Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Luca Cetta On March - 1 - 2012

Forget Milan, Time to Focus on Chievo

Juventus left Milan with a point on Saturday, but not before a drama-filled 90 minutes that still has fans and the media debating. From phantom goals to offside calls, punches to scuffles, the match kept the moviola busy and threw in some decent football too.

Both sides can feel rightly aggrieved over a goal disallowed by linesman Roberto Romagnoli, but the fallout now appears to surround Gianluigi Buffon’s honesty in saying that had he known Sulley Muntari’s header crossed the line, he still would not have informed referee Paolo Tagliavento. Calls were made to strip the goalkeeper of the Italy captaincy, a claim Cesare Prandelli refuted.

While Philippe Mexes and Muntari were cited on video evidence, Milan responded in kind, noting an offence by Andrea Pirlo on their official website. Pirlo was said to direct an elbow at Mark van Bommel. It seemed innocuous enough at the time, simply Pirlo attempting to shield the ball from the Dutchman, and the reviewers saw it that way too.

Wednesday’s international friendly gave Juve’s players a chance to focus attention elsewhere. Seven Bianconeri figured in the plans of Italy Coach Prandelli for the match against USA: Buffon, Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli, and Alessandro Matri, whilst Martin Caceres, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Mirko Vucinic all saw action in various locations around Europe.

With the mini-break complete, Juventus must now put aside the fallout from the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza to focus on the task at hand. Chievo travels to the Juventus Stadium on Saturday, but the visitors will be missing Sergio Pellissier through suspension. The Chievo talisman has four career goals versus Juve, including an incredible hat-trick in 2008/09.

Juve once again faces a provincial side and despite the win over Catania a fortnight ago, their 2012 record against such sides is not too encouraging, with frustrating draws versus Cagliari, Siena and Parma ensuring the Old Lady is behind Milan. Taking this match lightly is something they cannot afford. Juve have dropped points against the current bottom half of Serie A six times this season, a trend that must stop, especially at home.

The Veronesi go to Turin with the equal-second worst attack (21 goals scored) and will be out to discourage and defend. Without a win on any past visit to Turin, Chievo have however been involved in some thrilling contests, from last season’s 2-2 draw to the aforementioned Pellissier-inspired 3-3 contest and further back, when their first two Serie A trips to face Juventus ended 3-2 and 4-3 respectively.

Arturo Vidal was sent off in Milan and will be absent, along with Simone Pepe, who reached the yellow card limit. Luca Marrone is expected to return from injury and Antonio Conte looks set to revisit the 4-3-3 formation, after it started from the bench versus the Rossoneri. Matri and Vucinic are likely starters, with Fabio Quagliarella completing the attacking trident. Emanuele Giaccherini offers pace and drive in midfield in place of Vidal, whilst Caceres will battle Lichtsteiner for the spot at right-back.

With Milan’s trip to Palermo preceding this clash, Juve will be acutely aware of what their Scudetto rivals conjure in Sicily. They will get the chance to respond and possibly move to the top of Serie A, but must concentrate on finding a way through what is sure to be a stubborn Chievo defence.

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