9 tackles: Arsenal-linked defender Lichtsteiner outshone by Manchester United target in head-to-head match-up

Torino FC bus

Arsenal and Manchester City-linked Stephan Lichtsteiner was given all he could handle by reported Manchester United target Matteo Darmian at the weekend.

Stephan Lichtsteiner is a player who has always relished the physical side of football, a trait that has long seen him be a thorn in the side of opponents.

As attack-minded as they come at full-back but with a knack for getting under the skin of anyone wearing a different colour shirt, the 30-year-old is a divisive figure.

A key part of the Juventus squad that has dominated Serie A in recent years, the Swiss has only further cemented his reputation as a player one would rather be on the same side as.

But the Bianconeri are at risk of losing the talismanic defender. His contract expiring at the end of the season, Arsenal and Manchester City have been linked with Lichtsteiner.

The former Lazio man and his current employers are said to be at odds over his salary requirements, leaving the door open to a cut-price January move of summer free transfer.

The Premier League duo would more easily be able to accommodate Lichsteiner’s wage demands, all while picking up a valuable veteran performer with plenty to give.

Meanwhile, Manchester United are also said to be sniffing around a Serie A full-back, but on the other side of the city of Turin – Torino’s Matteo Darmian.

The 24-year-old has been in superb form for the Granata for over a year now, drawing the attention of top clubs as he’s become a regular with the Italian national side.

Darmian is reportedly a personal favourite of Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal, who is in dire need of defensive reinforcements – particularly in wide areas.

The Italian’s ability to play on either the left or right makes him an alluring target, though his age and versatility mean Torino will demand top dollar for him should they sell.

Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs had the perfect opportunity to see their Serie A pair in action on Sunday in the Derby della Mole. Not only could the English heavyweights run the rule over them in one of Italy’s most fiery derbies – but in direct competition as well.

Darmian lined-up at left wing-back in Torino’s 3-5-2 set-up, while Lichtsteiner stood opposite him at right-back as Juventus have transitioned to a four-man back-line.

Over the 90 minutes as a whole, it’s fair to say that Darmian got the better of the Bianconeri man, despite the Serie A leaders coming up with a last-gasp victory.

In fact, Lichtsteiner didn’t make it the full 90. Not because he was substituted, but because he was sent off for picking up a second booking with a rash 77th minute challenge.

All told, Darmian tallied an impressive nine tackles on the day to Lichtsteiner’s two as Torino defended magnificently for much of the match.

The Italian got forward to create a lone chance as Lichsteiner was held at zero, Darmian’s defensive excellence helping limit the Swiss to only one accurate cross.

In terms of dribbling, the pair came out even at one successful take-on apiece. However, it’s important to note that Lichtsteiner failed to beat his man four times while Darmian never faltered.

Of course, Lichtsteiner got the last laugh after his early shower as Andrea Pirlo’s stunning strike at the death arrowed into the bottom corner to give Juventus a 2-1 win.

Yet Darmian can hold his head high. He gave even further proof that he has the skill, guile and composure to stand up to top opponents, outshining the formidable Lichtsteiner.

Both players could have Premier League futures and are no stranger to intense fixtures playing their football in Turin – as evidence by Sunday’s proceedings.

It still remains to be seen whether the pair will arrive on English shores shortly, however, though the decisive days of January are fast closing in.

What’s clear is that neither Darmian nor Lichtsteiner is willing to back down from a challenge, a quality that has likely piqued the interest of the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and City.

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