29.11.2015 10:00 - in: Serie A S

      Ten things to know about #PalermoJuve

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      Need to do some last minute revision for Sunday’s meeting at the Renzo Barbera? Here are ten key stats and facts to get you started
      1) La Joya homecoming

      It’s never easy going back to see your ex, but Juventus will hope that no such emotional quandaries will bother Paulo Dybala on Sunday as the Argentine striker returns to Palermo for the first time since leaving the Rosanero in June.

      Plucked from relative obscurity from Instituto Cordoba in Argentina’s second division as the record signing, La Joya found the net 21 times in 89 appearances in Sicily, becoming the only player to reach double figures for both goals (13) and assists (10) last season in Italy’s top flight. 

      Fortunately, the Bianconeri muscled to the front of the orderly queue to seal his signature at the end of last season and the baby-faced assassin, nicknamed U Picciriddu (‘the kid’) by the Palermo fans, has already shown his worth in Turin, scoring six and assisting twice in the league since August.

      Although Dybala had struck on the same number of occasions by this stage last term, this season’s goals have come in just 781 minutes, just over 400 fewer than in 2014/15. As a result, only compatriot Gonzalo Higuain (111) can match Paulo’s minute-per-goal ratio of 130.

      Dybala's late winner against Milan was his seventh in all competitions for Juve

      Just one last bit of Dybala data for you: the youngster is scoring on average more often than both Carlos Tevez and Alessandro Del Piero in their respective maiden Juventus campaigns. Not bad, eh. 

      Speaking of ex's...

      Paulo won’t be the only one returning to his old club this weekend as current Bianconeri Andrea Barzagli and Rubinho also called the Stadio Renzo Barbera home for spells in the last ten years.


      Barzagli in particular will have the fondest memories of his time in Sicily, making 142 Serie A appearances and scoring three times in a fruitful four seasons with Sunday’s opponents.

      The Wall’s solid showings secured a seven-figure switch to Germany where the Italian defender would lift his first piece of major silverware with Wolfsburg before returning to Italy to join Juve in 2011. The rest, as they say, is history.

      Especially on the weekend of his 38th birthdayit would be wrong to omit a passing reference to Juventus’ Primavera coach Fabio Grosso, a Rosanero for two seasons between 2004 and 2006, leaving the club for Inter immediately after the 2006 World Cup. 

      3) Vital Vazquez

      Sunday night’s tie will see Dybala’s reunion with former partner in crime Franco Vazquez, albeit now on different sides. Together, the two had a hand in a staggering 68 per cent of Palermo’s strikes (36/53) last term.

      While Vazquez is yet to reach the same heights this time around, now on a run of five games without a goal or assist, the elegant midfielder has undoubtedly stepped up to the plate as the Rosanero’s key man in the absence of Dybala.

      Vazquez and Dybala fired Palermo to 11th place to last season on their return to the top flight

      Operating behind lone striker Alberto Gilardino commonly in a 4-4-1-1 formation, Vazquez is the fulcrum of the side, attempting the most dribbles in Serie A this season (51) while topping the Rosanero charts for touches taken (942), minutes played (1140) and passes completed (542).


      Vazquez is Palermo's key link between midfield and lone frontman Alberto Gilardino

      Seemingly the most effective way of stifling the playmaker so far has been to, well, foul him: the Italy international has been felled 66 times this season, 19 more than second-placed Neymar, across Europe’s top five leagues. 

      4) The Old Lady and the Eagle

      Tomorrow’s meeting will be the 53rd in the top-flight between these two with the Bianconeri holding a firm historical advantage, snatching three points from the Eagles on 31 occasions, losing just ten of the other 22.

      While Juve’s record in the past three seasons, winning six from six without conceding a goal, would hint at a one-sided contest tomorrow night, Palermo are traditionally a tough nut to crack on home turf. In fact, four of their ten all-time victories against the Old Lady have come at the Renzo Barbera since 2005.

      Having said that, Juventus, along with Fiorentina, are the team to have left the Siclian capital with the most league wins (12).

      5) Last time out

      “A superb strike from substitute Alvaro Morata saw Juventus end Palermo’s six-month unbeaten run on home soil with this evening’s 1-0 win at the Stadio Renzo Barbera, a result that takes the reigning champions 14 points clear at the top of the league.”

      That was how Juventus.com reported the Bianconeri’s last trip to Sicily back in March and here’s what we meant by superb.' 

      6) Juve back from the dead...again?

      Although Massimiliano Allegri’s men currently sit nine points off the pace set by leaders Inter, their recent three-match winning streak and a gem of a comeback statistic would suggest that the dream of a fifth consecutive Scudetto is far from over.

      Since the league’s adoption of three points for a win in 1994/95, Juventus are the only club to have won the title with so few points (21) after 13 matches.

      The year was 2001/02 and the team they overtook on the final day was…yes, you guessed it, Inter. 

      7) Set-piece practice pays off

      What’s the secret for a perfect set-piece? Excellent delivery? Well-rehearsed routines? Strong headers of the ball? Hours of hard work on the training ground?

      Whatever the formula is, Sunday’s hosts seem to have cracked it.

      While the Rosanero are languishing towards the lower reaches of the league’s scoring charts, mustering a total 13 goals this season (only Udinese, Frosinone, Verona and Carpi have managed fewer), they are among the very best for their productivity from pre-prepared deliveries into the box.

      Five from corners and two from free-kicks, 57 per cent of Palermo’s strikes this season have come from dead-ball situations.

      Not only that, the Eagles lead the way for the number of headers at goal (32), six of which have found the net. All the more reason then, for the Bianconeri to sort out their markers nice and early before Sunday. 

      8) gilardino goes it alone

      Topping the club’s striking charts with three goals in four Renzo Barbera outings, it’s a good thing Palermo signed perennial poacher Alberto Gilardino in the summer.

      The veteran forward is the only player in the current Palermo squad to have scored a Serie A goal against Juventus, those efforts coming in the colours of Parma and Fiorentina. 

      Alberto Gilardino has scored twice against Juventus in 23 attempts in the league

      Juve on the other hand can rely on a handful of past Palermo plunderers in the form of Alvaro Morata (more on that in a second), Claudio Marchisio (two), Leonardo Bonucci (two), Hernanes (one), Juan Cuadrado (one) and Stephan Lichtsteiner (one). 

      9) Get it wide and get it in

      There’s nothing more satisfying than a goal from a cross, just ask Alex Sandro and Mario Mandzukic after their top-class combination sunk Manchester City on Wednesday night.

      Juve and Palermo clearly understand the beauty of such things as both teams find themselves at the top end of the table for attempted crosses, with the Rosanero five clear of the Bianconeri (308) in fourth with a total of 313.

      With predatory strikers in both penalty areas and four attacking wing backs on the field, expect Sunday’s clash to be decided out on the flanks. 

      10) Down in the dugout

      Davide Ballardini returned to the helm of Palermo last Sunday for his spell in charge of the club. His first will go down as one of the greatest periods of the Rosanero’s past, as the 51-year old masterminded a total of 57 points in the 2008/09 season, the third highest in their history.

      As it happens, Ballardini’s men even registered an impressive 2-1 victory over Juventus at the Stadio Olimpico that same campaign, the only one so far in the new Rosanero boss’ career (W1, D4, L5).

      Later in the year, he was at it again, this time thumping Massimiliano Allegri’s Cagliari 5-1, the only blot on the Tuscan tactician’s record against tomorrow’s opposite number (W5, L1). Last March’s 1-0 win at the Renzo Barbera was Allegri’s second in six trips to Sicily, having guided his Milan side to a 4-0 reverse three years previously. 

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