Kick Off: Saturday February 21 2009, 20:30CET, Stadio Renzo Barbera.
Palermo Aiming For The Treble Over Juventus
Davide Ballardini's men head into the game needing some points to keep their hopes of European football alive for next season. Although the Rosanero welcome the Turin giants following last week's 0-0 stalemate with Reggina, they will take confidence from the fact that they have already beaten the Bianconeri this season.
At home the Sicilians have been rock solid, but it has been a different story on the road. The Renzo Barbera has become a fortress for the team; 10 wins, no draws and only two defeats will have Juve worried and the home side will be looking to take full advantage, knowing the Old Lady will have an eye on their Champions League tie with Chelsea next week. Unlike many other of Serie A's bottom half teams, Palermo boast an impressive record against the boys from Vinovo. In fact Juventus have not beaten the Sicilians since November 2007 when their opponents were the victims of a 5-0 hammering.
Ballardini's side have won against the Old Lady twice in their last two meetings and they will be looking to make it third time lucky on Saturday afternoon. Last season, the Rosanero beat Juve 3-2 in Palermo in April and they have already ruffled Claudio Ranieri's feathers this term also as a shock 2-1 win in Turin left the Old Lady looking frail.
The home team are well aware of the less than perfect form Juventus have shown on the road and thus the game will be set up to, hopefully, deliver an exciting clash as poor away form meets solid home comforts. Striking duo Edison Cavani and Fabrizio Miccoli have struck 16 times between them so far this term, and the latter will be relishing to get one over his former employers.
Juventus Needing Points
After last week's poor 1-1 result at home to Sampdoria, Juventus will not be looking forward to travelling down to Sicily a full nine points behind bitter rivals Inter. A loss at the Barbera will all but signal the end of the Scudetto dream. Perhaps Juve would welcome that so they can focus on their Champions League ambition. Recent form has not triggered any suggestion that Ranieri's men have the hunger and belief of a Scudetto win. However, they could change the critics' opinion with a comfortable win this weekend.
Points are needed after a string of consecutive poor results. Only two wins in their last six games has painted a sorry picture in Turin. Such form will not win any trophy this season and things need to change with, perhaps, the toughest of fixtures in Sicily. As well as this, Juve will be feeling the pressure from every angle. Apart from the heat being turned up in Serie A, a Champions League tie with Chelsea next week as well as a Coppa Italia semi final clash against Lazio a week later will mean they will have a game every three days from now until mid March.
It's a lot to juggle for Alessandro Del Piero and team-mates, but points make prizes and only a win will do for the team on Saturday, not only because it will help keep their Scudetto hopes alive, but the players will be able to head into the Chelsea game with confidence and less weight on their shoulders. It's a crucial stage of the season for the Old Lady, and it's about time the team showed their mettle, or there will be nothing but major disappointment at the end of term.
Form Guide (Serie A)
Feb 15: Reggina 0-0 Palermo
Feb 8: Palermo 2-1 Napoli
Feb 1: Genoa 1-0 Palermo
Jan 28: Roma 2-1 Palermo
Jan 25: Palermo 3-2 Udinese
Jan 18: Sampdoria 0-2 Palermo
Feb 15: Juventus 1-1 Sampdoria
Feb 8: Catania 1-2 Juventus
Jan 31: Juventus 2-3 Cagliari
Jan 28: Udinese 2-1 Juventus
Jan 24: Juventus 1-0 Fiorentina
Jan 18: Lazio 1-1 Juventus
Mark Bresciano has returned from suspension but Levan Mchedlidze, Igor Budan and Abel Hernandez are all unavailable with various injuries for David Ballardini's side. The coach is likely to stick to his favoured 4-3-1-2 formation against the Bianconeri to offer plenty of fire power up front. Former Juventus star Miccoli will partner Cavani up front.
Probable Starting XI: Amelia, Cassani, Kjaer, Bovo, Balzaretti, Nocerino, Liverani, Bresciano, Simplicio, Cavani, Miccoli.
Claudio Ranieri has an almost full squad to choose from for the game on Saturday. Paolo De Ceglie, Jorge Andrade and Cristiano Zanetti are all in the treatment room, and Nicola Legrottaglie is looking doubtful as he was unable to train normally on Thursday with a back problem. Ranieri is likely to rest the Italian stopper with the Chelsea game in mind.
Giorgio Chiellini will return for his side in defence while there could be a starting role for Tiago in midfield. Amauri heads back to Palermo looking for a goal against his old side, but he has promised not to celebrate against the Rosanero if he hits the net. A number of changes are expected from the coach. Alessandro Del Piero is likely to be rested and there maybe a start for David Trezeguet.
Probable Starting XI: Buffon, Grygera, Mellberg, Chiellini, Molinaro, Camoranesi, Sissoko, Tiago, Nedved, Trezeguet, Iaquinta.
Players To Watch
Keep an eye out for Fabrizio Miccoli. The Italian hitman has scored some crackers this season and he will be relishing the chance to score against Juve. The Napoli-born man has bagged eight goals already this term. His free kicks and deadly shooting will provide plenty of entertainment.
David Trezeguet could start from the front for his side on Saturday and he has a point to prove. With Amauri being the first choice this season, the Frenchman will want to show he can still do the business and Palermo will provide the perfect opportunity to do just that. Rosanero defenders will know all about the heading ability of the former Monaco man and thus they will need to be on top of their game in every sense.
It's all change for Juventus this weekend. Although the Bianconeri have been poor in recent weeks, the Rosanero will not be fooled. Juve can explode into life with a moment of magic and their quality should be enough. However, Palermo are just too strong at home and a draw seems on the cards. The Old Lady will have one eye on the Champions League and this will play into the Sicilians' hands.
Palermo 2-2 Juventus
Salvatore Landolina, Goal.com