Juventus
    09.12.2016 20:00 - in: Serie A S

    #TorinoJuve: Match Preview

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    Potential heroes, past encounters, stand-out stats: all bases covered in our preview of the 143rd league meeting between Torino and Juventus
    FOR THE 143RD TIME...

    There’s nothing quite like a local derby, especially when it comes at a time when its competitors are both in form and in relative proximity to each other in the league table.

    Sunday’s 143rd Derby della Mole pits Juventus, top of Serie A, against Torino, enjoying their best start to a domestic campaign in over ten years, at the Stadio Olimpico in what promises to be one of the tightest contested encounters between the pair in recent history.

    When it comes to the big day itself, Turin remains a city dominated by Juve, winning 66 and drawing 41 of a possible 142 opportunities for the seizing of bragging rights. The Bianconeri have triumphed in just under half of the derbies played on Toro turf (29 from 71), including last season’s memorable 4-1 thrashing in March.

    Sami Khedira celebrates the second of four goals at the Stadio Olimpico last season

    The champions’ 2-1 defeat to the Granata two visits ago in April 2015 means that only one of the last seven cross-city meetings haven’t gone the way of the Old Lady.

    As it happens, Juve are four from six against Torino in matches played in December, something to bear in mind on a day where pre-match rituals and superstitions become all the more significant.

    on paper? a potential classic

    The saying goes that form plays little or no part in the outcome of a derby but it is that same form that makes this year’s clash all the more enticing.

    With Champions League qualification safely stowed away in anticipation of Monday’s last 16 draw, Massimiliano Allegri’s men are now free to focus attentions solely on extending their current four-point lead at the top of Serie A.

    With UCL qualification in the bag, it's all eyes on Serie A for now

    Saturday’s success over Atalanta saw the Bianconeri return to winning ways in timely fashion; two more victories over Torino here, and Roma the following week would put them in an excellent position going into the New Year.

    Anecdotal evidence however would suggest that they have struggled in matches immediately after midweek European fixtures – their three league defeats so far coming away at Inter (post-Sevilla), Milan (post-Lyon) and Genoa (post-Sevilla) – so must approach Torino with caution this weekend.

    With five wins and two draws, Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side are yet to lose at the Olimpico this term, putting five past both Bologna and Cagliari and powering past Roma in late September on the way.

    Considering that Torino have scored from open play more times than any other team so far (24) and fixtures involving only Cagliari (55) and Roma (51) have produced more goals overall (50), entertainment has not been in short supply for home supporters.

    While far from leaky at the back, il Toro have however conceded in all but one of their home matches this season – a 0-0 draw with Empoli – so there should be a decent number of opportunities to test goalkeeper Joe Hart, especially if the creative forces of Miralem Pjanic, Paulo Dybala and Alex Sandro coincide on Sunday.

    Key men  

    Derby days are made for heroes and with the forward lines of both teams either returning to top form or already in top gear, a high-scoring affair could be on the cards. In Andrea Belotti, Torino can count on one of Serie A’s leading marksmen this term both for quantity (10) and frequency (averaging a goal once every 109 minutes).

    Flanking the powerhouse Italian are tricky wingers Iago Falque and Adem Ljajic, weighing in with seven and five goals respectively, the latter either scoring or assisting eight times in his last eight matches.

    In the black and white corner? Few strikers are in better physical and mental form than Mario Mandzukic at the moment. Five goals and one assist in his last six games saw the Croatian deservedly scoop Juve’s MVP award for November and the way in which he has started this month has already made him an early frontrunner for December.

    Gonzalo Higuain, the Bianconeri’s top scorer with 10 strikes in 20 outings, burst emphatically back onto the scoresheet against Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday and won’t need a second invitation to double his tally for the week on Sunday.

    Elsewhere, Dybala shone brightly in his ten-minute comeback cameo and is expected to feature at some point this weekend while the precision of Pjanic ensures that the visitors pose a goal threat from any set-piece in the final third. The Bosnian has had a hand in six of his team’s last 14 goals in Serie A.

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