Liverpool vs Juventus?

2014-06-12 10:07
Steven Gerrard (AFP)
Cape Town - When England face off against Italy in their opening World Cup match in Manaus on Saturday, supporters of Liverpool and Juventus will be forgiven for paying particularly close attention.

Five players from each club could be standing on the pitch for kick-off at the Amazonia Arena and here, we look at how the two sides have come to shoulder the hopes of their respective nations...

LIVERPOOL


While Manchester City finished last season as Premier League champions, Liverpool provided the sensation of the campaign by coming within a whisker of claiming a first top-flight title since 1990.

Although they stumbled badly in the home straight, the legacy of their stunning burst of late-season form can be seen in England's starting line-up.

While captain Steven Gerrard and right-back Glen Johnson have long been England regulars, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge and teenager Raheem Sterling have only emerged as potential starters in the past year.

Henderson, 23, arrived at Liverpool at around the same time as Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing in 2011, and his Anfield career looked set to pursue a similar downward trajectory after an unconvincing debut campaign.

He was told that he could leave the club after manager Brendan Rodgers arrived in 2012, but after some improved displays in 2012-13 he played a key role last season, supplying the graft to complement the artistry blossoming all around him.

Alongside Henderson, 34-year-old Gerrard has excelled in a new, deep-lying midfield role, which enables him to showcase the full extent of his passing range.

The jet-heeled Sterling, 19, gives Hodgson options either on the flanks or as a central attacking midfielder, while 24-year-old Sturridge, who scored 21 goals last season, is in the form of his career.

Rickie Lambert's recent move to Anfield from Southampton means that England manager Roy Hodgson could conceivably field a team containing six Liverpool players, but it is unlikely that he will start against Italy.

JUVENTUS


Given Juventus's run of three successive Serie A crowns under Antonio Conte, it is unsurprising that their players feature so prominently in the four-time world champions' line-up.

The defence has a Juventus spine, with captain Gianluigi Buffon keeping goal behind a centre-back pairing formed by club colleagues Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini.

In Turin, Conte plays with three centre-backs: Barzagli on the right, Chiellini on the left, and Leonardo Bonucci in the middle.

However, Bonucci has endured a draining season and Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli is expected to deploy Chiellini instead, with promising Torino defender Matteo Darmian coming in at left-back.

In midfield, Juve's Andrea Pirlo pulls the strings in a slightly withdrawn position, although he increasingly shares playmaking responsibilities with Paris Saint-Germain's Marco Verratti.

The fifth 'Juventino' is expected to be Claudio Marchisio, on the left-hand side of the central midfield trio.

His wide-ranging role obliges him to block the channels, create chances for lone striker Mario Balotelli and crash into the opposition penalty area, which is a prized objective for Prandelli.

The emergence of France midfielder Paul Pogba has cost Marchisio his place in the Juventus starting XI, but he has played regularly over the past two months and appears to be in excellent physical condition.
Read more on: england italy swc 2014 soccer

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