Morally-crippled Juventus take a trip to the Stadio Via del Mare to encounter newly-promoted Lecce on Saturday late afternoon. Days after bowing out of the Champions League group phase, the record-time Italian champions will look to redeem themselves to devastating fans.
Massimiliano Allegri’s future in Turin is still up in the air, especially after Juventus failed to make it out of the Champions League group stages for the first time since 2013/14. The Bianconeri fell to a ‘goal-friendly’ 4-3 defeat at Benfica on Tuesday, ending their hopes of pulling off a late comeback in Group H.
They will continue their continental journey in the Europa League knockouts, which won’t go down well with the Allianz faithful. Yet first things first, Juventus can ill-afford to let their Champions League fiasco curtail their mini-revival in Serie A. After winning two successive league games ‘to nil,’ they’ll take on out-of-sorts Lecce in another must-win clash.
Marco Baroni’s men have alternated between drawing and losing in their last four Serie A matches (D2, L2) since a 2-1 beating of Salernitana in mid-September. With that success in Salerno remaining Lecce’s solitary league win this season (D5, L5), it’s no wonder they enter matchday 12 only two points clear of the relegation zone.
Tipped for a season-long battle against the drop, the Giallorossi have yet to win a single Serie A home fixture this season. But since a 2-1 defeat to Inter on matchday two, Lecce have drawn four consecutive home league contests, all of which yielded an identical 1-1 scoreline. Therefore, it’s fair to assume they’ll put up a fight, even though the odds are heavily stacked against them.
Another share of the spoils here would see Lecce draw five Serie A home matches on the trot for the first time in the club’s history. There’s no doubt Baroni wouldn’t mind such an outcome, especially given the substantial gulf in class between the two sides. But it could prove easier said than done.
Lecce have been victorious in only four of their 32 Serie A meetings with Juventus, most recently doing so in 2011. They have since lost twice across four top-flight H2Hs against the Bianconeri, drawing the other two, including a 1-1 stalemate in their latest encounter at Via del Mare.
Since that exact scoreline has been a common theme in Lecce’s home league games this season, the Giallorossi faithful would be forgiven for expecting their side to put a final nail in Allegri’s coffin in Turin. Defending set-pieces with more authority could prove key to the hosts’ hopes of avoiding defeat.
After conceding a league joint-high nine goals from set-piece plays, Lecce should be fully aware of where the danger lies.
Adrien Rabiot’s late double sealed Juventus’ overwhelming 4-0 home triumph over Empoli last weekend, putting his side in a prime position to win three consecutive Serie A matches for the first time this season. Nothing less will do for Allegri’s side if they’re to reignite their top-four bid following a thoroughly disappointing league start.
Juventus hover just five points adrift of fourth-placed Atalanta, but any slip-up in this kind of game could significantly derail their hopes of closing that gap. The only bright spot in an otherwise frustrating Serie A campaign has been a rock-solid backline that has kept a league second-high six clean sheets in the opening 11 rounds.
However, more urgency in the front third is what Allegri must demand from his players after seeing them net one goal or fewer on all five Serie A travels. In fact, the Bianconeri have averaged a measly 0.4 goals per away league match, accounting for the club’s most embarrassing scoring record in over a decade.
Leece vs Juventus Potential Line-ups
Lecce (4-3-3): Wladimiro Falcone; Federico Baschirotto, Marin Pongracic, Samuel Umtiti, Giuseppe Pezzella; Joan Gonzalez, Morten Hjulmand, Kristoffer Askildsen; Gabriel Strefezza, Assan Ceesay, Lameck Banda.
Juventus (3-5-2): Wojciech Szczesny; Danilo, Leonardo Bonucci, Federico Gatti; Juan Cuadrado, Weston McKennie, Manuel Locatelli, Adrien Rabiot, Filip Kostic; Arkadiusz Milik, Moise Kean.