29 January 2016
Juventus will travel to Verona to face Chievo on Sunday afternoon to write the next chapter of one of the shorter volumes of the respective clubs’ histories, having crossed paths just 25 times in total.
As one of the top-flight’s most elderly and prestigious representatives, Juventus took it upon themselves to welcome Chievo to Serie A following their historic promotion from Serie B in 2000/01 the only way they knew how: by beating them.
Specifically, the Gialloblu lost all of their first nine encounters with the Bianconeri, including resounding 1-3 and 1-4 home defeats in 2002 and 2003 and since then the story has largely been the same with a handful of exceptions.
In the ensuing 12 years, Juve have added a further eight league victories to their tally, drawing three (including last September’s 1-1 stalemate at Juventus Stadium) and losing once along the way.
In fact, Peparim Hetemaj’s strike in Turin earlier in the season, his first ever in a yellow and blue jersey, was enough to end the Bianconeri’s run of six consecutive victories against Chievo, three of which came at the Stadio Bentegodi.
In that time, both teams have failed to score in this fixture on just one occasion, in October 2011’s 0-0 draw in Verona.
Last Sunday’s crucial 1-0 win over European rivals Roma was the 11th in a row for Massimiliano Allegri’s men since memorably defeating Torino in the last minute of added time on October 31.
While anyone will state that every victory is just as important as the last, the Bianconeri’s next triumph, which could well come this weekend in Verona, would see them equal the club’s record for consecutive league successes (12), set in a similar period between October 2013 and January 2014.
Unsurprisingly, the Bianconeri have topped the charts in all areas thanks to that stellar turn of form, scoring the most (27) and conceding the fewest (six) goals in the last 11 Matchdays.
Despite starting the season with defeats at Roma, Napoli and Sassuolo, Allegri’s charges now also boast the best away record in the division with the first-half demolition of Udinese two weeks ago taking their profits on the road to a league-high 22 points, one clear of second-placed Inter.
Chievo on the other hand are need of extending their own recent upturn in fortunes, particularly in front of their own fans.
While outperforming the majority of their Serie A rivals outside the walls of the Stadio Bentegodi, the Gialloblu find themselves in the bottom five for their home form that has been inconsistent at best: seven of their 13 home points came before October, while five have come in the last three matches.
On the whole however, followers of Rolando Maran’s men will have good reason to be pleased with their side’s efforts so far, having amassed their joint third-best points tally (27) by this stage of a season since first arriving in the top flight in 2001: the last time the Gialloblu were sat in tenth place in mid-January, they stayed there until the end of the campaign.
What to look for on Sunday
So, while Juve may be going into this weekend’s game in considerably better shape than their hosts, there has been a certain degree of symmetry about both team’s statistics from the first 22 games of the season.
For starters, with Mario Mandzukic and Alberto Paloschi leading their respective front lines, it should come as no surprise that Sunday’s competitors find themselves top of the standings for headed goals this term, eight for the Bianconeri and seven for Chievo.
Every good header of course needs a precise delivery into the penalty area and once again, both sides are similar in this respect, completing approximately one quarter of their crosses (Juve 27 per cent, Chievo 25 per cent) with the Gialloblu’s Valter Birsa (four) and Juventus’ Paulo Dybala (three) leading the way in Serie A for assists from set-pieces so far this season.
The similarities end however on closer inspection of both teams’ results when the deadlock has been broken. While the Bianconeri have reclaimed the most number of points from losing positions this term (13), Chievo have lost just as many from winning ones, including of course, in last September’s draw at Juventus Stadium.
This all means that, if Massimiliano Allegri’s charges were to fall behind early on at the Bentegodi, there is no need to panic particularly with the likes of Dybala and Paul Pogba, scorers or providers of all of the Bianconeri’s last 12 league strikes, in such fine scoring fettle.