Written by @Wayde_D for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Juventus vs Roma | Sunday 05 January | Juventus Stadium | 21:45
The Italian Serie A returns with a bang on the first weekend of 2014. After a Christmas break, the top two teams in Serie A are separated by five points and go head-to-head in Turin on Sunday. Back in August, no courage would have been needed to forecast that Juventus, the 2011/12 and 2012/13 champions, might be occupying the summit as the season neared its halfway point. But few would have imagined Roma emerging as their nearest challengers. Both sides are in red-hot form having ended 2013 on a high. Juventus won 4-1 at Atalanta while Roma eased to a 4-0 victory over bottom club Catania.
Serie A leaders Juventus will go into the match with a five-point lead on their guests, Antonio Conte’s side having won nine in a row. During December, the Bianconeri beat Udinese, Bologna, Sassuolo, and Atalanta without conceding a single goal. With only one loss in the league, Juventus are on their way to a third straight title, though a defeat to Roma on Sunday will allow Rudi Garcia’s team to pull within two points. Juve, however, have not lost at home in the league since January 6 2013, a run of seventeen games. By the time Juventus host Roma, Andrea Pirlo will have missed 34 days of action, but the important thing from Juve’s point of view is their maestro’s availability for the first time since December 1. Since moving to Juventus from AC Milan in the summer of 2011, the Italian international has been a part of two league title-winning teams, recording eleven goals along the way. Juve can be pleased with their summer recruits. Carlos Tevez, with his eleven goals, has filled the gap in Antonio Conte’s previous title-winning squads, of a striker who could score twenty goals. Fernando Llorente is also a game changing option upfront.
Roma are the only team unbeaten in the Serie A this season and this is their longest ever unbeaten streak. The Giallorossi, however, have drawn five times, with the team’s hot start slowed by an injury to their own veteran star, Francesco Totti. The Roma captain, however, returned prior to the winter break and is ready to go against the champions. Bringing in a large batch of newcomers can be disruptive, although Roma presented a splendid counter-example for a heady two months, winning every game, at the outset of the season. A new coach, untried outside his native France, arrived and he, Rudi Garcia, put trust in several players also plucked from abroad. Ivory Coast winger Gervinho has been a joy to watch, revelling in the old-fashioned virtues of dribbling at speed at opponents. Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman and Moroccan defender Mehdi Benatia have also impressed. Roma’s defence has been the crucial factor in their excellent run this season. They have conceded just seven goals in their seventeen matches.
VERDICT: Juventus 13/20
Roma have been stronger at home as they have drawn three times in eight travels. Meanwhile, Juventus have been flawless at home winning all eight matches, scoring 23 goals and conceding just four. Roma have also never won a game at the new Juventus Stadium, which opened in 2011. And although they visited Turin with a different manager last year, Roma lost 4-1 at the Juventus Stadium, a game in which Pirlo scored the opening goal. Back Juventus for the victory.
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