Football returns in Italy after the winter break and reigning champions Juventus attempt to keep their impressive recent run going against bottom club Hellas Verona at the J Stadium.
THE OLD LADY RIGHT BACK IN TITLE CONTENTION
After a less than impressive start to the defence of their Serie A title, Juventus went into the winter break unbeaten in seven Serie A fixtures to show the rest of the pretenders to their crown that they still remain the team to beat in Italy. Coach Massimo Allegri has remained calm through both the crisis of the opening two months of the campaign and the renaissance, which has seen his side move to within three points of the current leaders Inter. The best football betting websites have them as favourites at *2.10 to retain their title. With a last 16 date with Bayern Munich to come in the middle of February, Allegri knows that his team must continue to accumulate points over the next month before the back to back challenge against the Bavarian’s. That starts on Wednesday afternoon in Turin against the country’s bottom placed side Verona, but after their narrow 3-2 win away at new boys Carpi before the recess, Allegri will not be taking anything for granted.
A SEASON THAT HAS BEEN HELLAS ON EARTH SO FAR FOR VERONA
Lying eight points from safety at the foot of Serie A, Hellas Verona have to start picking up wins soon or face the very real prospect of playing second tier football next season. The old warhorse himself Gigi Delneri, has now been charged with the task of saving the club from the dreaded drop but a visit to one of his former clubs on Wednesday, would not be his ideal way to start 2016. The absence of veteran striker Luca Toni has been a major factor in the club’s decline this season but the big man is now back and ready to lead the line in what could be his final few months as a professional before hanging up his boots. The best online sports betting sites currently quote him at *5.50 to be an anytime goalscorer on Wednesday.
Juventus have injury problems ahead of the visit of Verona. In-form striker Mario Mandzukic is out which means a recall for young Spanish front man Alvaro Morata. Veteran defender Andrea Barzagli is also missing and his place should go to 21-year-old Daniele Rugani. Roberto Pereyra and Mario Lemina are the other absentees for Allegri.
Verona can also point to missing personnel for the trip to Turin. Midfielder Federico Viviani is out along with the Brazilian Rômulo. In defence, Michelangelo Albertazzi is absent and highly rated Jacopo Sala is suspended. Luca Toni will more than likely be joined in a two pronged attack by Giampaolo Pazzini.
PROBABLE STARTING XI’S
Juventus (3-5-2) Buffon; Rugani, Chiellini, Bonucci; Evra, Pogba, Marchisio, Khedira, Cuadrado; Dybala, Morata
Verona (4-4-2) Gollini; Souprayen, Moras, Bianchetti, Pisano; Wszolek, Hallfredsson, Greco, Siligardi; Toni, Pazzini
HEAD TO HEAD
Juventus have only lost once to Verona in their last 15 meetings in all competitions and are unbeaten in Turin for the past 20 years. There has also not been a 0-0 scoreline between these two in the past two decades. Last season’s corresponding fixture ended in an emphatic 4-0 home win thanks to goals from Carlos Tevez (2) Paul Pogba and Pereyra.
Juventus 1.16 Draw 7.00 Verona 19.00
*odds courtesy of Bet365
Steve Mitchell (@barafundler)