13.01.2017 19:30 - in: Serie A S

      #FiorentinaJuve: Match Preview

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      Past encounters in Florence, current form and the main men under the microscope ahead of Sunday’s Serie A match away to Fiorentina
      Outings at the Artemio Franchi

      No Bianconeri fan could ever forget the last trip to Florence on 24 April 2016, where goals by Mario Mandzukic and Alvaro Morata, not to mention Gigi Buffon’s brilliant penalty save from Nikola Kalinic, helped to seal a 2-1 victory which all but wrapped up a history-making fifth successive Scudetto.

      A 2-1 triumph in March 2010 courtesy of Fabio Grosso’s second-half strikes and a 5-0 hammering two years later also count among the Old Lady’s more memorable away days against the Viola.

      Fiorentina, however, are almost always a force to be reckoned with at home and, more often than not, they’ve managed to hold Juventus to a draw in recent years, at least in league matches (the Bianconeri won both their Coppa Italia and Europa League ties at the Artemio Franchi in 2015 and 2014 respectively).

      Honours were shared in five of the last nine seasons with goalless stalemates recorded in 2014/15, 2012/13 and 2010/11.

      Juve’s only away defeat to the Viola over the course of this decade came in October 2013, when the hosts fought back from 2-0 down to win 4-2.

      How the sides shape up for Sunday

      After a bright patch of three wins between mid-November and mid-December (against Empoli, Palermo and Sassuolo), Fiorentina have picked up just one point in their last three Serie A outings, losing 1-0 to Genoa, 3-1 to Lazio and drawing 3-3 at home to Napoli on 22 December 2016.

      The Viola’s first match of 2017, away to Pescara, was postponed due to poor weather conditions, but Paulo Sousa’s men made sure of getting the new year underway with a win in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday night at home to Chievo (1-0 courtesy of Federico Bernardeschi’s injury-time penalty) and they will look to build on that victory this weekend against the Bianconeri.

      Fiorentina are still unbeaten at the Artemio Franchi in Serie A this season, but they’re also officially the draw specialists of the division – no other team has picked up more solitary points in front of their fans than the Viola (five) this term.

      Compare that with the Bianconeri, who have not drawn a league game since February 2016 (away to Bologna). This streak of 30 fixtures since the last stalemate is the third longest in the history of Serie A after Como (32) and Napoli (31) in the 1950s and 1930s respectively.

      All but four of these 30 matches have ended in victory for Juventus, who sit four points clear of second-placed Roma with a game in hand. Massimiliano Allegri’s men will need to be on their toes, however, as they try to keep a clean sheet on their travels for what would be the first time in five league outings.

      Main men to monitor

      On the mark in midweek against Chievo, Federico Bernardeschi has now netted in each if his last four home matches for Fiorentina.

      The 22-year-old wide forward also boasts the best shot conversion rate (34.6 per cent) of any player in Serie A to have had at least 20 efforts on goal this season.

      Nikola Kalinic has scored in his last two appearances against the Bianconeri, albeit both in 2-1 defeats. The Croatian centre-forward has now gone three games without a goal after netting in seven of his last eight Viola outings.

      Juve’s forwards and forward-minded players, meanwhile, all enter Sunday’s match in fine form. Gonzalo Higuain (2), Paulo Dybala (2), Mario Mandzukic (1) and Miralem Pjanic (1) have already opened their respective goal scoring tallies for 2017 between last weekend’s win over Bologna and Wednesday’s Coppa Italia victory against Atalanta.

      Bosnia international Pjanic has now provided a key contribution (either goal or assist) in seven of his last eight matches and has done so 16 times in total over the course of the season so far.

      In Juan Cuadrado, Neto and Giorgio Chiellini, the Bianconeri have three former Fiorentina players on their books, the former netting against his ex employers back in December 2015.

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