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

:Headline: Preview: Sassuolo vs. Juventus - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Serie A clash between Sassuolo and Juventus, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Following a humbling home defeat at the weekend, deposed champions Juventus visit eighth-placed Sassuolo on Wednesday evening, with maximum points a necessity.

Now with just three games left to go, both clubs are still battling for a place in Europe - the hosts being back in the race due to some fine late-season form, while Juve are in danger of missing out on a Champions League berth.

Match preview

It was a measure of the magnitude of their 3-0 loss to top-four rivals Milan on Sunday evening, that Juventus vice president Pavel Nedved was called upon to confirm that under-fire coach Andrea Pirlo and star striker Cristiano Ronaldo would stay at the club, in the immediate aftermath of a desperate defeat.

Such a no-show in a direct head-to-head for Champions League qualification could ultimately prove the final straw, however, as Pirlo's reign has lurched from inconsistency into relative disaster of late.

Ahead of their midweek trip to Emilia-Romagna, Juventus sit fifth in the Serie A standings and may need to rely on the fact that fellow top-four contestants Atalanta and Milan must meet on the final day, with points inevitably being dropped by either one or both sides.

However, as Juve won Sunday's reverse fixture 3-1 at San Siro in January, they also now have an inferior head-to-head record with the Rossoneri: the deciding factor if the two giants end tied on points. Should the Bianconeri miss out, then, it would be inconceivable that Pirlo's tenure would continue and that Ronaldo could remain in Turin.

Though teetering on the edge of a crisis, the Coppa Italia finalists - who will face Atalanta in the cup decider later this month - can at least journey to Sassuolo in the knowledge that they have lost only one of their 15 top flight meetings with the Neroverdi; scoring at an average of over two goals per game in that time. Not only that, but Juve also won 3-1 in this season's previous encounter between the sides.

Currently topping the Serie A form table with a magnificent haul of 16 points from the last available 18, Sassuolo are hot on the heels of an ailing Roma side, who sit just above them in the table by a margin of only two points.

While the prize for finishing seventh may be a mere spot in UEFA's new Conference League, a second-ever European qualification for the modest Emilian outfit would be a fitting reward for an entertaining campaign in which they started at a frantic pace before suffering a significant wobble in the middle.

Now back in full flight, top scorer Domenico Berardi (16 goals and five assists) pounced on a defensive error against Genoa at the weekend to record his third consecutive goal, while local boy Giacomo Raspadori netted his fourth in the last seven matches - two of which came in the historic win over Milan last month.

Their 2-1 win in Genoa was the Neroverdi's fifth in six games, meaning that improving on last term's eighth-placed finish and taking them back into continental competition remains a possibility for highly-regarded tactician Roberto De Zerbi - who has been linked with bigger and brighter things in the summer.

A recent run in which his Sassuolo side have staged a sensational comeback at San Siro to defeat Milan and held second-placed Atalanta to a 1-1 draw sees them prepare for the visit of Juventus full of confidence and, crucially, looking likely to score from any one of several sources.

Sassuolo Serie A form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W

Juventus Serie A form:
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • L

Team News

Andrea Pirlo has now used 35 different lineups in his debut season, as his confused reign continues amid frequent personnel and formation switches, and the under-fire Juventus coach is expected to change a losing side again on Wednesday.

The central-defensive pairing of Matthijs de Ligt and Giorgio Chiellini is set to be broken up, with Leonardo Bonucci being brought back into the XI - most probably for his erstwhile partner Chiellini - while Danilo should return at right-back, as Juan Cuadrado makes way for Dejan Kulusevski.

With a fully-fit squad to choose from, Pirlo can also choose whether to retain Rodrigo Bentancur in midfield or instead introduce one of his underwhelming squad players, Aaron Ramsey or Arthur.

Having made little impact against Milan, Alvaro Morata may lose his place to Paulo Dybala, though will hope to feature in the forward line during the second half.

The hosts, meanwhile, had first-choice centre-forward Francesco Caputo back on the bench at the weekend, following a long injury layoff. Due to the Azzurri star's absence with a back injury, though, primavera product Giacomo Raspadori has taken the opportunity to impress and is expected to battle it out with French forward Gregoire Defrel to lead the Sassuolo line.

Winger Jeremie Boga has overcome a muscular injury, so will join Domenico Berardi and Hamed Traore in supporting the lone striker once again.

Centre-back Marlon returns from suspension to start, but Gian Marco Ferrari could keep his recently re-won place, so Vlad Chiriches would therefore drop out of the Neroverdi's defence.

Sassuolo possible starting lineup:
Consigli; Toljan, Marlon, Ferrari, Kyriakopolous; Locatelli, Obiang; Berardi, Traore, Boga; Raspadori

Juventus possible starting lineup:
Szczesny; Danilo, De Ligt, Bonucci, Sandro; Kulusevski, Arthur, Rabiot, Chiesa; Dybala, Ronaldo

We say: Sassuolo 2-2 Juventus

As there is much to play for - but with all the pressure resting on Juve's shoulders - an absorbing contest could unfold at the Mapei Stadium.

A serious off-night for the Bianconeri's attacking department on Sunday surely cannot reoccur, so they can take advantage of Sassuolo's adventurous approach - though not necessarily be able to stem an incoming tide at the other end.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:curl

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