Parma welcome defending champions Juventus to Stadio Ennio Tardini on Saturday evening after a goalless draw at home to Cagliari in midweek which left Fabio Liverani’s men 14th in the Serie A standings.
Andrea Pirlo’s side, Juventus, climbed to third by virtue of yet another league draws on Wednesday, but must start to turn singles into maximums if they are to keep pace with the Milan clubs at the Serie A summit.
Juventus were held by Atalanta during midweek as Gian Piero Gasperini’s side leveled through a wondrous effort by Remo Freuler after winger Federico Chiesa had left Pierluigi Gollini with no chance of saving his first-half strike.
The match will also be remembered for Cristiano Ronaldo uncharacteristically failing to put Juventus back into the lead from the penalty spot after an hour as Atalanta goalkeeper Gollini was equal to his attempt. Incredibly, that was Ronaldo’s fifth penalty attempt in the space of a week and, crucially, his first miss.
So far this season, the Bianconeri’s limitations have been exposed by a series of draws in Serie A, which show little sign of coming to a halt.
Their last five outings have resulted in three wins and two draws, but not a single clean sheet. Contrarily, though, Juve has statistically the best defense in Italy so far, with 10 goals conceded in 12 games.
Ball possession is clearly a priority for rookie coach Andrea Pirlo, with the Old Lady currently averaging around 60% – among the highest in Serie A. However, such supremacy has not always translated into points for the team with the league’s worst disciplinary record – Pirlo’s men have the reddest cards, with four sendings-off to date.
Against Parma on Saturday, they must keep their discipline as well as the ball, as their quest for a 10th successive Scudetto continues.
Parma have become draw specialists too, with six from their first 12 games – the same number as Juventus. Three of those have come in the Crociati’s last three matches to leave Fabio Liverani’s side on 12 points.
Recent draws against Spezia and Benevento are probably seen as points lost by ex-Palermo boss Liverani, while those with the Milan clubs – although they were close to an unlikely win in both games – should be considered as excellent results.
After Wednesday’s goalless draw versus Cagliari, the Giallorossi were left to rue wasted opportunities after Jasmin Kurtic and misfiring striker Roberto Ingiese failed to take their chances.
Following a difficult start to the season, Liverani seems to have found the right balance and refined his tactical vision, successfully utilizing the 4-3-3 setup which he has settled upon of late – with former Roma man Gervinho very much to the fore.
Despite averaging just a goal per game, Parma has gradually become more resilient, as they have not lost now for four games in a row. They will certainly need that new-found solidity if they are to repel the attacking might of Juventus this weekend.
Juventus forward Paulo Dybala suffered a muscle strain in training on Friday, so Andrea Pirlo has been forced to exclude the ‘contract rebel’ from Sunday’s squad.
The Bianconeri will also be without summer signing Arthur, injured against Atalanta, so Adrien Rabiot should start instead.
Defenders Merih Demiral and Giorgio Chiellini are unlikely to be risked,as they continue their comebacks from injury.
Parma have playmaker Juraj Kucka back in action, after he played the full 90 minutes against Cagliari on his return, so the Slovakian star may start again on Saturday.
Left-back Giuseppe Pezzella and midfielder Matteo Scozzarella will be assessed ahead of kickoff as they recover from injury. Danish forward Andreas Cornelius is expected to replace goal-shy striker Roberto Inglese up front, supported by in-form Gervinho and Yann Karamoh.