MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) kicks-off a new season for the European NAP with Serie A the focus on Saturday night.
Juventus v Fiorentina | 20th August 2016 | BT Sport 2
Last season was supposed to be the year that Serie A fought back at Juventus. Champions for four consecutive campaigns, the Old Lady had suffered a number of high-profile exits in the off-season.
The Bianconeri took plenty of time to adjust. In fact, by the time Halloween rolled around Juve were looking dead and buried. The Turin club had earned just 12 points from a possible 30 (W3-D3-L4) – their worst start for 46 years.
But what happened in the following six months was quite remarkable. Juventus claimed the title by nine points, reeling off 25 wins in 26 matches with Gigi Buffon breaking a new league record for minutes (974) without conceding a goal along the way.
The Old Lady leaked just 20 goals all season – only six at the Juventus Stadium – with 20 of their 29 Serie A triumphs arriving alongside a clean sheet. In front of their home supporters, 13 of their 19 outings saw the hosts win ‘to nil’.
Although Paul Pogba’s departed for an astronomical fee, the club have pinched their rivals’ best players with the mercurial Miralem Pjanic and Serie A’s new single-season scoring record-breaker Gonzalo Higuain arriving with Mehdi Benatia, Dani Alves and Marko Pjaca.
Alvaro Morata and Juan Cuadrado have also left Turin this summer but there’s a sense this squad is stronger than 12 months ago and the Bianconeri looked perfectly poised for a sixth successive Scudetto as well as a serious assault on European competition.
Juve have lost just three of their last 31 meetings with Fiorentina, including a W9-D6-L1 in their most recent 16 showdowns. That vastly superior head-to-head record should stand Max Allegri’s men in good stead for an opening day victory on Saturday evening.
The defending champions have W78-D14-L3 at the Juventus Stadium since 2011/12 – that’s an 82% win ratio – 49 (52%) of those triumphs were achieved by a margin of two goals or more. Those trends make the 16/19 (BetVictor) available on the -1 Asian Handicap appear most appealing.
It’s a little surprising to see Paulo Sousa still in the Fiorentina hot-seat after cracks began to appear between owners and head coach following an approach from Zenit with Sousa accusing the La Viola leaders of a lack of ambition having steered the club into title contention at the turn of 2016.
The visitors won just twice in their final 12 games to finish in fifth having managed fourth-place in the proceeding three seasons. Nevertheless, with Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gomez back in Florence and the majority of their best players still in position, there’s hope Fiorentina can go again.
But the guests will need a vast improvement in their record against Serie A’s leading lights. La Viola W2-D1-L5 when taking on the top-four last term, shipping 16 goals in the process. And on the road, the visitors have suffered eight defeats in their last nine at top-six sides, including six by two or more goals.
Fiorentina did score in 14 of their 19 away days in 2015/16 and there’s no doubt they boast an excellent offensive squad but picking their way through the Juventus lock looks a tall order on Saturday night and backing the Old Lady to breeze to victory makes most appeal.
Taking the -1 Asian Handicap option sees our stake returned if the hosts only manage a one-goal win.
Juventus v Fiorentina – Juventus -1 Asian Handicap (16/19 BetVictor)