Juventus vs. Fiorentina – Key clashes

May 1988 was – until Daniel Pablo Osvaldo’s late strike in the corresponding fixture last year- the last time the travelling Viola could celebrate a win in Turin. Juve, second in the league and with a real chance of Scudetto success will aim to keep their title ambitions on track by avoiding a similar result this time around. Just three points behind Serie A leaders Inter (who went down 3-1 at Atalanta last weekend), Claudio Ranieri’s men could have closed the gap further had they not drawn with Lazio in the same round of fixtures. Week 20 sees a visit from a stuttering Fiesole and Adrian Mutu-less Fiorentina, for whom a visit to one of their greatest rivals could well prove the tonic to a return to form.

Claudio Ranieri vs. Cesare Prandelli

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Question’s are forever asked about Ranieri’s genuine ability to bring Scudetto success back to Juve and if the ‘Tinkerman’ is to ever silence those doubts, this season looks like the greatest opportunity – within just his second season at the helm of the post-Calciopoli Bianconeri. A win against his former club will do those chances no harm, but opposite number Prandelli is equally as capable of inflicting such damage. Idolised by the Curva Fiesole, Prandelli – of former Juventus past – will refuse to believe his Viola team are unable to come away from this game empty handed.

Gianluigi Buffon vs. Sebastian Frey

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Such is the level of depletion of Claudio Ranieri’s Juve squad, attack may just prove their best form of defence – especially if number one keeper Buffon hasn’t recovered from the flu virus which has swept through several of his players. Expected to return from a three month hip injury lay-off in last weeks 1-1 draw with Lazio, the world’s most expensive goalkeeper had to delay the long awaited return further due to the virus which has now claimed stand-in Alex Manninger amongst others. Should the Azzurri World Cup-winning shot stopper not be deemed fit, Ranieri will be forced to put his faith (and potential Scudetto aspirations) in 18-year-old youngster Timothy Nocchi. For the visiting Viola, Sebastian Frey returns from the knee injury that has kept him sidelined – just how sharp the Frenchman is will soon be answered in what may be a busy evening for both goalkeepers.

Nicola Legrottaglie vs. Alberto Gilardino

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For Legrottaglie, the prospect of facing a Mutu-less Fiorentina attack will be further encouraged by the fact that former Parma and Milan striker Gila looks at sea without the company of the injured Romanian. Having previously scored 12 goals from 17 appearances, without Mutu, Gila now shoulders the pressures of being his teams main marksman. If the experienced Legrottaglie can keep Gila at bay, it will be hard to see just where the other goal threats will come from.

Cristiano Zanetti vs. Riccardo Montolivo

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Without doubt, anything positive to come from this game for Fiorentina will involve the gifted Montolivo and the Old Lady midfield will rely on the well-travelled, no nonsense Zanetti to neutralise Montolivo’s influence, which will have a greater significance in the absence of Adrian Mutu. The tough-tackling Zanetti will fill the role of shackling and nullifying the visitors main creative outlet and his experience may possibly be key to the game’s overall balance in the absence of the suspended Momo Sissoko and unfancied Christian Poulsen.

Alessandro Del Piero vs. Alessandro Gamberini

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The opportunity to expose Gamberini’s lack of full match fitness will not have gone unnoticed by Juve and between them, Bianconeri skipper Del Piero and strike partner Amauri will look to cause the stopper as many problems as possible. Much of this season’s Old Lady success is down to moments of individual brilliance that only Del Piero can produce – Gamberini will have absolutely no margin for error.

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