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Preview: Atalanta vs. Juventus - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Atalanta vs. Juventus - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Saturday's Serie A clash between Atalanta BC and Juventus, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
By , European Football Editor | 14d

Juventus will be looking to record their fifth straight victory in all competitions when the Serie A leaders travel to Atalanta BC on Saturday afternoon.

Maurizio Sarri's side are top of Italy's top flight with 32 points to show from their 12 matches, while Atalanta sit down in fifth on 22 points amid a solid start to the 2019-20 campaign.

Match preview

Currently competing in their ninth straight season in Serie A, Atalanta must now be regarded as one of the stronger teams in the division. Indeed, they have finished fourth, seventh and third in their last three campaigns, establishing themselves as a side to be taken extremely seriously at this level.

La Dea won 20 of their 38 Serie A matches last season en route to claiming third spot, while they have made a solid start to the 2019-20 campaign, picking up 22 points from their 12 matches to sit fifth in the division.

Six wins, four draws and two defeats - that is how Gian Piero Gasperini's side have performed this term. They are only two points off third-placed Lazio but sit nine behind second-placed Inter Milan and 10 off Juve.

It is going to be very tough for Atalanta to challenge for a top-two spot, but third position looks achievable once again, even at this early stage. That said, since thumping Udinese 7-1 on October 27, Gasperini's side have only picked up two points from a possible nine, drawing with Napoli and Sampdoria in addition to losing to Cagliari.

La Dea have only lost one of their last five Serie A matches with Juve, while they beat the Old Lady 3-0 in the Coppa Italia last season en route to reaching the final. The visitors will enter Saturday's clash as the favourites to triumph but it looks set to be a tight encounter in Lombardy.

It would be fair to say that Juve have not been at their free-flowing best this season, but a total of 32 points from 12 matches has left them top of the table, yet to lose in the league during the 2019-20 campaign.

Sarri could be forgiven for thinking that such form would leave them clear at the summit but that is not the case, with second-placed Inter just one point behind. It remains to be seen whether Antonio Conte's side can maintain their form, but the Old Lady appear to have a serious fight on their hands this season.

The 1-0 win over AC Milan before the international break was vitally important, although a troublesome knee problem saw Cristiano Ronaldo replaced once again, and there does appear to be some tension between the Portugal international and Sarri, which is hardly ideal at this stage of the campaign.

Including the Champions League, the Turin giants have won their last four matches since a 1-1 draw at Lecce on October 26. They will face Atletico Madrid and Sassuolo in their two fixtures after this one before travelling to Lazio in the second weekend of December.

The fact that Juve have won 26 of their last 34 games against Atalanta carries a lot of weight, although there is no question that the champions will face a serious examination on Saturday afternoon.

Atalanta form: WDWDLD

Juventus form: WWDWWW

Team News

Atalanta will be without both Ruslan Malinovsky and Josip Ilicic this weekend through suspension, but the home side could be boosted by the return of Duvan Zapata.

The 28-year-old, who is on loan from Sampdoria, scored 28 times for La Dea during an excellent 2019-20 campaign, while he has managed seven goals in nine appearances this season.

Zapata has not played since the middle of October due to a thigh problem, but the Colombia international is being tipped to return to the XI this weekend, potentially taking the place of Luis Muriel.

As for Juve, Giorgio Chiellini and Matia Perin remain on the sidelines with knee and shoulder injuries respectively, while Alex Sandro faces a race to be fit to due a groin problem.

Adrien Rabiot is also a doubt due to a thigh issue, but Blaise Matuidi is available and should start alongside Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic in midfield, with the latter expected to overcome a slight issue.

Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala are battling for the spot alongside Ronaldo in the final third, meanwhile, and the former is being tipped to get the nod.

Atalanta possible starting lineup: Gollini; Toloi, Djimsiti, Palomino; Castagne, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pasalic; Gomez, Zapata

Juventus possible starting lineup: Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, De Ligt, De Sciglio; Khedira, Pjanic, Matuidi; Bernardeschi; Higuain, Ronaldo

We say: Atalanta 1-1 Juventus

Four of the last five Serie A meetings between the two teams have finished level, including each of the last three at the home of Atalanta. Juve certainly have the quality to pick up all three points but we expect Gasperini's team to claim a share of the spoils in front of their own supporters.

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