Like a wounded bear, the Bianconeri will either be out for retribution when Bologna come calling on Saturday evening, or prime picking for the relegation battling Rossoblu. No longer in the hunt for their first post-Calciopoli European title, Juventus will want to reassert their focus and put all their remaining efforts into mounting one last challenge for the Scudetto. A heavy victory against lowly Bologna could be just the remedy to inspire confidence amongst the ranks of the Old Lady before Inter pull out into an untouchable lead.
Last weekend’s terse 1-0 victory in the Turin derby was a necessity executed with Chelsea squarely in I Vecchia Signoria’s sights and showed some of the grit and guile that the Bianconeri will need to call upon to keep the pressure on the Serie A leaders. Questions will surely remain however, whether Tuesday night’s pulsating 2-2 draw with the Londoners has expended the last of Juve’s old, tiring legs. A game that cost them more than just European ambitions – but Pavel Nedved to injury and Giorgio Chiellini to impetuousness.
Disregarding disciplinary issues, injuries are mounting up for Ranieri and even Bologna – who have some selection headaches of their own – could bring more stability than the Old Lady has to call on at the moment. Converse to Juve’s ground out result against Torino, Mihaljovic’s men can look to build on the impressive 3-0 decimation of Sampdoria and will view anything other than a loss at the Stade Olimpico Grande Torino as points the Felsini would not have expected, but will gladly accept. Owing a great deal to on-loan Genoa front man, Marco Di Vaio, who has hit a fine vein of form while at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, including a hat-trick against the Blucerchiati, there is a growing sense of belief that the Rossoblu will be one of the lucky escapees still plying their trade in Serie A come next August.
Still in sight of the title race Juve’s limited assets have been rained in even further following midweek exertions. The influential Nedved is joined on the ever-expanding crocked list by inspired Malian midfielder Momo Sissoko, who, despite being rested for the majority of Derby della Mole, will now be absent from the run-in after fracturing a metatarsal.
With the increasingly underwhelming Christian Poulsen anchoring the Juve midfield, the Bianconeri faithful will be ruing the fact that the Juventus board was unable to raise the cash to land their preferred choice, Javier Mascherano or even Xabi Alonso during the summer, with the latter deemed too slow to prosper in the Italian game. The Juve Coach will be kicking himself even more after an inspired and tenacious display by the Argentine defensive midfielder during Liverpool’s destruction of Real Madrid on the same evening that Del Piero et al kissed away the chance to progress further in their first Champions’ League appearance since the Calciopoli scandal.
On a dilemma front, Saturday’s game in Turin offers a chance for the Tinker man to rest some of those that exerted themselves so hard against Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea on Wednesday, with the likelihood of Del Piero and David Trezeguet finding themselves on the bench behind a strike partnership of Amauri and Vincenzo Iaquinta. However, questions will be raised over whether the Old Lady needs to build some much needed momentum ahead of the critical encounter with Inter on April 19 which could well determine their chances of the Scudetto. Ever the pragmatist, Ranieri must look to take more risks if he is to reassert winning ways at the club.
For Saturday, there is a likelihood that the more attack-minded Claudio Marchisio will partner Poulsen in midfield, despite Tiago having been given the holding berth against his former employer on Tuesday. The injury-prone Bosnian Hasan Salihamidzic, who replaced Nedved when he was withdrawn against Chelsea, could also get a rare start in the absence of the diminutive Czech at the head of midfield without any further changes to last weekend’s squad.
Bologna, although not fairing much better in terms of players spending inordinate amounts of time waiting outside the physio’s office, have few fresh concerns ahead of the trip to the North-West of the Peninsula. The Rossoblu will be hopeful that Francesco Antonioli can retain his impressive form between the posts from last weekend, while line-up changes could come in Nicola Mingazzini replacing former Lazio midfielder Gabi Mudingayi and Mihaljovic may also choose Francesco Valiani ahead of Dyego Coelho wide on the right.
However, focus from the home crowd will remain squarely on the inspired form of Serie A’s leading scorer Di Vaio, whose 19 goal haul has kept Bologna’s head above water. The former Juve striker will be eager to continue his hot streak when he returns to the club with whom he won his only Scudetto. Expect Olof Mellberg to be detailed to close down the fiery forward, especially after Marcello Lippi lit a fire under the much-travelled 32-year-old by acknowledging his recent flurry of goals. Smart money would always point towards a home victory, but with Di Vaio on-song and Juventus drowning their European sorrows it could be prime time for Bologna to really put some breathing space between them and the bus headed to Serie B.