The streak vs the streak. Undertaker vs Edge at Wrestlemania 24. Edge claimed to be still undefeated at the Biggest Stage of Them All as he was pulled out from the Money in the bank ladder match the previous year because of an injury, Parma’s 17-game winning streak does not include Roma vs Parma, which was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. Parma haven’t lost since facing Juventus at Tardini, where Bianconeri where able to grab a win thanks to a late Quaglia insane shot rebounded on the crossbar and tapped in by Pogba.
The biggest news is the return of Marchisio to the squad after three missed matches. He might give a breather to Vidal, who hasn’t played very well in the last two games, or to Pirlo. If Conte opts for a heavy squad rotation, Padoin has a chance to start his second game in a row in the midfield. Lichsteiner and Asamoah will play on the flanks, even though Isla has been fairly good as of late.
Not many choices in the defense: Barzagli (calf) and Ogbonna (thigh) are still injured, so Caceres-Bonucci-Chiellini, who have been excellent in EL and at Catania, will start. Buffon will return after being given a night off in Sicily. Fernando Llorente is set to start. Sebastian Giovinco, despite playing some minutes in the last match, has not been called up to continue his recovery, while Osvaldo, Vucinic, Quagliarella and of course Tevez are in the list. Carlos is the frontrunner to pair with Nando, but there is a chance that Conte will rest his sore patellar tendon ahead of the Napoli game.
Juventus have won all 14 home games so far in Serie A (and hasn’t lost in Champions League, Europa League and Coppa Italia either) and certainly would like to keep the streak alive. Juventus is also the team that conquered more points (32) in 2014, but Parma have picked up 27 of them (2nd) since January. Juventus have scored in 42 games in a row in the League, 86 goals in total, with an average slightly north of 2 goals per game. Moreover, Juventus have not conceded a goal in the last five games (four of them were 1-0, in a very Capello fashion)
Parma is Andrea Pirlo’s favorite opponents: he has scored eight goals against Ducali, twice as many as against any other team. He has been on fire lately, so watch out. Stephan Lichsteiner too has been very efficient against Parma. Antonio Conte has never lost against Roberto Donadoni (two wins, two draws)
In the last few games, they have established themselves as the most serious contender for a Europa League spot, beating Milan and Hellas Verona. They are currently in sixth position, five points above Lazio, which is the last rival (I don’t think Hellas, Atalanta and Torino are very interested in that) for a pass to European competition.
As I already mentioned, they haven’t lost in 17 games. They have also won all the five away matches in 2014. A very well built team led by an underrated coach. You can tell that Parma is really a happy place by seeing how many players have managed to perform well after slumping seasons, notably Cassano, Amauri, Cassani, Palladino and lately also Schelotto.
Parma are able to use 3-5-2, but lately they have adopted 4-3-3 more. Cassani, who has been very good both as RB and as RCB, and Biabiany (RW or RWB) give them the ability to easily switch the tactic. Lucarelli is probably having the best year of his long career, while Paletta is constantly on the rise (he’s still 28, despite looking like a fifty-year-old man). Two big CBs that make up for the lack of speed with physicality and experience. Cassani and Gobbi (or Molinaro) complete the defense.
Marchionni has somehow reinvented himself as a playmaker: a surprising twist in his career but also a smart move by the coaching staff that has now a more consistent player at disposal compared to Jaime Valdes (who has been sold). Gargano and Munari are unavailable, therefore the muscular Acquah will play, along with Parolo (another player who is having a career year: seven goals and six assists, Brazil bound?).
In the attack, Donadoni has multiple options. He can use a two-man or a three-man attack, spreading the floor and opening the central area for the Parolo cuts or the Amauri headers. He can exploit Biabiany’s quickness or Schelotto’s return to decent levels. And he can take advantage of Cassano unpredictability, both as left winger or as a falso nueve (with Biabiany on the left): at 31, Fantantonio is doing everything he can to convince Prandelli to bring him to Brazil. He has scored 11 goals (one goal short of his scoring best season at Sampdoria), while providing six assists. He’s the Serie A player who has created the most scoring chances (73), in Europe only Hazard (84) and Valbuena (75) have done better than him. Amauri (six goals) or Palladino might have a chance against their former team.
Mirante is the third goalkeeper in the clean sheet’s charts with 11, behind De Sanctis (18) and Buffon (15). He’s battling with Marchetti and Perin for a spot as third goalkeeper in Brazil.
Parma’s forte, other than Cassano’s acumen, is attacking on the flanks: the fullbacks are in constant motion, Biabiany is uncatchable, Schelotto is a powerful runner and of course Amauri’s head is a good point of reference in the box. They have also scored a lot off the set pieces: Lucarelli has four goals. They thrives in the dying minutes: in the last 15’ of both halves, they have scored 25 goals, best in Serie A.
Juve is up for a tough task. The schedule keeps being grueling and midweek Serie A matches are usually full of surprises. Roma won yesterday, cutting the lead to 11 and possibly eight points, if they beat Parma. Still a large gap, considering that there are only nine games to go. Juventus are not playing incredibly well in the last matches, but they got the job done. To beat Parma, Juventus will have to bring their A game.