It’s Time for the New Signings

With Juventus taking on Hellas Verona tomorrow, it’s as good a time as any for Maurizio Sarri to rotate his eleven and give the bianconeri’s new arrivals some much-needed playing time.

As the Italian champions debuted with a tough schedule that saw them take on Napoli, Fiorentina and Atletico Madrid in succession, the former Chelsea tactician opted not to ruffle any feathers and stick with Juventus veterans such as Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi among others.

Now with Juventus taking on Hellas Verona, Brescia and SPAL in the coming weeks, Sarri would be wise to rest his starters and look to integrate the new signings. While Matuidi and Khedira haven’t had bad starts to the season by any stretch, they are limited and are currently holding back ‘Sarriball’ from being in full flow.

New arrivals Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot are far more suited to free-flowing football and will benefit from increased playing time in the coming games.

Uruguayan international Rodrigo Bentancur is also expected to feature and has looked impressive in brief cameos thus far. Outside of a revamped midfield, hard-nosed defender Merih Demiral is rumoured to start alongside Leonardo Bonucci.

The Turkish international has patiently waited in the wings and appears more than ready to seize the opportunity. With Giorgio Chiellini out for the foreseeable future, Demiral’s aggression is an asset this Juventus defence desperately craves – as highlighted by their most recent collapse against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

Reports also suggest that Gonzalo Higuain will make way out of the lineup for Paulo Dybala. After a summer linking la Joya away from the club, the former Palermo man opted to stay, rejecting a move to Manchester United. Now with Sarri looking to rotate, it’s time for Dybala to prove himself and demonstrate he has what it takes to play as an outright number nine in the former Napoli tactician’s system.

At Napoli, Dries Mertens played this role to perfection and has a similar skill-set to the Argentine. While the Belgian is arguably a better finisher than Dybala, there’s no reason the Juventus forward can’t get into similar positions as Mertens. While the 25-year-old will be eager to play in more important games, proving himself against Hellas Verona will be a good start after an indifferent season under Allegri. Factor in Higuain’s good form, and it’s clear Dybala has to have a good performance against the newly-promoted side to keep up with his compatriot.

As the season unfolds and Juventus get more comfortable with their new boss, expect to see more and more signs of Sarriball in Turin. Introducing the likes of Dybala, Rabiot and Ramsey – players who are more technical than their direct competitors in their position – will only help in this respect.

As a result, the following weeks are of paramount importance to Sarri and co. Not for the table, but for his playing philosophy. If Juventus wish to play free-flowing football in their coach’s image, the time to buy in is now. On Sarri’s end, it’s time to use Juventus’ deep roster and look for alternatives to the current starters. Starting, of course, with the game against Hellas Verona.

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Match previews for this weekend’s Premier League action

It’s time for gameweek six of the 2019/20 English Premier League season.

Here’s a look at all the predicted lineups for the ten fixtures over the coming weekend.

Southampton v Bournemouth

Key men: Djenepo (Southampton); Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)

Prediction: Southampton 1 – 1 Bournemouth Continue reading

Sarri ponders some changes for Verona game

Sarri was back in front of the journalists today to preview the game against Hellas Verona. He hinted at some lineup changes on Saturday and looked back at the Atletico Madrid clash: “Within a good performance, there were few moments where we were superficial and we must eliminate that. We paid the price on set pieces. I do not like to throw away something that works, I want to analyse it and fix it. There were some lapses in focus and aggressiveness that would have been costly also with man marking.” Continue reading

So much for ‘Year Zero’: Like a moody teenager, presumptuous Lazio refuse to learn lessons

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Old habits die hard. But what if they refuse to die at all?

That, sadly, appears to be the reality facing Lazio after a week in which a familiar trait reared its ugly head twice in the space of five days.

In mirror-image matches, Lazio took the lead away to technically inferior sides, SPAL in Serie A and Cluj in the Europa League, before whimpering to a pair of 2-1 defeats.

Technically inferior they may be, but those teams taught Simone Inzaghi’s men a lesson in the importance of desire and character.

But what’s the point in even attending lessons if you’re not going to learn? Continue reading

Serie A Probable Lineups – Round Four

Cagliari-Genoa

Cagliari: 4-3-1-2 Olsen; Cacciatore, Ceppitelli, Klavan, Pellegrini; Nandez, Cigarini, Rog; Castro; Pedro, Simeone.

Potential lineup changes: Pinna for Cacciatore, Ionita for Rog, Birsa for Castro.

Confirmed out: Nainggolan (calf), Pavoletti (knee), Cragno (shoulder), Faragò (hip).

