15/04/13 – Lazio vs Juventus (Serie A)

Lazio vs JuventusVladimir Petkovic is without several first choice defenders, with Abdoulay Konko, Andre Dias and Bruno Pereirinha injured and Giuseppe Biava suspended, so Alvaro Gonzalez is likely to continue at right back. His place in midfield will be filled by either Stefano Mauri or Honorato Ederson. Lazio have struggled without Miroslav Klose in attack following the German’s long injury layoff, but after appearing from the bench in midweek the forward may return to the starting XI.

With Lazio having knocked Juventus out of the Coppa Italia, and their Champions League dream ended by Bayern Munich, Antonio Conte only has Serie A to play for and can field his strongest side. Fabio Quagliarella and Mirko Vucinic are the current incumbents of the forward positions.

Lazio will be desperate to recapture the form they showed prior to Klose’s injury, having won just 1 of the 6 league games without him. This run has seen them drop out of the Champions League places, and with Roma and Inter Milan not far behind there is a chance they could fail to qualify for Europe all together. For Conte the league is not yet assured. Having suggested that Italian football needs to adapt to challenge in Europe, it is surely in Juventus’ interest to secure the title as quickly as possible to allow for experimentation towards the end of the campaign… (Read more)


14/04/13 – AC Milan vs Napoli (Serie A)

AC Milan vs NapoliMario Balotelli’s suspension will see Giampaolo Pazzini lead the line for AC Milan, while Kevin-Prince Boateng continues to be preferred to M’Baye Niang on the right side of attack. Aside from Riccardo Montolivo, Massimiliano Allegri has rotated his midfielders throughout the season but Sulley Muntari and Mathieu Flamini currently appear to be in favour. Similarly Mattia De Sciglio now appears to be first choice left back ahead of Kevin Constant.

Walter Mazzarri has no absentees, but will continue to choose between Miguel Britos and Alessandro Gamberini in defence, and Blerim Dzemaili and Gokhan Inler in midfield.

With seven games to go in Serie A both sides appear secure in the remaining Champions League places, with Milan possessing a 6 point lead over 4th placed Fiorentina, yet neither team can either expect to mount a serious challenge to Juventus, who have a 9 point lead at the top. Nevertheless Napoli will hope a victory can take advantage of any negative reaction to Juventus’ Champions League exit, whilst Milan won’t want to lose ground to the chasing pack… (Read more)

30/03/13 – Inter Milan vs Juventus (Serie A)

Inter Milan (3-4-2-1) vs JuventusIn the reverse fixture earlier in the season, Inter Milan manager Andrea Stramaccioni selected an ambitious 3-4-3 shape that succeeded in bringing Juventus’ 49 game unbeaten run in the league to an end. It must be tempting for Stramaccioni to attempt the same tactic, but their 4-1 Europa League victory over Tottenham may give him a dilemma. Inter have appeared keen on playing a 4-3-1-2 shape for some time, and their victory over Spurs may have been their best performance in the formation this season. Therefore Stramaccioni can stick or twist – look to build on a strong performance in a familiar system, or switch back to the game plan that worked once before.

As Stamaccioni will have to choose between Inter’s customary 4-3-1-2 system or reverting to a 3-4-2-1 shape, both options will be assessed… (Read more)

10/03/13 – Lazio vs Fiorentina (Serie A)

Lazio vs FiorentinaThe suspended Antonio Candreva joins the list of Lazio absentees, alongside first choice right back Abdoulay Konko and star striker Miroslav Klose. Vladimir Petkovic probably has two options to replace Candreva – either Stefano Mauri comes in as a direct replacement on the right of midfield, or Alvaro Gonzalez moves wide from a central role and Lazio play two forwards. Given Sergio Floccari’s difficulty in replacing Klose in attack by himself pairing him with Louis Saha may be a good option, but Petkovic has favoured a midfield five this season to accommodate Hernanes, so may go for the conservative option.

Fiorentina may also be considering a tactical switch. Having deployed a 3-5-2 system all season, Vincenzo Montella has used a 4-3-3 variation for the previous two games. The reasons for the change are unclear and the results were mixed – Fiorentina lost the first game but beat Chievo in the second, and in both games Montella made second half substitutes that allowed a move back to a 3-5-2 shape. There is the possibility that he may persist with this tactic, but against as strong an opponent as Lazio, especially one that is currently under-strength, it is more likely that Fiorentina will return to what they know. This is likely to result in Luca Toni dropping out of the forward line and fit again Facundo Roncaglia competing with Nenad Tomovic for the third centre back position.

