The first Coppa Italia semi-final gets underway when Lazio visit Turin to face last year’s beaten finalists Juventus. Which team will build momentum for the all important second leg in Rome next week?
Lazio have already visited the Juventus Stadium once this season. The two sides met back in mid-November in Serie A. While the Bianconeri put the Eagles under the cosh for most of the 90 minutes, they could find no way past Federico Marchetti and the visitors left with a credible 0-0 draw.
The visitors haven't beaten Juventus in any of their last eight meetings. However, the last time Lazio did beat the Old Lady was at this same stage in the 2008-09 competition. A pair of 2-1 victories guided the Eagles to the final, where they beat Sampdoria on penalties. Whether this is an omen or not remains to be seen.
Both sides joined the competition in Round 5 and have each played two home matches to get to this stage. Juventus got past Cagliari 1-0 thanks to a Sebastian Giovinco goal, but needed extra time and a Mirko Vucinic strike to squeeze past AC Milan 2-1.
Lazio were staring elimination in the face until Michael Ciani popped up with a header in stoppage time to draw level with Siena. Extra time couldn't separate the sides, so it was down to third choice goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo to become the hero as the Biancocelesti won a penalty shootout. The side from the Capital had no such problems in the quarter final, convincingly sweeping Catania aside 3-0.
Both managers know that the game won't be easy, nor will it necessarily be won or lost in Turin.
Speaking on their opposition, Juventus coach Antonio Conte said: "I expect a tough Lazio, one who will look to not give us a lot of space and hit us on the counter."
"They have excellent players, ones of class and experience. Lazio will be strong, compact and well-organised. They have consolidated the good foundations established by Edy Reja."
Vladimir Petkovic is yet to decide on his starting XI, but is taking no chances against the current league leaders.
"I want a disciplined team, aware and ready to take advantage of the opportunities available.
"Juventus are definitely the strongest team in Italy, but we are also very strong, and have averaged over two points every game. We will just have to be better than them over 180 minutes," he said.
Disappointingly, key players for both sides will be missing when these teams take to the field. Giovinco is a major doubt after being withdrawn at half time in Saturday's 4-0 win over Udinese.
The Atomic Ant could join a lengthy Juventus injury list that already includes Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Pirlo, Simone Pepe and Nicklas Bendtner. In addition, Kwadwo Asamoah is on African Cup of Nations duty and Fabio Quagliarella is suspended. Claudio Marchisio is expected to return and loanee Federico Peluso will be given a chance to impress.
A cautious Conte also revealed he may choose to rest Vucinic, after the Montenegrin only just returned from an ankle injury, before quashing reports of a return for Pirlo, after he missed the Udinese game.
He added: "We'll have to evaluate Vucinic. He played 90 intense minutes at the weekend after a period in which we had to preserve him because of his ankle. I don't want him to get injured again, I want to be cautious.
"We'll have to carefully consider whether to give him another 90 minutes, especially as we only have one striker left in Alessandro Matri.
"I'm not yet able to say who will play. I'll have to deploy someone out of their natural position. Pirlo won't play, that's for certain."
With a depleted strike force, the key battle looks to be in midfield between two maestros. Paul Pogba showed his pedigree for the Bianconeri with two sensational long range strikes against Udinese. Meanwhile, Hernanes has conjured up eight Serie A goals for Lazio so far this season, along with a double which helped crush Catania in the previous round.
Juventus injuries and suspensions
Out: Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Pirlo, Simone Pepe, Nicklas Bendtner, Sebastian Giovinco (injured), Kwadwo Asamoah (international duty) Fabio Quagliarella (suspended
Lazio injuries and suspensions
Out: Abdoulay Konko, Andre Dias, Ederson, Miroslav Klose (injured) Mauro Zarate (frozen out)
Match Date/Time: Tuesday 22nd January 2013 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy
TV: Rai Uno (Italy) beIN Sport en Espanol (U.S.), ESPN (U.K.)