Juventus
    23.04.2016 18:55 - in: Serie A S

    Ten things to know about Sunday

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    League title permutations, key men and more in Juventus.com’s selection of ten key facts to know ahead of Sunday’s showdown at the Stadio Artemio Franchi
    1) Title permutations

    Let’s start with the question that is now at the forefront of everyone’s minds: where and how can Juventus be crowned champions and when is the soonest it can happen? 

    As it stands, the Bianconeri currently lead second-placed Napoli by nine points with four matches to play. A 24th league victory in 25 matches for Juve would mean that only a Napoli win on Monday afternoon against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico would take the title race down to the final three fixtures of the season. 

    Quite simply, Massimiliano Allegri’s men must better the Partenopei’s result in Rome to be mathematically sure of the Scudetto in the next two days. Should the leaders lose and Napoli win or draw, it would be possible for the title to be sewn up officially on home soil for the visit of Carpi the following weekend.

    All clear? Good. 

    2) A tough place to come

    Juventus have historically found it tough going at the city’s Stadio Artemio Franchi, a stadium at which they have won just once in their last four visits since a resounding 5-0 thrashing in March 2012. 

    Oddly, while no other side has scored more times (250) nor emerged victorious (71) on more occasions than Juve against Fiorentina, the Bianconeri do still a hold a negative overall record in ties played in Florence, winning 20 to the Viola’s 26 with the remaining 30 encounters ending in draws.

    As for penalty-box action, although two of the last three Franchi affairs have ended goalless, the pair have netted a total of 415 times between them in the history of this fixture at a lofty rate of 2.71 per game. With the league table as it is, even a high-scoring tie would keep the Old Lady in pole position for the Scudetto title. 

    3) A long five months

    On 13 December 2015, Fiorentina headed to Juventus Stadium just one point behind then pace-setters Inter and five clear of their hosts, themselves making early steps towards a record breaking 15 consecutive Serie A victories. 

    Fast forward five months and the landscape has changed beyond recognition. As the Viola and Bianconeri prepare to do battle this time, the latter lead the former by 23 points, an advantage accrued by the most productive 24-match run in the history of the competition (70 points from a possible 72).

    In that time, Sousa’s men have added just a further seven wins in contrast to Juventus’ 23 to slip out of the title race and into fifth, one place and two points adrift of Roberto Mancini’s Nerazzurri.

    The fact of the matter is that the following statistics prove not so much that Sunday’s hosts have drastically underperformed in the second half of the campaign, but rather that Juve’s exhilarating consistency has seized Scudetto hopes from the grasp of the chasing pack. 

    4) Franchi fortress

    With that in mind though, Fiorentina fans will be wondering what could have been this season had their team been able to build on their generally solid home form that has seen them pick up a respectable 37 points so far.

    In fact, Sousa’s side are unbeaten in seven at the Stadio Artemio Franchi despite having won just once in their last eight league outings overall: last weekend’s 3-1 victory over Sassuolo was preceded by three consecutive 1-1 draws at home to Sampdoria, Verona and Napoli.

    What the Florentines can be reasonably sure of, however, is at least one goal from their team; that success over Sassuolo ensured that the Viola have now scored in 21 consecutive matches in Florence, netting a total of 43 strikes in that time.

    As Juventus of all teams have shown this season, a steady supply of goals is not the be all and end all of a title tilt. 

    5) Quick out the blocks

    As noted by Massimiliano Allegri in his pre-match press conference, the Bianconeri will need to be on their toes right from the off tomorrow night against a side that has so far been at its strongest in the opening 30 minutes of matches this season.

    Josip Ilicic’s third-minute penalty at Juventus Stadium in December was one of 20 to be scored in the first half an hour by Fiorentina, a total bettered only by Roma (22) in Serie A. An early deficit shouldn’t necessarily throw Juve off course however, who hold the record themselves for strikes in the 15-minute periods leading up to both half and full-time (30).

    You may remember that Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala both struck to seal the points in the last 10 in Turin in this term’s previous encounter between the pair. Neat, eh? 

    6) Line-ups and team news

    Allegri will have just two confirmed absentees from his starting line-up in Florence tomorrow night with Claudio Marchisio out for the season and Giorgio Chiellini sustaining a light knee sprain in training on Saturday.

    If the boss’ pre-match press conference hints are anything to go by, Alvaro Morata, back from suspension, joins Simone Zaza, Mario Lemina and Kwadwo Asamoah in tussling for a starting berth with midfield mainstay Sami Khedira possibly rested and Stefano Sturaro set to miss the trip with a severe case of mumps.

    Fiorentina meanwhile will be without midfielder Matias Vecino due to a muscle problem sustained in their 2-1 defeat to Udinese during the week. He joins Khouma Babacar and Panagiotis Kone on the sidelines. Expect several of Sousa’s key names to reclaim their spots in the starting XI tomorrow having been rested in Udine. 

    7) The duck-breakers

    Predicting goalscorers is never an easy game, especially not when Juventus face Fiorentina.

    In recent encounters both in Turin and Florence, the likes of Simone Padoin and Leonardo Bonucci got their all-time Bianconeri tallies off the mark in 2012 and 2011 respectively, while Kwadwo Asamoah hasn’t scored since rifling home against the Viola in March 2014.

    The first of many mouth rinses for Leonardo Bonucci...

    What’s more, Fiorentina were also the opponents for the Ghanaian’s first ever league goal in Italian football in April 2009 while in the colours of Udinese.

    8) Dybala the home bird

    From one creator in chief to another: no Juventus player has scored or assisted more goals than Paulo Dybala this season (24) and Wednesday night’s brace against Lazio took the Argentine’s tally in all competitions to 20, one short of compatriot Carlos Tevez’s in his own first season in black and white. 

    Just five of Dybala's 16 league goals have come away from home however

    If La Joya is to draw level with and eventually overtake Tevez on Sunday night, he will need to do something he hasn’t done since February 7, find the net away from home.

    As it happens, just five of Dybala’s 16 league strikes have come on the road. Must be that electric Juventus Stadium atmosphere…

    9) Sousa's key man

    The timing of the goals at Juventus Stadium weren’t the only thing to have had an air of deja-vu about them: midfielder Ilicic has since gone on to take his spot-kick tally to seven for the season, just over half of his overall total of 13.

    While the Slovenian has been the Viola’s most dangerous player on paper, it is the deeper more subtle movements of Spanish playmaker Borja Valero that really make Sousa’s men tick.

    Borja Valero calls the shots in the Fiorentina midfield

    Operating in a free role in the spaces between the midfield and defence, Valero has created 69 scoring chances for his team-mates this term, the third highest figure in the division and is one of just three players to have completed over 1000 successful actions in the opposition half (1185). 

    10) Last time out
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