Juventus
    Juventus
      11.12.2015 13:00 - in: Serie A S

      Ten things to know about #JuveFiorentina

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      Passing perfection, familiar faces and 34th U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower: brush up your pre-match knowledge with these ten key facts about Sunday’s meeting with Fiorentina
      1) Juve's purple patch

      Fiorentina’s strong start to the campaign has propelled them to within touching distance of top spot and this is the first time since 1998 that they have been ahead of Juventus at this stage of the season. Nevertheless, the dominant colours in this fixture down the years have undoubtedly been black and white.

      As the Bianconeri and the Viola meet for the 153rd time in Serie A on Sunday, the champions will be hoping that previous encounters between the two mean more than just a nice historical quirk with which one can open a preview piece.

      The reason for that is that no one has beaten (70) or scored against (247) Fiorentina more times than the Old Lady with this weekend’s Juventus Stadium guests finding the net in just two of the last seven clashes with Massimiliano Allegri’s side.

      Better yet, of the league fixtures contested in Turin, the Bianconeri have won 50, building up and maintaining a 29-match scoring run against the Florence-based outfit in the process that stretches back to a 0-0 draw in November 1981.

      While Paulo Sousa’s side registered a 2-1 victory here last season in the Coppa Italia semi-final thanks to Mohamed Salah’s double, they have returned to Tuscany as victors just once (in March 2008) in 23 journeys to Italy’s north-west.

      2) 1953: the year of the zebra

      The year is 1953: Dwight Eisenhower is president of the United States, Ian Fleming has just penned Casino Royale, the first ever thriller in the James Bond series, and Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay are household names for becoming the first men to climb Mount Everest. 

      Before most of that happened, however, there was a bit of history being made on 22 February at Turin’s Stadio Comunale, as Juventus put eight past Fiorentina to inflict the biggest top-flight defeat on the Viola in the club’s history.

      Giampiero Boniperti (1’, 68’), Pasquale Vivolo (22’), Riccardo Carapellese (51’, 84’), John Hansen (60’, 75’) and Karl Aage Praest (78’) all found the net that day.

      3) Sunday summits

      This weekend’s encounter at Juventus Stadium brings together two of Italy’s most in-form teams not only this season (amassing nine wins between them in the last 11 league outings), but also in the calendar year as a whole. 

      Since 1 January, Juventus have gathered a total of 75 Serie A points, three more than second-placed Fiorentina (72). This means, of course, that a victory for the visitors would see them draw level with the Old Lady in what is the penultimate league fixture of 2015.

      Speaking of Sunday bests, those gathered at the home of the champions will see the top flight’s most prolific attacking force (Fiorentina, 30 goals scored) take on the division’s second most resolute defence (Juventus, 11 conceded).

      A top of the table clash in every sense of the expression.

      4) Sousa's striking sensations

      Clearly then, the Florentines have been finding the net for fun recently and they have been doing it for quite a while too.

      Last weekend’s three strikes against Udinese at the Stadio Artemio Franchi ensured that they kept up an impressive 22-match scoring run, currently the longest in Serie A.

      In that time, Sousa’s side have been on target 48 times, at an average of 2.2 goals per game. Significantly aiding their cause have been the contributions of frontmen Nikola Kalinic and Khouma Babacar. In Croatian Kalinic, Fiorentina can count on one of the league’s leading scorers (nine) with one of the best minutes to strikes ratios (109’). 

      Kalinic (right) trails Eder of Sampdoria and Gonzalo Higuain of Napoli with nine league goals this season.

      The ex-Blackburn man’s record is bettered, however, by team-mate Babacar, who has celebrated once every 90 minutes so far this season (four goals in 359 minutes on the field). 

      5) (Not) made in Italy

      In keeping with the same net-busting theme, Sousa’s team are one of only two clubs, alongside Roberto Mancini’s Inter, whose goals have only been scored by foreign players.

      As a result, the Viola have had a large hand in seeing players born outside of Italy (212) outscoring the natives (150) this term.

       

      As for Juventus, strikes by Simone Zaza and Stefano Sturaro away to Palermo at the end of last month ensure that the Bianconeri at least have two Italian representatives on their season’s scoresheet.

      6) The pass masters

      As two elegant and skillful midfielders, who relished being at the centre of the action, it should come as no surprise that the two teams coached by Massimiliano Allegri and Paulo Sousa are the division’s most accurate distributors of the ball.

      While Napoli top the charts for passes attempted so far in 2015/16 (9,551), Sousa’s men have been consistently more precise in possession, completing 88 per cent of their passes, with Juventus hot on their coat tails (86 per cent) in second place. 

      Borja Valero's average positions in Sunday's 3-0 win over Udinese. The Spaniard sets the tempo of Fiorentina's attacks.

      The Viola’s careful and prudent play is often orchestrated from deep by Borja Valero, with advanced midfielders Josip Ilicic, Matias Vecino and forwards Kalinic and Federico Bernardeschi the main beneficiaries.

      Should the Bianconeri succeed in cutting off the Viola’s attacks at their Spanish source and ensure that they defend the central areas in and around the penalty area, they will go a long way to nullifying the threat posed by their visitors. 

      Fiorentina rarely open up the play and attack from wide areas. Their total of 256 crosses at a success rate of 20 per cent puts them in the bottom quarter of the league. 

      7) Sousa's squad selections
      Sousa has kept the faith in his 4-3-3 system throughout the campaign.
      8) Have we seen you before?

      As for potential player reunions, five Bianconeri have history with the Viola. Neto (2011/12 season), Claudio Marchisio (while on loan at Empoli in 2007/08) and Giorgio Chiellini (2004/05) all made their Italian top-flight bows either for or against Sunday’s opponents.

      Marchisio, in particular, will have the fondest memories of all as his first ever Juventus goal sealed a 1-0 Bianconeri victory over the Viola in January 2009.

      Marchisio netted his first senior Juventus goal against Fiorentina in 2009.

      Brazilian Neto, a summer signing from Florence, alongside Colombian trickster Juan Cuadrado, both have greater ties with the club, however, having made 157 appearances between them in their respective spells at the Artemio Franchi.

      9) Down in the dugout

      Opposing managers Allegri and Sousa will be shaking hands for the first time ever on Sunday (well, in a professional capacity anyway, they may have met before in some way or another) as the Portuguese coach returns to Turin for the first time since playing a part in Juventus' Champions League-winning side of 1996. 

      Allegri, meanwhile, will be hoping to build on the four points earned against Fiorentina last season and continue to improve on his own personal record against them: the Tuscan tasted defeat five times at the hands of the Viola across his spells in charge of Cagliari and Milan. 

      10) Last time out...

      One penalty, five goals and all three points for the Bianconeri. Here’s how the last Juventus Stadium meeting between these two played out…

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