Juventus
    02.04.2016 14:38 - in: Serie A S

    Ten things to know about #JuveEmpoli

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    From past meetings and unbeaten records to familiar faces and age-defying forwards, Juventus.com runs through ten must-know topics ahead of Saturday's clash with Empoli
    1) So far, so good

    While the Juventus and Empoli story has been a brief one, the two teams sharing the field just 19 times in their respective league histories since September 1986, it is one that has given Bianconeri fans plenty to cheer about.

    November’s 3-1 victory courtesy of strikes from Mario Mandzukic, Patrice Evra and Paulo Dybala was Juve’s 14th in 19 Serie A meetings with the Azzurri and their ninth in the last 11 since a 1-0 reverse in Tuscany in April 1999. 

    The reigning champions are in fact yet to lose to this evening’s opponent on home turf, winning eight and drawing one of the nine Turin encounters between the pair, with their two top-flight defeats coming at Empoli’s Stadio Carlo Castellani.

    Only Roma and Inter (both 15) have beaten tonight’s visitors more often than Juventus; a five-goal Bianconeri victory would however see Massimiliano Allegri’s men overtake the Nerazzurri as the side to have scored the most league goals against Empoli, a record which currently stands at 45.  

    2) The form book

    If the overwhelmingly positive tale of the teams’ previous encounters was not enough, Juventus and Empoli enter tonight’s fixture on the strongest and weakest runs of form in the league respectively.

    Where table toppers Juve have collected 58 points from a possible 60 since late October, Marco Giampaolo’s mid-table outfit are the holders of the division’s longest active winless streak (11), with eight of their nine domestic successes all coming before the turn of the year.

    As it happens, Empoli’s last league victory actually came in Turin in January’s 1-0 defeat of Torino at the Stadio Olimpico. 

    3) The proof is in the points

    Tonight’s encounter will present Juve with the opportunity to once again go six points clear of second-placed Napoli, a notion that seemed rather unlikely 11 games into the season.

    Allegri’s men headed south to Tuscany earlier in the term with just 14 points to their name; the Bianconeri have almost tripled that tally 11 matches into the second half of the campaign (31). In doing so, the champions have equalled their tally of 70 achieved at the same stage 12 months ago.

    Despite their poor run of form, Empoli have collected the second highest number of Serie A points after 30 matches in their history (36), 11 short of their personal best of 45 set in the 2006/07 season. 

    4) Last three line-ups
    5) Hold on to that lead!

    Perhaps the secret behind the vastly contrasting fortunes of tonight’s competitors has been their respective abilities in defending a lead.

    While Juventus have let just two points slip away having been in a winning position this season, Empoli have thrown away 18, more than any other team in the division. Curiously though, Giampaolo’s men have conceded the fewest times in Serie A in the final 15 minutes this term (three) so it is not as if his team tail off in the closing stages as one might expect.

    Instead, the time to strike for Juve tonight will be either side of half time (minutes 30-45 and 45-60), a period in which the visitors have shipped a staggering 22 of their 42 goals so far. 

    6) Empoli on the road

    The one positive to take from the pre-match figures for Empoli is undoubtedly their respectable form away from the Stadio Carlo Castellani.

    The Emilians join Bologna, Udinese and Chievo as one of only four teams to be stronger on the road than at home this season: their total of 19 away points this term sees them figure in the league’s top half.

    For the record, Juve’s 12 wins and a draw put them top of the away charts.  

    7) Strikers old and new

    They say that age is just a number and this particular adage is being soundly proven by Paulo Dybala and Massimo Maccarone with the two forwards leading the way in front of goal in their respective age groups. 

    Dybala, who turned 22 in November, became the youngest star in Europe’s top five divisions to have contributed to 20 or more league goals (14 strikes, eight assists) this season, while Maccarone, 14 years the Argentine’s senior, is the second oldest player to have scored and assisted ten times this term (11 strikes, two assists), a total bettered for productivity and for age only by Werder Bremen’s Claudio Pizarro. 

    8) Remember me?

    His calm, composure and remarkable consistency while on loan at Empoli last season earned him a move to Juventus over the summer and Daniele Rugani will have his eyes firmly trained on a successful reunion with his old team-mates this evening. 

    Such was his importance to former boss Maurizio Sarri’s plans, Rugani featured in all 38 of the Azzurri’s Serie A appointments in 2014/15 and has gone on to appear ten times for Juve this term.

    On the subject of ex players, it would be wrong to omit boyhood Bianconero Claudio Marchisio: the midfielder made his first 26 Serie A appearances in the blue of Empoli in the 2007/08 campaign, which remains the only one in which he hasn’t scored a top-flight goal. 

    9) Super Gigi (again)

    Likewise, it seems difficult not to mention fellow Juventus veteran Gianluigi Buffon at the moment. 

    Though his run without conceding a goal ended at a record-breaking 973 minutes against Torino two weeks ago, no other goalkeeper has kept more Serie A clean sheets than Buffon (257) since his emergence in the colours of Parma in the 1995/96 season.

    Super Gigi has 17 to his name this term, 11 of them coming since the turn of the year. 

    10) Last time out
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