Juventus
    Juventus
      07.11.2015 19.30 - in: Serie A S

      Three key #EmpoliJuve duels

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      With Empoli next up in the league for Massimiliano Allegri’s men, Juventus.com takes a look at three key duels set to take place this Sunday at the Stadio Carlo Castellani

      The Bianconeri arrive in Tuscany looking for back-to-back league wins for the first time this season.

      Standing in their way are Marco Giampaolo’s Empoli, who are eager to achieve the same feat following last weekend’s win in Palermo and continue their best start to a top flight campaign in nine years.

      With players inevitably looking to win their individual battles out on the pitch, Juventus.com takes a look at the key duels set to take place in Sunday afternoon’s encounter.

      Lorenzo Tonelli vs. Alvaro Morata

      Alvaro Morata has fine memories of playing at the Stadio Carlo Castellani, having scored on his only appearance at the ground just over a year ago.

      Incidentally, that was his second Serie A strike of last season and the Spaniard will be looking to add to his solitary league goal of the current campaign against the same opposition.

      Morata has been deployed on the left side of attack this term, using his pace and dribbling ability to stretch defences, while often opting to cut in and shoot with either foot.

      Attempting to stop him in his tracks on Sunday will be Lorenzo Tonelli. The right-sided centre-back has been a mainstay in Empoli’s rearguard since breaking into the first-team five years ago and his constant development reached a new level last weekend, as he captained the side for the first time in their 1-0 win at Palermo.

      Morata's heatmap against Torino shows him hugging the left flank.
      Tonelli keeps watch on attacks from Palermo's left side.

      First on the 25-year-old's agenda will be trying to keep Morata's eyes away from the target. The Spaniard is Juve’s most accurate striker, getting over one in every three of his efforts on target.

      Tonelli, however, will be no easy customer, as the man to have made Empoli’s most tackles (21), blocks (57) and interceptions (29) so far in 2015/16.

      Less positive, though, is his disciplinary record, having picked up more bookings (four) than any of his team-mates, which will have Morata looking to use his speed and trickery to get the better of his Tuscan marker. The frontman has been fouled on ten occasions in the league this year.

      Riccardo Saponara vs. Claudio Marchisio

      After recovering from injury in October, Claudio Marchisio has made his presence felt in central areas, particularly in terms of the greater protection he offers to Juventus’ backline.

      The Little Prince’s return to action coincided with his side’s three successive clean sheets, recorded against Inter, Borussia Monchengladbach and Atalanta, and his defensive contributions are also backed up by the fact that he boasts an 83.3 per cent success rate from tackles made this season – higher than any other team-mate in midfield.

      The 29-year-old is also an important cog in terms of building the play as one of his side’s key distributors, having made 303 passes in just four league appearances and completing an impressive 92.4 per cent of them.

      Marchisio’s defensive strengths will be called upon on Sunday, as one of the men tasked with nullifying the attacking threat posed by Riccardo Saponara.

      Marchisio runs the rule in midfield against Atalanta.
      Saponara is almost always in the attacking half against Palermo.

      The playmaker has been in fine form this term. Deployed in the trequartista position just behind forward pairing of Massimo Maccarone and Manuel Pucciarelli, the 23-year-old leads the way in Empoli’s scoring charts (four) and has also provided the highest number of assists (three).

      Starved of game time during his solitary season at Milan in 2013/14, Saponara made a healthy contribution upon rejoining the Tuscan outfit last year, netting seven times and creating four goals, as Maurizio Sarri’s men played a daring brand of football to stay clear of relegation trouble on their return to Italy’s top flight.

      Now, since the departure of Mirko Valdifiori to Napoli along with manager Sarri, the talented midfielder has taken on greater responsibility and plays an integral role in setting up scoring opportunities for team-mates (23 so far this term) as well as testing the keeper himself with 19 shots, of which 13 have been on target.

      Mario Rui vs. Juan Cuadrado

      If Valdifiori was the key man last year in terms of building the play, the focus has now shifted over to the left flank, where Mario Rui now runs the show for Marco Giampaolo’s men.

      The Portuguese full-back is a willing runner and, given half a chance, will roam forward to launch attack after attack. He has enjoyed over 937 touches this season – over 300 more than Tonelli, the second-highest team-mate in this category – while also making the most passes for his side with 593, of which 325 have come in the opposition half and 105 in the final third (all club records this term).

      The 24 year-old also leads the way for Empoli in terms of crosses (37) and his lethal combination of speed and trickery has drawn 36 fouls from opponents.

      Not only a threat going forward, Mario Rui is also a dependable member of his side’s backline, having won 95 per cent of his tackles and 73.5 per cent of 50-50s.

      Mario Rui builds the play down Empoli's left against Palermo.
      Juve prefer to attack down the right with Cuadrado against Torino.

      Occupying the same stretch of the pitch on Sunday will be Juan Cuadrado and the Colombian’s job will be to keep his opposite number more preoccupied with his defensive duties, thus preventing him from enjoying too much time on the front foot.

      The scorer of Juventus’ last-minute winner in the derby, Cuadrado currently sits joint-top along with Paulo Dybala in terms of Bianconeri assists (two) and will look to add to his key contributions at the Stadio Carlo Castellani.

      Like Mario Rui, he provides a wide threat with 20 crosses and has bamboozled defences into fouling him on 36 occasions so far in 2015/16.

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