Juventus will be aiming to make it through to the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia when they face off against SPAL in the last-eight stages on Wednesday.
A place in the semi-finals of the 2020/21 Coppa Italia will be on the line when reigning Serie A champions face off against second-division side SPAL at the Allianz Stadium this midweek.
Juventus manager Andrea Pirlo hasn’t had the easiest of starts to life at the helm. However, having led the team to the Supercoppa Italiana triumph last week, he will be aiming to do so in the Coppa Italia as well. The Bianconeri were made to work hard in the previous round but beat Genoa 3-2 after extra-time and head into the game on the back of a 2-0 win over Bologna in the league.
SPAL have been in Coppa Italia since the second round and overcame Bari and Crotone on penalties before beating Monza 2-0 in the fourth round. Pasquale Marino’s men were a tad bit fortunate to oust Serie A outfit Sassuolo from the Round of 16 and come into Wednesday’s game with a 1-1 draw against Cremonese in the league, making it four games unbeaten in all competitions.
Ahead of what will be a proper David vs Goliath encounter at the Allianz Stadium on Wednesday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Alex Sandro has tested negative for Covid and will join the team soon. With a cramped fixture schedule ahead of Juventus, it wouldn’t come as a major surprise to see Andrea Pirlo decide a host of his first-team regulars against SPAL. The Bianconeri boss fielded a much-changed side in the last round against Genoa and that should be the case once again come Wednesday.
Veteran star Gianluigi Buffon ought to replace the first-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny between the sticks against the Serie B outfit while defensive stalwarts Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are both likely to be rested as well. Instead, Merih Demiral, Radu Dragusin and the fit-again Matthijs de Ligt ought to form the three-man defence.
Brazilian youngster Wesley, who made his first-team debut in the previous round against Genoa, should get another go at right wing-back while Gianluca Frabotta should get the nod on the left. The duo will have the license to push forward and create opportunities for the attackers. Adrien Rabiot should come into the side in central midfield, with Rodrigo Bentancur likely to partner him.
Hamza Rafia, who scored the winning goal against Genoa in extra-time, is an injury doubt. Manolo Portanova should thus start as one of the two attacking midfielders, with the youngster likely to be paired up with Dejan Kulusevski in the final third. The duo will be tasked with providing offensive support to the lone striker that should be Alvaro Morata, with Cristiano Ronaldo set to be rested.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Buffon; Dragusin, de Ligt, Demiral; Wesley, Rabiot, Bentancur, Frabotta; Kulusevski, Portanova; Morata
On-loan striker Marco Tumminello is out injured for SPAL. Apart from that manager, Pasquale Marino does not have any pressing roster issues and he will field a strong starting XI as he looks to lead his team to a major upset. SPAL could line up in a 3-5-2 formation on Wednesday in front of seasoned goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.
Nenad Tomovic, Francesco Vicari and Luca Ranieri ought to form the three-man backline screening the goalkeeper with Lorenzo Dickmann and Marco Sala being the two wing-backs on the right and left sides respectively. Both the players could look to stay deep and compact, forming a five-man defensive shield to deny any spaces to the Juventus forwards.
Salvatore Esposito will sit as the deepest of the three central midfielders and look to sweep up anything that comes his way. He will have support from 34-year-old Simone Missiroli, while Mattia Valoti will take up the third slot in the middle and try to push forward during the attacking phases.
Experienced striker Sergio Floccari and Alberto Paloschi ought to pair up at the top for the visitors. Considering that they will most likely be feeding on scraps for most of the game, they need to be at their clinical best to take whatever chance that will come their way.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Berisha; Tomovic, Vicari, Ranieri; Dickmann, Valoti, Esposito, Missiroli, Sala; Paloschi, Floccari
- Juventus are the most successful team in the history of Coppa Italia, having won the trophy a record thirteen times. The Bianconeri have also reached a record 20 finals in the competition.
- Unlike their midweek opponents, SPAL have never won the Coppa Italia. Their best run in the competition remains a runners-up finish in the 1961/62 campaign when they lost to Napoli in the final.
- Juventus and SPAL have battled each other just thrice in Coppa Italia, with Juve winning two of those matches (L1), scoring ten goals in the process while letting in five.
- SPAL have won just one of their last 18 meeting matches against Juventus across all competition (D4, L13).
- Alberto Paloschi, who is SPAL’s leading goalscorer this season with six strikes to his name, has a sorry record against Juventus. The former AC Milan forward has netted just once in eight games against the Bianconeri.
Player to Watch
With an overall tally of 12 goals and 8 assists from 22 games in all competitions, Alvaro Morata has shown that he can be counted on since returning to Juventus last summer. The former Real Madrid star scored and assisted one goal apiece in the last cup tie against Genoa which was followed by another goal in the Supercoppa Italiana final against Napoli.
With a number of senior players set to be rested and youngsters likely to get an opportunity, the onus will be on Spanish international to step up and deliver the goods for Juventus on Wednesday.
Juventus 2-1 SPAL
With Andrea Pirlo set to ring in the changes, SPAL will fancy their chances to pull off something special at the Allianz Stadium, having already eliminated two Serie A teams from the competition. However, this Juventus team possesses great quality, even without a number of their regulars.
Furthermore, the manager can always call upon his heavy-hitters from the bench should things go wrong. Considering that and their record against SPAL, The Hard Tackle is backing the Bianconeri to bag another win and book their place in the semi-finals.