Serie A champions Juventus will look to bounce back quickly from their season-opening defeat to Udinese when they make the trip south on Sunday to face AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico. Last weekend’s loss put an end to a 47-game unbeaten run in the league.
On paper, losing at home against Udinese, a team that finished just outside the relegation zone last season, doesn’t look that good. But the result doesn’t tell the whole story: Max Allegri’s team dominated possession against the visitors and new signings Mario Mandzukic came close to scoring on more than one occasion, as did Paul Pogba, who remains at the club for now.
Cyril Thereau’s 78th-minute goal for the visitors, on the other hand, was Udinese’s first shot on target. And Juve wasn’t the only Scudetto contender to kick off the season with a loss. Napoli and AC Milan also came out of the blocks with losses. So there is little for Allegri and Juve to panic over at this stage.
Already there is talk of this being a “transitional year” year for Juventus, and indeed this is a different team than the one that made it all the way to the Champions League final last May. Key figures in Juve’s success over the past few seasons like Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo, and Arturo Vidal have all departed the club.
New additions like Mandzukic, Sami Khedira, and Paulo Dybala still need time to settle at the club, as do the more recent additions still pouring in like Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro.
Roma fared only slightly better in its opening match, managing a 1-1 draw away at Hellas Verona. Like Juve, Roma’s new signings have not yet quite kicked into gear. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny could’ve done better on Bosko Jankovic’s 61st minute goal. Eden Dzeko meanwhile, on loan from Manchester City, spurned a number of good chances.
It took a driving shot from 25 yards out from Alexander Florenzi to produce the equalizer. But on the evidence of this first game of the season, there was little to suggest that Roma had turned the page from the second half of last season, when the capital club amassed the highest number of draws in any of the top leagues in Europe with 10.
If Roma is to have any hope of overhauling Juve, in the match on Sunday and in the race for the Scudetto, coach Rudi Garcia needs to get Dzeko to produce. Last season Roma had a solid team but lacked a single player that broke into double digits in the goals column. Captain Francesco Totti, an unused sub against Verona, is unlikely to start against Juve either but could come off the bench at some point.
While a loss for either team would be nearly unthinkable, a draw might be an acceptable result, and this being Serie A, it would also be the most likely one.
Prediction: 1-1 and a share of the spoils between the two best sides in Serie A over the past few seasons.
Roma vs. Juventus kicks off Sunday morning at 6am EST on beINSports.