Both clubs have enjoyed promising seasons, but have also stuttered of late. Lazio have won only once in Serie A in seven games, whereas Fiorentina have lacked consistency since the new year… (Read more)

01/03/13 – Napoli vs Juventus (Serie A)

Napoli vs JuventusSecond hosts first in Serie A with Napoli looking to reduce Juventus’ six point lead.

Walter Mazzarri will decide between Pablo Armero and Juan Zuniga for the left wing back role, while Christian Maggio should return on the right. His only other selection concern is likely to be who joins Edison Cavani and Marek Hamsik in attack – does the experienced Goran Pandev return or will Mazzarri continue with young Lorenzo Insigne? Napoli’s forward selection will be important as they have failed to score in their last four games. Should Insigne be selected he would also play slightly deeper than Pandev, making Napoli a 3-4-2-1 shape, which would have ramifications for the tactical battle.

Antonio Conte will hope to welcome Giorgio Chiellini back to the starting line-up after missing two months to injury. In midfield Arturo Vidal faces a race to be fit, but Paul Pogba will be ready to step in should the Chilean miss out. In attack Juventus are rarely predictable – Mirko Vucinic has been in favour of late, so Sebastian Giovinco and Alessandro Matri are most probably competing for the remaining forward position.

The close mirroring of the teams’ formations makes this a game likely to be settled by small margins and tactical nuances. It is telling that the loser of three of the last four meetings had a man sent off – Friday’s game could be a similar story… (Read more)

24/02/13 – Inter Milan vs AC Milan (Serie A)

Inter Milan vs AC MilanThe second Milan derby of the season sees the city rivals separated by just one point in Serie A. The probable line-ups reflect the tactical changes both clubs have made since their last meeting.

Inter Milan have switched between a 4-3-1-2 system and a 3-5-2 variation all season. Against AC Milan in October Andrea Stramaccioni opted for a back three, but an injury to Walter Samuel has seen Inter persist with a 4-3-1-2 in recent weeks. This is slightly confused by the successful implementation of a 4-2-3-1 shape against CFR Cluj in the Europa League, but against a league rival Inter will probably revert to a more conservative midfield diamond.

Milan are returning to league action after their celebrated victory over Barcelona in the Champions League. Massimiliano Allegri has been widely praised for his tactical plan against the Catalans, and will surely want to transfer the team’s performance to Sunday’s derby… (Read more)

17/02/13 – Fiorentina vs Inter Milan (Serie A)

Fiorentina vs Inter Milan (3-4-1-2)Fiorentina will want to bounce back from their comfortable loss to Juventus last weekend. Vincenzo Montella’s side paid for playing too flat across midfield, allowing Juventus too much space between the lines for both Andrea Pirlo to exploit from deep and Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal to run into. Montella surprisingly started with Luca Toni in attack alongside Stevan Jovetic, but the pair’s lack of defensive aptitude may see a return for Adem Ljajic.

Inter Milan’s approach is harder to predict – manager Andrea Stramaccioni is one of the most tactically versatile coaches in Europe. Inter have regularly switched between variations of a 3-5-2 and a 4-3-3 system, so predicting their starting system is difficult. Stramaccioni tends to mirror teams that play three in defence, which would suggest a 3-5-2 variation will be used. Nevertheless, to cover both possibilities and to consider their strengths and weaknesses against Fiorentina’s flat 3-5-2 formation, Inter’s two tactical options will be analysed… (Read more)

09/02/13 – Lazio vs Napoli (Serie A)

Lazio vs NapoliThird host second in Serie A, with Lazio coming off two straight defeats up against a Napoli side unbeaten so far in 2013. Vladimir Petkovic has to do without top scorer Miroslav Klose, so has to decide between Sergio Floccari and new signing Louis Saha to lead the line. With Lazio playing 4-1-4-1 against Walter Mazzarri’s 3-4-1-2, the midfield zone is largely mirrored, meaning the positioning and movement of either teams’ defensive and attacking players will go a long way to deciding the pattern of the match. The reverse fixture in September was memorable for Klose admitting to handling the ball for a goal that would have put Lazio ahead, before an Edison Cavani hat-trick secured Napoli the victory in a game in which he also missed a penalty… (Read more)

09/02/13 – Juventus vs Fiorentina (Serie A)

Juventus vs FiorentinaFiorentina have stuttered of late but travel to Juventus having been unlucky not to get more than a draw from the reverse fixture earlier in the season. Vincenzo Montella will use his regularly 2-5-2/3-6-1 system to stifle Juventus’ midfield and build from deep. Antonio Conte will continue with his 3-1-4-2 system that has served his side so well, but the addition of Nicolas Anelka adds to the selection dilemma in attack. Since the Serie A winter break Juventus have stalled a little, losing one and drawing two of their five games in 2013, so the home side will be keen to get back to winning ways… (Read more)