With Serie A champions Juventus set to face Singapore Selection at the brand new National Stadium in 9 days, FourFourTwo continues to pick the starting XI we'd like to see take the field from both squads.
But here's the twist. Instead of posting our predicted lineups all at one go, Jeremy Lim and Dominic Neo will reveal one member of the team each day, as we count down the number of sleeps till the big match.
Without further ado, we present FourFourTwo Picks: The Right Centre-backs.
Strictly Ballroom with Bonucci
Team: Juventus FC
The suave Leonardo Bonucci adds a touch of his own flair to the Juventus backline. To watch the classy centre-back in action is to catch a glimpse of the defenders of old, those debonair gentlemen who stroked the ball about. A boyhood fan of the club who would look equally at home in a ballroom tuxedo as much as he does in his beloved Bianconeri jersey, Bonucci’s dream of playing for Juventus came true when they snapped him up in 2010.
The 27-year-old’s tremendous ball-playing ability is second to none. Often deployed beside senior club-mates Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, Bonucci loves to distribute the ball to teammates from deep in defence. And while the Italy international could pass on a lesson or two to less cultured midfielders, he is no slouch in the defensive department either. An innate positional awareness and ability to read the game allows him to snuff out danger before it threatens.
Since sealing his Juventus move after a breakthrough season at Bari, Bonucci’s career has been one of rapid growth. He lifted the Serie A title in his second season at the club and went on to feature in the Old Lady’s return to the Champions League, when he netted his first goal in the competition with a curling equaliser against Shakhtar Donetsk. The biggest stages in football seem to bring out the best in Bonucci, and this occasion as the first football visitors to the new National Stadium in Singapore could set the stage for a masterclass in defending.
Die Hard with Baihakki
Team: Singapore Selection
An ever-present for the Singapore National Team over the last decade, the vastly experienced centre-half is hungry for more. "Of course I would like to extend my playing career [to play at the new stadium). I think I am entering the last phase of my career. I think I am at my peak now, but I would like to enjoy as many games as I can at the new stadium," says Baihakki who has 105 caps to his name.
This hunger for success and self-confidence are two traits that have characterised Baihakki’s career. He’s one of the few local players to have been good and daring enough to venture overseas to ply his trade. He may have aged but his powers have not waned – in a young-looking Singapore Selection, Bernd Stange has kept his faith in the seasoned veteran.
An elegant and composed centre-back, the 1.89m tall Baihakki marshalls the defensive line gracefully and uncompromisingly. He was named the “best defender” at the FAM (Football Association of Malaysia) awards 2013, for leading a defence that conceded a paltry 15 goals in 22 games. A key player for club and country, Bai is here is to stay.
FourFourTwo will be at the Singapore Sports Hub on August 16 to watch the Singapore Selection take on Juventus FC. Will Bonucci and Baihakki stand firm? You'll only find out if you join us there! Tickets to the match - priced from S$45 to S$180 for adults and S$30 to S$45 for children – are still available at Sports Hub Tix (www.sportshubtix.sg).