Sarri updates on injured players and more in pre-Milan presser

Maurizio Sarri assessed the status and the performances of few of his players in the press conference before the clash with Milan: “They are a good team that did not start off well, but this matters relatively in a single game. We have to play with a different intensity in the back compared to the game in Moscow and in order to do that we have to take the field in slightly different manner.”

On Cristiano Ronaldo: “I still do not know because he was with the medical staff yesterday. We will see later today and then tomorrow morning. He is not dealing with anything serious, just some pain in his knee that causes him some troubles during the games.” Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Ten

Standings implications: it took them 96 minutes, but Juventus downed Genoa therefore replied to Inter, which looked tired but withstood Brescia’s assault. Napoli and Atalanta shared the spoiled in the most anticipated match of the round. The Roma teams dominated, with the Giallorossi trashing Udinese away and Lazio doing the same to Torino at the Olimpico Stadium. Cagliari continue to march on and upended Bologna. Fiorentina staged a comeback to defeat Sassuolo. Verona blitzed Parma on the road, while Sampdoria and Lecce tied one-one. Milan have a pulse and squeaked by SPAL. Continue reading

Bentancur adapting to life under Maurizio Sarri

When Maurizio Sarri was first appointed as Juventus boss, many expected Rodrigo Bentancur to benefit greatly. After all, the Uruguayan international is slick in possession and is a classic regista, a position Sarri greatly values. In many ways, he epitomizes everything the veteran manager looks for in a midfielder. However, life under the former Napoli tactician didn’t get off to a great start as Sarri regularly fielded Sami Khedira and Blaise Mautidi alongside Miralem Pjanic, relegating the 22-year-old to the bench. With limited minutes, Bentancur was constrained solely to cameo appearances.

In recent weeks, however, Bentancur has seen his playing time increase and has played the full ninety minutes in consecutive games. Rather than play as the side’s deepest midfielder, Sarri has used the former Boca Junior man as a mezz’ala on the right-hand side of Pjanic. This is a new position for the player as he’s typically used to playing as a number six. In this role, Bentancur often filters in centrally as a regista, giving the Bosnian international the license to roam forward. While on paper he’s fielded as a mezz’ala, Pjanic and Bentancur’s understanding of space means he occupies both positions at times.

Against Lokomotiv Moscow, at first, Bentancur was used as an attacking midfielder behind Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo. When that didn’t work, the Uruguayan international was quickly shifted deeper into midfield, once again, alongside Pjanic.

From a more familiar position, Bentancur regained control and looked way better in possession. Before the season started it seemed it was either Pjanic or Bentancur, however, Sarri has demonstrated he’s willing to use them together given their ability to interchange positions at will.

Tomorrow, Bentancur is expected to start at the heart of midfield against Genoa, after Pjanic picked up a knock in Juventus’ most recent draw against Lecce. As the side’s regista, expect the 22-year-old to dictate play and link the midfield to attack. It will be interesting to see how Bentancur performs in Pjanic’s absence as it will be the first time he plays without the Bosnian this season. Thus far, the duo have formed an unlikely partnership and give Juventus’ midfield some much-needed technique and directness.

With Pjanic on the pitch, Bentancur takes on a more subdued role as opposing defences are focused on the former Roma man. From a wider position in midfield, Bentancur filters in between the lines and is able to carve out space for himself in dangerous areas. Take the Inter game, for example. As Marcelo Brozovic was marking Pjanic for most of the game, Sarri introduced Bentancur to create a numerical advantage in the middle of the park.

Despite playing as a mezz’ala, the Uruguayan midfielder was often in central positions and played a crucial role in Gonzalo Higuain’s winner, providing the assist. With Pjanic in a deeper position, Bentancur played in an advanced role behind the strikers. As Dybala moved freely around the pitch, Inter’s defence struggled to keep track of the bianconeri’s midfielders, leaving Bentancur time and space to find Higuain on the winner.

Against Genoa, however, Bentancur is expected to play the regista role on his own; a challenge he’ll surely welcome. Despite his positive performances in recent weeks, he’s yet to prove he can handle the midfield workload on his own and has struggled in the past when tasked with dictating play.

If Bentancur impresses tomorrow, it will pose Sarri with quite the selection headache moving forward. Either continue using the Uruguayan from a mezz’ala role in tandem with Pjanic, or keep an in-form player on the bench. Remember, there’s also Sami Khedira, Blaise Matuidi and Adrien Rabiot to account for. In any case, Bentancur’s progress this season is something Juventus will welcome, especially considering their midfield woes.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Nine

Lecce-Juventus: the Salentini have weirdly been better away than at home, but, in any case, they are set to be pesky in most of the contests due to their daring style. While Gianluca Lapadula was out nursing an injury, Khouma Babacar proved to be a better reference point for the offense, even though he is unlikely to be particularly consistent in terms of scoring. With his latest performance, Diego Farias is seriously threating the starting job of Filippo Falco, who has not been able to produce despite starting in the eight matches. Marco Mancosu has instead bagged four goals, three on penalties, and he is always lurking as the trailer. Andrea Tabanelli is the other midfield tasked with meaningful offensive duties, while left back Marco Calderoni has found the target twice from distance so far. Continue reading

Ronaldo and Sarri talked ahead of Lokomotiv Moscow clash

Cristiano Ronaldo held a rare presser, a year later after his last one, joining Maurizio Sarri in the usual proceedings before the Champions League game against Lokomotiv Moscow: “I think we are playing better now, we have more confidence in ourselves, our style is different. We are more offensive and have more precise positions. My role is similar, maybe I have a little more freedom, I can go where I am most comfortable. I am happy because little by little we are moving towards where we want to be. We have a new coach and new players, but we changed in order to get better. We are doing that gradually.” Continue reading

Paratici rules out Ronaldo leaving in 2020 and January moves

Juventus chief football officer Fabio Paratici talked to the journalists after the Manlio Scopigno award and dismissed a rumour about Cristiano Ronaldo departing at the end of the season that has been circulating in the last few days: “He is very focused on his current objectives, I do not believe in the slightest that he will leave at the end of the season or later. He is under contract and I think he will honour it: we are very happy with him and he is happy at Juventus.”

On Adrien Rabiot’s tough time in Italy so far: “We need to give him some time, he is coming off a long period where he did not play.” Continue reading

Sarri addresses the left back crisis in pre-SPAL presser

Coach Maurizio Sarri gave some hints about the lineup and updated on the status of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic in the presser before the SPAL game.

On the hole at left back: “I saw that the executive Federico Cherubini is left-footed, I will try him there too. I do not consider the three-man defence an option if not for small chunks of games because we would end up defending with five and therefore track back too much. It also does not eliminate the fact that we have to put somebody on the left flank, we have some problems on the wings right now. We tried a solution yesterday, we will go through another one today and we will see.” Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Six

Juventus-SPAL: the Bianconeri have not been very spectacular in the last two matches against minnows, but they got the job done with the contribution of few different players. Cristiano Ronaldo has shaken off his injury and will be back in this one, Paulo Dybala has outperformed Gonzalo Higuain in the last couple of outings, but the latter is usually closer to the goal. Aaron Ramsey has been pretty good and they could carry on with the tactics where he is heavily featured, but it remains to be seen whether he can play thrice in a row, otherwise Adrien Rabiot or Federico Bernardeschi could get the nod there and reap the benefits of a very offensive role. They have gotten goals from Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi, even though Sami Khedira is generally the midfielder who is most involved in the offense. Juan Cuadrado loses some steam because he is forced to play as right back for the time being. Continue reading

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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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