Sandro update, Juventus linked to Ndombele and Bentancur talks

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The injury bug continues to hit Juventus: Alex Sandro bowed out of the last game and was diagnosed with a thigh pull, which puts his presence in serious jeopardy for Friday’s Derby with Torino. Coach Massimiliano Allegri also stated post-game that the fullback has been playing through a toe fracture for a while, which would explain his subpar performances in the last period. On the same front, Sami Khedira underwent an arthroscopic clean-up surgery of the right knee yesterday in Augsburg, performed by the doctor Uli Beonisch. He is fully expected to be ready for the beginning of offseason activities. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 33

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Standings implications: Juventus garnered the final points they needed for the title against Fiorentina. Torino were the only team to succeed in the European races, since Roma shared the spoils with Inter, Milan were pipped at post in Parma and Lazio were stunned by Chievo. Atalanta will play on Monday in Naples. Empoli find themselves in a hole after being torpedoed by SPAL at home and the Estensi have now comfortable lead over the last three places. Udinese tied with Sassuolo, taking a little step forward since they are four points above the Azzurri, but were leapfrogged by Bologna, whic thumped Sampdoria. Cagliari arrived at the 40-point mark with their W over Frosinone, whose relegation is pretty much a done deal. Genoa keep spiraling, but they still have a little cushion before being in serious troubles.    Continue reading

Crucial Summer Ahead for Juventus

After wrapping up their eighth consecutive Scudetto following their 2-1 win over Fiorentina, Juventus will now focus their efforts on addressing the issues plaguing their roster. While the bianconeri added two trophies to their haul this season, they failed in Europe losing to a superior Ajax side over the two ties, and were sent packing in the Coppa Italia against Atalanta. Both defeats spoke volumes of this Juventus side and demonstrated just how fragile the Italian champions are when pressed. Here are three fundamental questions they must answer come summertime if they are to achieve European glory.

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1) Massimiliano Allegri: In or out? 

Since their collapse in Cardiff, Juventus have not been the same, and look a side devoid of an identity. This season much of the same problems persisted. The bianconeri strolled to the Scudetto, barely challenging themselves in the process as their competitors consistently shot themselves in the foot. Frankly, most Serie A tacticians would have won the title with this roster.

What’s more frustrating for Juve is that Allegri has completely failed at instilling a consistent style of play, and largely depends on individual brilliance to see him through. And when all else fails, the Italian champions typically bombard the box with crosses, and hope for Mandzukic or Ronaldo to come through. When opposing sides pressed the bianconeri high, and played without fear, by contrast, Juventus struggled to put three passes together.

When the board meets with Allegri to discuss the past season, they should replay the Ajax and Atalanta games. In both instances, Juventus cowered deep in fear, while the bolder team was rewarded for their self-confidence. If Juve are to win the Champions League, they need a fearless leader, and one thing’s for certain: Allegri is not that. It’s the end of the Allegri era, as we know it.

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2) Project Fix The Defence. 

Since Antonio Conte brought back Juve from consecutive seventh place finishes, the bianconeri’s defence was always their foundation and backbone for success. With Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini, Juventus possessed arguably the strongest backline in the world, and kept opponents at bay with ease.

However, with Barzagli nearing retirement and Bonucci looking like a shadow of his former self since his controversial return, Juventus’ defence has been a weak point for the side and has held the team back. Factor in Alex Sandro’s continued struggles, and it’s clear to see: Without Chiellini, Juventus are a mess at the back.

Considering Daniele Rugani’s stagnation, and Bonucci’s regular lapses in concentration, it’s time Juventus revamp their defence. First of all, they shouldn’t hesitate to sell Rugani and Alex Sandro as soon as a good offer arrives. The former has been a disaster when called upon, and shirks at the first sight of a physical battle. Alex Sandro, by contrast, has lost most of his pace, and offers close to nothing in the final third.

With Cristian Romero already on his way from Genoa, and Leonardo Spinazzola improving with every week, the state of Juventus’ defence remains decent. However, they will need at least two reinforcements: a centre-back and a left back.

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3) Project Fix the Midfield.

Much like the defence, Juventus’ midfield is in complete disarray, and lacks a true leader. Since dismantling their midfield in 2015 by selling Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, the bianconeri are yet to bolster the midfield sufficiently. At the moment, only Miralem Pjanic and potentially Emre Can are worthy starters, while the others are solid bench options at best.

Even Pjanic and Can, who on their day are world beaters, struggle to impose themselves, and aren’t meant to lead the midfield as seen through the Ajax clashes. Despite Aaron Ramsey’s arrival, Juventus are still lacking one profile in their midfield. A ball-winner capable of maintaining possession. What they would do for a prime Claudio Marchisio again? But Juventus could settle for Lyon’s Tanguy N’Dombele.

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Juventus Top Performers – Round 33

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Juventus survived a lifeless first half again Fiorentina, where they could have found themselves in a big hole, cranked it up in the second 45 minutes and took home the points they needed to wrap up the title race, which for the first time in Serie A history is over before Easter.

Alex Sandro (4 points): not an overly impressive showing by the Brazilian left back, but the goal, a pretty header attacking the first post on a corner kick, massively helped the Bianconeri, who started to play convincingly only after that goal. As for the others, Wojciech Szczesny did not have an easy day between a knock on the wrist and a near laughable blunder in the first half, but came out perfectly late on the uncovered Bryan Dabo to prevent the equalizer. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Juventus vs Milan

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Few tilts were high-scoring and intense up until the final whistle in this round and Juventus-Milan was the most meaningful one out of the bunch. The Bianconeri came into the game looking to get closer or possibly clinch the title with an advantageous combination of results that would have to start with a win, while the Devil were seeking to rebound after three unsatisfactory results, as they had recently lost to Sampdoria and Inter and tied with Udinese.

