This Wednesday’s fixture features two teams in hot pursuit of leaders Inter. After a slight loss of form, Juventus has gone back to winning ways, however, making hard work of their victories over Siena on Sunday and in midweek against Maccabi Haifa. Sampdoria are flying, and cannot stop scoring at the moment. In a similar vein to Arsenal, Coach Luigi Del Neri’s side play an exciting brand of attacking football, and while the defence has remained resolute, both midfield and attack have been carving open opposing defences and have consistently remained ruthless in front of goal. With two points separating the two teams, one expects a tight, but thrilling encounter. The last four fixtures between these two have all ended in draws, while the Old Lady has the upper hand over the Genovese outfit this decade, having only lost one out of the previous 10 matches.
The Bianconeri enter a critical period with three hugely-important games in the next seven days which may define their season both at home and in Europe. Ferrara will look to make full use of the players he has at his disposal, however he is expected to field his strongest available line-up against the Blucerchiati. Fabio Grosso will return to resume duties at left-back at Cristian Molinaro’s expense. Martín Cáceres, who came on for Zdeněk Grygera on Sunday, should start at right-back. Brazilian striker Amauri will look to continue his good form alongside the returning Vincenzo Iaquinta, with David Trézeguét making way. Diego continues to be the creative spark, while arguably the first-choice midfield will be fielded for the first time this season with Mohamed Sissoko starting alongside Mauro Camoranesi and Felipe Melo. Ferrara has no suspended players, however, injuries continue to rule out Alessandro Del Piero, Hasan Salihamidzic, Tiago, and Claudio Marchisio.
2 Cáceres – 5 Cannavaro – 3 Chiellini – 6 Grosso
16 Camoranesi – 22 Sissoko – 4 Melo
9 Iaquinta – 11 Amauri
Sampdoria Coach Del Neri will name an unchanged starting XI, and will stick with his preferred 4-4-2 formation. With all four goals scored in the first half against Bologna on Saturday, Samp coasted through the second half with the game already won, with energies conserved for the big encounter against Juve. All eyes will again be on the front pairing of Giampaolo Pazzini and Antonio Cassano, with the latter coming into this fixture with a caution from a previous game. Right-winger Franco Semioli and Daniele Gastaldello are still injured, however, there are no suspensions to report.
23 Stankevicius – 6 Lucchini – 13 Rossi – 8 Zauri
7 Mannini – 17 Palombo – 16 Poli – 3 Ziegler
10 Pazzini – 99 Cassano
Until recently, Ferrara had to shuffle his team to find the perfect balance whilst maintaining a winning run – at one point even changing his formation from a 4-3-1-2 to a 4-2-3-1 to contain opposing attackers in a bid to win games. The Juve Tactician will again revert to the former formation, but having successfully tried out the 4-2-3-1 system in the win in Europe last Wednesday with Melo and Sissoko sitting in front of the defence, he may use this new found way of curbing Sampdoria, and their deadly strike duo. The Blucerchiati’s defenders have had a relatively easy time of it so far this season, but the times they have come unstuck have been when facing quick and powerful forwards, and they don’t come more dangerous than Amauri and Iaquinta. While Amauri was doing the grafting earlier this season, his strike partner was bagging the goals. Now Amauri is having a good run of form himself, Iaquinta may look to return the favour, which will cause problems for Samp’s defence. Diego’s free-kicks have provided assists in Juve’s last two matches, and Ferrara will again ask his players to capitalise on set-pieces around the Samp penalty area. Del Neri will look to wide midfielders Reto Ziegler and Daniele Mannini to support his strikers and test Gianluigi Buffon who has been badly exposed by those in front of him. Whoever wins this fixture will emerge as serious contenders for the ceremonial title of ‘winter champions’, and will retain a psychological boost ahead of the reverse fixture in March – the winner of that match will go a long way to deciding who challenges for the Serie A crown.