This weekend’s clash between Juventus and Fiorentina sees two of the most talked about forwards in Serie A come head to head, Paulo Dybala of Juventus and Nikola Kalinic of Fiorentina.
The result in this fixture is one which will go some way impacting on the Scudetto challenge of both sides, and it is likely that if either side is to emerge victorious then, on current form, it will be one of Paulo Dybala or Nikola Kalinic who is the match-winner.
Dybala arrived at Juventus with a blooming reputation following his outstanding season for Palermo in Serie A last season. That Massimiliano Allegri allowed Carlos Tevez to return to Argentina is testimony to the impact that he believed Dybala would have on arrival in Turin.
Allegri’s handling of Dybala has drawn comparisons with the way that he slowly allowed Alvaro Morata to adapt to life at Juventus last season, before the Spaniard became a crucial component in the BiancoNeri’s domestic double and their appearance in the Champions League final.
Dybala was a key figure for Palermo last season, and was directly involved in 23 of Palermo’s 53 goals in the 2014/15 Serie A, scoring 13 and assisting 10. That prompted a move to Juventus in the close season where, although he started slowly due to Allegri’s acclimatisation of him into the squad. However, his progression into a first team regular is almost complete and he has flourished despite the pressure of playing for the Bianconeri.
So far this season, Dybala has scored 8 goals and provided 4 assists in 20 appearances, and one anticipates that now he is heading the Juventus attack, there is much more to come.
As one would expect, the Argentine has excellent technical ability which, coupled with his pace and agility, makes him one of the undoubted talents for the future in Serie A. His performances over the past few months have already seen him linked with moves to Barcelona and Real Madrid at the end of the season. Juventus will, however, be keen to retain the man who they only acquired less than 6 months ago.
Whilst Dybala has displayed his excellent attacking threat over the last 18 months, there are certain elements of his game that need a little work, notably his passes in the final third of the pitch. However, his running and movement with the ball has been and continues to be exceptional, and this was particularly evident in Juventus’ game against Lazio in Matchday 15, a game where Dybala created Juventus’s first goal, and scored the second with an outstanding volley.
Fiorentina will be wary of the Argentine’s skill and Fiorentina’s excellent coach, Paulo Sousa, will no doubt a plan for dealing with Dybala. However, if Dybala continues to show the level of performance that he has recently, the Fiorentina defence will need to be in top form to prevent him from adding to his goal tally this season.
Whilst much was expected of Dybala following his big-money move from Palermo, the performance of Nikola Kalinic has been a revelation. Since his signing from Dnipro in July, Nikola has become one of the top marksman in Serie A, much to the surprise of most Serie A watchers, and also those who saw his inconspicuous output when at Blackburn Rovers in England. The Croatian joined the Viola for the sum of £5.25m, and has already repaid the faith shown in him by Paulo Sousa to cement his place as Fiorentina’s key forward ahead of the likes of Giuseppe Rossi and Khouma Babacar.
With 9 goals in 14 appearances, Kalinic is currently third in the race to be Capocannoniere. It is clear already, that Fiorentina’s chances of taking the Scudetto will likely depend on him staying fit and in the goals for the entirety of the season. One only has to look at the Croat’s impact when coming on as a half-time substitute during Fiorentina’s game against Empoli to understand his impact on his team mates. Kalinic came on at half-time with the Viola 2-0 down to their Tuscan rivals yet, within 15 minutes of coming on, Kalinic had netted twice and the Viola were on equal terms. The goals from Kalinic raised the tempo and spirit of his team-mates, and the Viola were unlucky not to run out eventual winners.
Kalinic has been impressive in most of the games in which he has featured this season, not least against Inter where he destroyed a team which has the best defensive record in Serie A; conceding 9 goals in 15 games is an impressive record, particularly when one considers that four of those were conceded against the Viola, three from the boot of Kalinic.
The threat posed by the Croatian comes in a variety of forms. He was impressive against Inter making runs in behind the Nerazzurri defence, whilst also using his height to good advantage to retain possession with his back to goal as the link-up man off whom his m
Although Kalinic shone against Inter, it will be the first chance to see him against the well-marshalled Juventus defence containing the likes of Giorgo Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli, Patrice Evra and Stephan Lichsteiner. If the Viola forward can help fire Fiorentina to a victory over Juventus, then there is every reason for them to be considered genuine Scudetto contenders.
The link-up play between Kalinic and Fiorentina’s midfield creators, Josep Ilicic and Borja Valero, has seen the trio provide the majority of Fiorentina’s attacking threat this season. However, recent form does not bode well for the Viola as they have not found the net against Juventus in 5 of their last 7 games. If they are to improve on that record, then much will depend on Kalinic to continue his excellent scoring form of the first third of the season.