His open hostility towards the hosts is likely to see Zdenek Zeman showered with abuse when he takes his Roma side to the Juventus Arena on Saturday evening (7.45pm, BST) but off-field tensions are unlikely to sour what promises to be an intriguing encounter.
Juventus have assumed the role of arch-nemesis for Zeman. In his last spell at Roma he accused the club of doping, leading to a criminal trial. More recently he has questioned whether coach Antonio Conte should be allowed to train the team in light of his ban from match-day involvement for failing to report match-fixing while at Siena.
Zeman is certainly not the most popular character in Turin and his recent comments are most likely to provoke a strong reaction from Conte’s squad. Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini’s acerbic remark earlier this week that “you can only become a great when you win things,” in reference to the Czech coach’s lack of titles, was just the opening jab.
On the pitch, Juventus showed why they won the league last season and are undefeated in 44 domestic matches by scrapping out a 0-0 draw away to an impressive Fiorentina outfit on Tuesday. The home side had the better of the match, but Juventus plugged away to keep their run going.
There is a togetherness and mutual determination to succeed at the heart of this current Juve side that even when they are not at their best still allows a positive result to be obtained.
Fiorentina matched Juventus’ 3-5-2 formation and enjoyed the better of the match by virtue of having a more technically adept midfield and by forcing the Juventus wing-backs onto the back foot with the attacking intentions of their own. The Viola’s three-man defence were proactive in strongly intercepting passes into a rather static front two.
Fiorentina lacked a concrete threat up front, but they certainly gave Juventus a scare. Zeman, though, is highly unlikely to use Vincenzo Montella’s tactics as a blueprint for his own attempts to end the unbeaten run on Saturday.
A staunch advocate of an attacking 4-3-3, Zeman always looks for his team to impose themselves on the match rather than simply counteract the strengths of their opponent.
Roma, who played in a far more patient manner under Luis Enrique last season, are clearly still adapting to Zeman’s ideas. That much was apparent in their 1-1 draw with Sampdoria on Wednesday, a third home match without a win.
The Giallorossi took a first half lead through Francesco Totti, but failed to take advantage of their opponents being reduced to ten men early in the second half, in fact conceding an equaliser after a mistake from goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg. They had a decent number of shots on goal, but did not create many clear cut chances.
Pablo Osvaldo will be back in the Roma squad against Juventus and could provide a bit more bite up front. He offers a physical central presence that is otherwise lacking and is also capable of moments of match-turning magic, such as his spectacular flying volley against Catania or beautiful goal and assist in the away win over Inter Milan.
Even if Roma can prove more prolific in front of goal than in midweek, however, there are still major question marks about their defence. Like Fiorentina, they are often keen to step forwards aggressively to intercept, but there are two reasons why this tactic is unlikely to be as effective for them as it was for the Viola on Tuesday.
Firstly, as Roma play with two rather than three central defenders, they lack the cover in behind that allowed Fiorentina to pursue this strategy so boldly. Whenever one defender stepped forward, the other two dropped back a couple of paces, getting in position to help out if the first defender was turned.
Secondly, both Mirko Vucinic and Claudio Marchisio started on the bench for Juventus in midweek. Vucinic is stronger in possession than either Fabio Quagliarella or Sebastian Giovinco and therefore better at resisting such challenges. Marchisio is a master at making intelligent off-ball runs in behind, taking advantage of spaces vacated by defenders pulled out of position.
In theory, Roma’s 4-3-3 formation should also expose weaknesses in Juventus’ three-man defence, should Conte opt to continue with the 3-5-2 formation that has faired them well so far this season. But Conte has proved himself capable of making subtle changes to his team to nullify the threat of specific opponents – in fact, it would not be particularly surprising to see Juventus switch to a four-man defence for this fixture.
Juventus vs Roma Betting Tips Verdict
Roma are still a work in progress and with a defence that looks likely to concede at least once it is difficult to see the unbeaten run of this assured Juventus side coming to an end on Saturday.