Inter in the league. The performances in the Coppa Italia have not always reflected the same intensity as the Serie A matches, hopefully the team will channel their anger into Tuesday’s match.
Juventus have issued their callups for the match, and there are a number of returning faces. Andrea Pirlo returns after being out with a calf injury, whereas Alessandro Matri and Sebastian Giovinco, both called up for the Genoa match but omitted from the starting lineup, are in better health and could start from minute one. The only missing players are the long-term injuries, namely Giorgio Chiellini and of course Dutch enigma Nicklas Bendtner.
Thus far, Antonio Conte has put his faith in the reserves in the Coppa Italia. Marco Storari, Emmanuele Giaccherini, and Luca Marrone have seen significant playing time, and it’s unknown whether Conte will continue to practice rotation or field a strong XI for this decisive encounter.
We may see a hybrid – important players like Andrea Pirlo may return, but there will be space for players like Emmanuele Giaccherini with Conte hesitant to tire out Arturo Vidal or Claudio Marchisio. Up top, all 4 main strikers are ready to go. Thus far, Vucinic has been rested for Coppa Italia games but sent on to be decisive when the result is still in balance. It’s hard to decide who will play of the trio of Fabio Quagliarella, Matri, or Giovinco – based on who’s lower in Conte’s preferences, it’d probably be Quagliarella-Matri.
This will not be an easy match – Lazio are a formidable opponent, particularly at home, and they value the Coppa Italia more than Juventus. With a 1-1 away result, the Eagles have the advantage in the tie. But if there’s anything we’ve learned from Antonio Conte’s tenure at Juventus, it’s that Juve never gives up.