These two teams, who are worlds apart, share one thing in common – the fact that they have been highly erratic of late. The Orobici continue to tease their supporters by taking one step forward in their bid to stay up, then proceeding to take three steps back. The Bianconeri do the same, by following up wins with frustrating performances – the most obvious being the 5-1 win last Wednesday against Sampdoria followed by that second-half capitulation against Napoli. Atalanta Coach Antonio Conte, once rumoured to be taking the coaching role at Juve, will look to get one over the current incumbent, and the club he served with distinction.
The Nerazzurri have a terrible recent record at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia against the Turin-based side, with only one win in the last six corresponding fixtures this decade – which occurred during the 2000/01 season. The last 12 fixtures between these two sides have all yielded goals, most of them scored by la Vecchia Signora – and one wouldn’t bet against that trend ending.
Tactician Conte has a depleted squad, with no less than six of his best players out through injury – on-loan striker Robert Acquafresca, defenders Thomas Manfredini and Gyӧrgy Garics, and midfielders Diego De Ascentis, Ferreira Pinto, and Edgar Baretto are all absent. The ex-Bianconeri captain will stick with the line-up that started the last match against fellow strugglers Cagliari, in which they were soundly beaten. Midfielders Costinha and Giacomo Bonaventura are in contention for a starting berth but will most likely make appearances as substitutes. Conte has no suspensions to report.
22 Padoin – 2 Talamonti – 13 Peluso – 6 Bellini
7 Madonna – 21 Radovanović – 17 Guarente – 20 Valdés
72 Doni – 90 Tiribocchi
Coach Ferrara’s options are becoming increasingly limited as the season progresses. Where he once had a near full-strength squad at his disposal, the past month has proved to be wretched, as injuries and suspensions have started to take their toll. Uruguayan right-back Martín Cáceres and striker Vincenzo Iaquinta underwent operations in the past week, and although the former returned to the first-team this week, Iaquinta could be out for until the start of 2010. Hasan Salihamidzic, Tiago, and Claudio Marchisio are also still absent through injuries, however, Alessandro Del Piero should make the trip to Bergamo, with Sebastian Giovinco picking up an injury in the midweek win in Israel. In-form Brazilian striker Amauri serves a one-match ban after his indiscretion against Napoli.
2 Cáceres – 5 Cannavaro – 3 Chiellini – 6 Grosso
16 Camoranesi – 18 Poulsen – 4 Melo
17 Trézeguét – 10 Del Piero
After a dreadful start to the season, Conte has managed to stabilise a team in rapid decline. His preferred formation of 4-4-2 is one he used to great effect at Bari and it has produced similar results at the Bergamaschi. Two defeats in the last seven games indicate a team that is in reasonably good form, however those defeats have occurred in their last two outings. In a bid to avoid a third consecutive loss, the Atalanta Tactician will ask his players to absorb the continued threat of the Bianconeri and hit them on the counter, knowing that stamina has been Juve’s Achilles’ heel all season. The point of focus for the Nerrazzurri attack will again be Cristiano Doni, who can conjure up moments of magic out of nowhere. Juve’s Ferrara now has two favoured systems – when in the mood to attack, he deploys his usual 4-3-1-2 formation, however, given the uncertainty surrounding their composure on and off the ball, he has recently deployed a 4-2-3-1 system, which adds more protection to the defence. With Giovinco injured, his hand may be forced, so he will revert back to the former system and start with the old, but prolific, partnership of Del Piero and David Trézeguét, although it remains to be seen how long Del Piero will last for. No matter what system is deployed, the main dangers the Orobici need to be aware of are Diego, who will be at the heart of every Juve attack, and Mauro Camoranesi, who after years of inconsistency is now regularly playing like the player he had always threatened to become.