Sports Mole previews Sunday’s Serie A clash between Juventus and Atalanta BC, including team news and predicted lineups.
Champions Juventus will host top-four hopefuls Atalanta BC on the penultimate weekend of the 2018-19 Serie A season.
The Old Lady have comfortably won their eighth straight Serie A crown and sit 13 points clear of second-placed Napoli ahead of this weekend’s set of fixtures. Atalanta, however, have plenty to play for in Turin as they currently occupy fourth position in the table.
Juve will enter this match fresh from the news that Massimiliano Allegri will not be in charge of the team next season. Indeed, the Italian giants revealed via their official website that the head coach would be departing, which has seemingly been on the cards for a few months.
Allegri’s final match in charge of the club will be against Sampdoria next weekend and it will be fascinating who the champions turn to as their next manager. President Andrea Agnelli and Allegri will hold a press conference on Saturday afternoon to discuss the decision, but it seems unlikely that an announcement on the new head coach will be made until the end of the campaign.
Juve have not really needed to break a sweat in Italy’s top flight this season, once again proving to be the best that the country has to offer. Indeed, a record of 28 wins, five draws and three defeats has brought them 89 points, leaving them 13 points clear of second-placed Napoli with just two games left.
The Old Lady wrapped up the championship with a win over Fiorentina on April 20, but have since drawn with Inter Milan and Torino, in addition to suffering a 2-0 defeat away to Roma last weekend.
Juve were actually knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Atalanta back in January, while there was the huge disappointment of the Champions League – losing to Ajax in the quarter-finals. The Italian giants were seen as the favourites by many to win the European Cup this season, but they have fallen short once again.
Not since the 2010-11 season have Juve failed to win Serie A, but success in the Champions League is what the club really wants. Indeed, they have not triumphed in Europe since the 1995-96 campaign and the new manager will be tasked with leading a strong challenge for the crown next term.
The likes of AC Milan, Roma and Torino will certainly be hoping that Juve turn up this weekend as all three will be desperate for Atalanta to drop points as the race for fourth position threatens to take another twist.
For all of the disappointment that has surrounded Juve over the last few weeks, the Old Lady deserve huge credit for what has been another brilliant league campaign. The clash with Atalanta is their last home match of the season and they will surely want to give their fans something to cheer as they lift the trophy in Turin.
Recent form: WLWDDL
Recent form (all competitions): LLWDDL
Atalanta will enter Sunday’s contest fresh from a 2-0 defeat to Lazio in the Coppa Italia final. As mentioned, Gian Piero Gasperini‘s side dumped Juve out of the competition en route to the final, but two goals in the final 10 minutes saw Lazio land the trophy at the Stadio Olimpico.
The result would have been a huge disappointment for Atalanta, but they simply cannot afford to dwell on the loss ahead of their final two league games of the campaign. A brilliant season has left La Dea in fourth position in the table – three points clear of fifth-placed Milan on the same number of matches.
A Serie B club as recently as 2011, Atalanta finished seventh in Serie A last term but are well-placed to better that this season. It is a tough ask to win at Juve on Sunday night, but a victory over Sassuolo next weekend might be enough to secure a top-four finish, which would be remarkable.
Atalanta have not actually lost in Serie A since Torino beat them on February 22. They have put eight wins on the board since then, with four straight victories placing them in a very strong position. What’s more, the team’s away form has also been excellent in recent weeks – winning four of their last five on their travels.
Gasperini’s team will once again look to Duvan Zapata for inspiration on Sunday night, with the on-loan Sampdoria forward netting 27 times in all competitions this season, including 22 in Serie A. Juve will be lacking the motivation from earlier in the campaign and it is a huge chance for the visitors this weekend.
A record of 19 wins, eight draws and nine defeats is an indication of how Atalanta have performed this season, while they are actually the highest scorers in the division with 73 goals. They have shipped 44 down the other end, but are certainly capable of causing Juve a lot of problems on Sunday night.
With the title also secured, it is the battle to avoid the drop and the fight for fourth and third which is drawing the most attention in Italy’s top flight. Juve and Napoli will finish first and second, but Inter Milan are not actually safe in the top four despite occupying third with 66 points from their 36 matches.
Atalanta are also unbeaten in their two games against Juve this season, following a 2-2 draw in the reverse Serie A match with a 3-0 victory in the Coppa Italia in January. That said, the Old Lady recorded a 2-0 win when the two teams locked horns in the corresponding match last term.
Recent form: LWWDWW
Recent form (all competitions): DWWDWW
Juve will once again be without the services of Mattia Perin due to a shoulder problem, while Douglas Costa and Sami Khedira remain on the sidelines for the champions.
Giorgio Chiellini has also been ruled out with a calf problem, meaning that Martin Caceres will feature in central defence once again unless Daniele Rugani can overcome an inflammation issue.
Mario Mandzukic faces a late fitness test following a knee problem, but the Croatian is not expected to be risked, meaning that Paulo Dybala could join leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo in the final third once again.
Alex Sandro and Joao Cancelo could also come into the XI after featuring off the bench against Roma, while Leonardo Bonucci should be fit after an ankle problem.
As for Atalanta, Jose Luis Palomino will miss out through suspension, while Rafael Toloi is still injured. Gianluca Mancini is back from a ban of his own, though, and will return to the back three.
There are not expected to be too many surprises when it comes to team selection for the visitors, meaning that Zapata should once again be supported by Josip Ilicic and Alejandro Gomez in the final third.
Juventus possible starting lineup:
Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Caceres, Sandro; Matuidi, Pjanic, Can; Dybala, Ronaldo, Bernardeschi
Atalanta possible starting lineup:
Gollini; Mancini, Djimsiti, Masiello; Hateboer, Freuler, De Roon, Castagne; Gomez, Zapata, Ilicic
Head To Head
As mentioned, the two teams played out a 2-2 draw in the reverse league game earlier this season.
Atalanta also beat Juve in the Coppa Italia back in January, but the Old Lady ran out 2-0 winners when the pair locked horns in Turin during the 2017-18 campaign.
Before this season, Juve had won 22 of the previous 28 meetings between the two teams, remaining unbeaten in a record which stretches back to 2001.
We say: Juventus 1-1 Atalanta
If Juve had something to fight for then it would be fairly straightforward to back the champions. Atalanta have been so impressive this season, though, and we fancy the visitors to claim a point in Turin.