 

Genoa: 3-5-2 Radu; Romero, Zapata, Criscito; Ghiglione, Lerager, Schone, Saponara, Pajac; Kouame, Pinamonti. Continue reading

Matuidi discusses start of season plus balance sheets’ forecast

Blaise Matuidi is enjoying a nice start of the season after he was involved in some transfer market buzz during the summer, mostly because his contract expires next summer. He talked to Tuttomercatoweb after the 2-2 tie with Atletico Madrid and the interview was released on Friday morning: “Nothing really changed for me. I work every day to help the team, I am at ease with my teammates and with the management. What happens on the pitch is the only thing that matters. You journalists were the ones saying I would leave, I never discussed the rumours, I focus on playing football, this is what I enjoy doing. Juventus is a top team and it gives me great confidence.” Continue reading

Gaetano Castrovilli – Fiorentina’s Next Big Thing

One of the standout performers from Fiorentina’s superb display during their 0-0 draw with Juventus last weekend isn’t exactly a household name in Italian football circles. At just 22 years old, Gaetano Castrovilli had spent time in the youth ranks of Cagliari and Bari before making the move to Tuscany in 2017.

Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspensions Report – Round Four

Atalanta: Luis Muriel tweaked his knee against Genoa but he was available versus Dinamo Zagreb, so he avoided significant problems.

Bologna: Blerin Dzemaili picked up a calf ailment that might cost him a game. Danilo remains out with a thigh strain.

Brescia: Daniele Dessena is suspended and Mario Balotelli will serve the final game of his disqualification. Among their injured players, Bruno Martella (calf) and Giangiacomo Magnani have a chance to be called up this week, while Ernesto Torregrossa (quad) and Emanuele Ndoj (ankle shelf) will stay on the shelf. Continue reading

City’s Champions League group stage cakewalks are harming them

Quite literally, Manchester City had been there before. Just 12 months before, actually. Indeed, City and Shakhtar Donetsk know each other well having met each other three times in the past year. Pep Guardiola knows them even better – he has been paired against the Ukrainian team in seven of his 11 Champions League campaigns as a manager.

The Shakhtar Donetsk side the Catalan coach came up against on Wednesday night was not a vintage one, though. Indeed, the Premier League champions had no trouble in brushing them aside, claiming a comprehensive 3-0 away victory to start their Champions League group stage campaign with three points.

This was the toughest test Man City are likely to face in this season’s Champions League group stage, with Guardiola’s team also drawn against Atalanta and Dinamo Zagreb. This has become a common occurrence in recent years. It’s true that City have had more than their fair share of luck with group draws.

But these easy groups aren’t helping Man City in their quest to become European champions. It has meant that by the time they reach the latter rounds, they are caught cold by the high calibre opponents they have been kept away from earlier on in the tournament. This has happened more than once.

It’s similar to a tennis player arriving in the latter rounds of a Grand Slam tournament without dropping a set. Elite athletes need obstacles to hurdle before they can reach the heights of their ability. The same goes for a team unit. City have lost to teams in the Champions League that should have beaten in recent years and one wonders if a lack of competition earlier in the competition has been a factor.

Guardiola is under pressure to deliver in Europe this season. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss was hired to bring the Champions League title to the Etihad Stadium. Three years on from his appointment and Guardiola has yet to take City past the quarter final stage. For context, his predecessor Manuel Pellegrini reached the semi finals of the Champions League.

The Premier League champions could have forgiven for breathing a sight of relief when the group stage draw was made. They could have been handed a much tougher group, that’s for sure. But an easy group doesn’t do them any favours either.

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Should Zinedine Zidane give Alphonse Areola a chance?

There was a symbolism to Wednesday’s Champions League clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid. These were two giants of the European game who have somewhat lost their way over the past year or so. Are there two more volatile footballing arenas than the Parc des Princes and Santiago Bernabeu right now?

There were subplots everywhere, but perhaps the most compelling one concerned the two mean in goals. Of course, until a few weeks ago Keylor Navas was a Real Madrid player. The Costa Rican won three Champions League titles during his time in the Spanish capital, but lost his starting place to Thibaut Courtois after the Belgian’s arrival last summer.

Navas was subsequently sold to PSG in the final few days of the summer transfer window and started against his former team on Wednesday night. The Costa Rican must have drawn great satisfaction from the clean sheet he kept and the emphatic 3-0 win he helped his team to.

On the flip side, Courtois looked shaky throughout. There were no glaring errors from the Belgian, but he might have done a little more to stop both of Angel di Maria’s two goals and looked unsure of himself from the first whistle until the last. This wasn’t an isolated case either. Courtois has been suspect for a number of months.

Courtois has now gone 15 games in all competitions without keeping a clean sheet. Real Madrid’s defence looked much steadier with Navas behind them, but that didn’t stop the Costa Rican from being cast aside. The suspicion is that Florentino Perez never saw Navas as befitting of a club of Real Madrid’s size and stature.

Alphonse Areola headed in the opposite direction to Navas in the summer window and so Zinedine Zidane does have another option between the sticks. Could Areola be given an early chance to prove himself at his new club? The poor form of Courtois might well be opening the door for the 26-year-old.

Despite being signed for over £30 million, Courtois has never really proved himself at Real Madrid. The Belgian certainly isn’t to blame for the issues his team have faced over the past year, but his influence at the back hasn’t done anything to help steady the ship. Zidane could be forgiven for looking at his new second choice goalkeeper and pondering if he might give him something Navas took when he left for France.

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