The Old Lady recuperated and started both Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic, but opted to rest Giorgio Chiellini and Miralem Pjanic. Continue reading

Juventus Finally Turn To Youth Ahead Of Crucial Stage

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It took a 16 point lead over second-place Napoli for it to happen, but Juventus have finally started giving their homegrown players a chance, and what an impact they’ve had so far. Following a narrow victory over Napoli, the bianconeri essentially wrapped up their eighth consecutive Scudetto, and could definitively pour all their efforts into the Champions League; especially now with Ajax in their way of a semi-final berth.

Prior to their clash against Atletico Madrid, Juventus hosted a relegation threatened Udinese. With their lead at the top secure, Allegri made the most of the opportunity and fielded Moise Kean and Leonardo Spinazzola from the start; two homegrown players. Until now, both players had played a bit-part role since returning to Juventus, and were rumoured to go out on loan to mid-table Serie A sides in the January transfer window to gain experience. In the end, both vetoed any proposed loan moves and opted to fight for their place.

It wouldn’t take long for Kean to make his impact felt in his first start in Serie A action this season, and notched a brace inside forty minutes with two smart finishes. The Italian international would even win the bianconeri a penalty, however, Kean, on a hat-trick, allowed Emre Can to take it. Safe to say, the 19-year-old proved he’s worthy of more minutes moving forward, especially considering the bianconeri’s 18-point cushion at the top. Thus far, the Italian international is averaging a goal every 35 minutes for Juventus, highlighting his instinctive nature in front of goal.

Spinazzola, by contrast, had a very strong outing against the Zebrette playing as a right-wingback. Despite playing on the opposite wing, the former Atalanta man was still able to demonstrate his turn of pace, successfully completing two dribbles in the process. Much like Kean, Spinazzola showed Allegri he’s ready to compete for a starting position, especially considering Alex Sandro’s decline over the last two seasons.

With the Brazilian suspended for the crucial second leg against Atletico Madrid, Allegri rewarded Spinazzola with a starting berth in the biggest game of the season. The Italian international did not let the pressure of the moment get to him, and made the most of his opportunity, tormenting Atletico’s Santiago Arias at will.

Before being subbed off for Dybala in the 67th minute, as Juventus looked for a winner, the 25-year-old was one of the bianconeri’s most impressive players on the night, and showed that Alex Sandro’s place in the starting eleven isn’t as secured as the Brazilian would like to think. After seven loan spells spanning from 2012 to 2018, it’s finally Spinazzola’s time to establish himself as a Juventus regular.

Kean, on the other hand, was given just over ten minutes to make an impact against Atletico, and he did exactly that. Against one of Europe’s elite defences, Kean looked extremely dangerous, pressing their defenders at neck-breaking pace as they tired. After an impressive run behind the Spaniards’ defence, the Italian international almost found the winner but fired his effort just wide with his weak foot. Nonetheless, much like his compatriot, Kean showed Allegri that he can compete at the highest level despite his inexperience and is ready to challenge Mario Mandzukic for more minutes.

Had Kean and Spinazzola not believed in themselves and stayed with the club in January, we could have been looking at a much different Juventus side today. After being forced by the circumstances to play them, Allegri has found further depth in these two homegrown talents. With a crucial stage in the season approaching and Champions League glory in their sights, it’s clear Kean and Spinazzola will only get more minutes to prove their worth, and rightly so. After all, they’ve earned it.

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Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 28

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Salvatore Sirigu: his record run of clean sheets came to end in Frosinone, but he could be a good pick again as Torino have not conceded in five straight at home and they will tangle with Bologna, which are not particularly prolific and will be without their leading scorer Federico Santander.

Kalidou Koulibaly: Napoli are tied for the best statistical home defense in the League, while Udinese have the third worst road attack and had not found the target in five consecutive games before the previous in Turin. The Senegalese powerhouse will also get to rest midweek as he is suspended in Europa League. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 27

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Juventus could not have asked much more out of the Udinese clash, which quickly turned into a glorified training session despite the reserve-filled line-up. The goal conceded late and the injury to Andrea Barzagli represented the only flaws in the Friday’s performances.

Alex Sandro: he was unchained from heavy defensive duties as wing back, combined with the fact that the Zebrette just did not attack a lot, and therefore he scampered down that flank at will and completely overwhelmed his direct opponent Hidde Ter Avest. Only a slight deflection denied him of an assist on the first goal. It is a shame that he will not be available against Atletico Madrid because, no matter who the replacement will be, the offense will take a slight hit. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 27

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Gianluigi Donnarumma: the starlet is in great form and Milan have been able to keep a clean in five of their last seven fixtures, while Chievo have failed to score in five straights.

Alex Sandro: he will be suspended for the return leg of the Atletico Madrid clash, therefore he should be out there against Udinese. Either way, one Juventus defender could be a good pick in this round since the Zebrette have not found their target in their last five away games. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Napoli vs Juventus

 

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A very entertaining Serie A round was capped off by the seminal encounter between Napoli and Juventus, which, by all accounts, was one of the strangest matches of the season. The Partenopei approached the game trying to cut into the Bianconeri’s sizeable lead and to maintain their impeccable home record, while the Old Lady was looking to put any residual comeback hopes to sleep.

Carlo Ancelotti confirmed the defensive formula he has been using lately, which features Kevin Malcuit and Elseid Hysaj as fullbacks and Nikola Maksimovic filling in for the injured Raul Albiol. Continue reading