Serie A matchweek 9 preview: Benevento vs. Juventus (18:00h. CET) - Team news, lineups

Battling Benevento welcome the might of champions Juventus to Campania on Saturday evening as they seek to continue a spirited start to their Serie A campaign under Juve legend Pippo Inzaghi.

The Bianconeri, however, will accept nothing less than maximum points from the long trip south, finding themselves currently off the frantic pace being set by league leaders AC Milan in a potentially fascinating Scudetto race.

Match preview

Both star names in their playing days, current Benevento and Juventus coaches Inzaghi and Andrea Pirlo played 156 league matches as teammates at AC Milan. However, warm words and friendly exchanges will be politely parked for 90 minutes, as both managers are in need of points to meet their clubs' very different objectives.

For Juventus, the primary task is to defend their Serie A crown, but a continuing frailty in situations where opponents would have been ruthlessly steamrollered in the not too distant past lurks just beneath the surface of the side who sit fourth.

Under Pirlo and predecessor Maurizio Sarri, Juve have not won in three of their last four away games against newly promoted teams - drawing two and losing one - while failing to keep a clean sheet in each of their last six such matches.

That weakness is part of a wider malaise - relatively speaking - as the Bianconeri have won only one of their last eight domestic away games and have conceded at least once in each of their last nine league matches on the road. Their formerly water-tight defensive unit has been the chief culprit, as they have shipped 17 goals in that spell, at an ugly average of nearly two a game.

Fortunately, rookie coach Pirlo has a relentlessly efficient wellspring of goals to mitigate such deficiencies - the inimitable Cristiano Ronaldo.

Despite some absences through injury and illness, the former Real Madrid man has scored 29 Serie A goals in 2020 and - against modest opposition this weekend - will fancy his chances of reaching 30 league goals in a calendar year for the ninth time in a long and glorious career. In Serie A history, only 11 players have ever reached this milestone before - most recently Lazio hitman Ciro Immobile in 2017.

Juventus were not entirely convincing in their comeback win against Ferencvaros in midweek, but another goal for 'CR7' and in-form Alvaro Morata's late winner saw them confirm Champions League progress. This followed on from last Saturday's defeat of Cagliari in Serie A, thanks to two first-half Ronaldo goals, which suggests that their title challenge may now be ready to switch up a gear.

Saturday's opponents Benevento are so far making a decent fist of achieving their sole aim this term - survival. They already have three wins in eight Serie A games, which is the same number of victories put together in the first 29 matches of their only previous top-flight season in 2017-18.

One man has been more responsible than most for their impressive start. Star striker Gianluca Lapadula - recently capped by Peru - has been involved in five of Benevento's last seven league goals, with three goals and two assists. However, the former Milan man has yet to register a single goal against Juve in his career, so will be particularly eager to put that right at Ciro Vigorito.

Gli Stregoni now sit 14th after bouncing back from a run of four straight losses with hard-won success at the Artemio Franchi last weekend, albeit against a flawed Fiorentina side. That certainly represents an above-expectation return to Calcio's highest tier.

Though Benevento have managed to score in both Serie A matches they have played against Juventus, they have unsurprisingly lost both top-flight games between the clubs to date. To avoid a similar fate this weekend, Inzaghi's team will need a fair share of fortune and the bravery to capitalise on Juve's defensive injury list in the way Ferencvaros narrowly failed to achieve.

Benevento Serie A form: WLLLLW
Benevento form (all competitions): LLLLLW

Juventus Serie A form: WDDWDW
Juventus form (all competitions): LWWDWW

Team News

Benevento's on-loan forward Gianluca Caprari returns from suspension to face the champions, but Pippo Inzaghi otherwise has a number of injuries and illnesses to contend with.

Midfielder Bryan Dabo has tested positive for COVID-19, while Gaetano Letizia is out injured - joining centre-backs Massimo Volta and Alessandrio Tuia on the sidelines.

Iago Falque, on loan from Roma, and Belgian full-back Daam Foulon face late fitness tests before Inzaghi names his XI, which is expected to take to the field in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Visiting manager Andrea Pirlo could be without three key members of his defensive unit, as recently-returned Matthijs de Ligt may well be the only recognised central defender available to a coach who often prefers to pick a three-man back line.

Leonardo Bonucci is unlikely to return but will be given a late fitness test, while Merih Demiral picked up a knock against Cagliari and is also set to miss out. Veteran Giorgio Chiellini is a serious doubt too, so full-back Danilo could feature in the heart of a four-man defence.

Benevento possible starting lineup:
Montipo; Letizia, Glik, Caldirola, Maggio; Ionita, Schiattarella, Hetemaj; Insigne, Caprari; Lapadula

Juventus possible starting lineup:
Szczesny; Cuadrado, De Ligt, Danilo, Sandro; Bentancur, Arthur, Rabiot; Kulusevski; Morata, Ronaldo

Source: Sports Mole / Jonathan O'Shea

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