Juventus Top Performers – UCL Round of 16 vs Lyon

A sloppy, gassed and quickly dejected Juventus came one goal short of completing the comeback against Lyon despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s heroics as, sans a hobbled Paulo Dybala, the supporting cast proved to be nowhere near the level of the Portuguese ace.

Alex Sandro: he was not only the best defender on the pitch, but straight-up the second-best contributor of the night, as he bust out a vintage performance full of charisma, sprints and tidy defending. He was one of the few that still had some energy in the second half and thus created some dangerous situations galloping down the flank. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 37 vs Cagliari

Despite what the final result may indicate, Juventus actually put in a decent effort against Cagliari few days after the title-clincher, but it was one of those in the box where they would not have been able to score even if they played one more hour.

Alex Sandro: tough to find a good contributor among defenders, as the back-line collectively fell asleep (again) on the initial goal, where Cagliari players were allowed to pass the ball from one flank to the other and then back to the middle for a tap-in without much opposition. Leonardo Bonucci and Gianluigi Buffon then were both poor on the Giovanni Simeone goal, as the centre-back should have stayed closer and the goalie had his hands bent. Since it is often hard to notice that Daniele Rugani is even playing, the nod goes to Alex Sandro, who was moderately active offensively and has become a sneaky asset on set pieces with his headers. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 33 vs Sassuolo

Juventus believed have tamed the Sassuolo with a one-two punch in the first 15 minutes, but could not have been more mistaken as the Neroverdi managed to fully rally back. The Bianconeri re-focused late and came away with a tie, garnering the third negative result in a row.

Alex Sandro (1 point): the back-line was facing another quality attack, but still conceded way too easily, although it is likely no coincidence that things really fell apart only after Giorgio Chiellini subbed off. Granted that the first two goals were a bit random and product of the shooting prowess of the opponents, the defenders were often on skates when Sassuolo came close to the box. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 32

Atalanta: everybody is available and perhaps that is one of the reasons behind their success.

Bologna: Stefano Denswil is suspended, while Roberto Soriano won the appeal and will be available. Federico Santander and Andrea Poli should not be out much longer with their thigh strain, while Andreas Skov Olsen returned in the last round. Jerdy Schouten will miss a couple of weeks due to a biceps femoris strain. 

Brescia: Emanuele Ndoj was available against Torino. Jhon Chancellor (thigh) is progressing and is likely to come back at some point, Andrea Cistana is still 50/50 for the season. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Supension Report – Round 31

Atalanta: José Palomino is suspended.

Bologna: Roberto Soriano was red-carded in the last game and has been suspended for two matches. Gary Medel was a late scratch for the last game due to back spasm, but he is in the squad list. Ibrahima Mbaye and Andreas Skov Olsen (thigh) recovered enough to be called up. Andrea Poli and Federico Santander are nursing thigh strains.

Brescia: Andrea Cistana (lower leg surgery), Jhon Chancellor (thigh) and Dimitri Bisoli (patellar tendon) remain sidelined, Emanuele Ndoj and Enrico Alfonso are questionable.  Continue reading

Serie A Injuries and Suspensions Report – Round 27

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic sprained his right ankle in practice and will have to be assessed before the Lazio game. Mario Pasalic is suspended.

Bologna: Mattia Bani, Jerdy Schouten and Federico Santander are suspended and the striker also picked up a biceps femoris strain and will be sidelined for three-to-four weeks. Similar timetable for Andreas Skov Olsen, who is nursing a lesion of the myotendinous junction of the right flexor. Continue reading

Fan Zone: Gregory on Nedved, Buffon, Dybala & more Juve talk

Gregory Caltabanis is an established writer and reporter who covers extensively European football, but what matters for the purposes of this Q&A is Gregory’s unfaltering allegiance to Italian giants Juventus.

Gregory is part of the @FantaCalcioGame team as well! They run the most popular Fantasy Serie A Game, but for now let’s go straight to the Q&A with Gregory offering lots of interesting takes on legends such as Pavel Nedved and Gianluigi Buffon.

1) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Juve players (ranked by preference) and why?

Pavel Nedved: My all-time favorite Juve player is undoubtedly Nedved. One of the first games I saw as a kid was Juve against Milan in 2005 and all I remember seeing was a player with blonde locks run effortlessly down the left wing. Of course, it was Nedved. From that point forward, I always watched Juve and became a fan. The rest is history.

Gianluigi Buffon: After Nedved, I would have to say it’s Buffon. Buffon has been with the team since I’ve followed them and is the main reason I’m a goalkeeper to this day. Beyond saving countless goals, he’s a class act both on and off the field. I’ll never forget his save on Zidane’s header in 2006.

Paulo Dybala: The last one is a bit difficult, but I have to go with Dybala. I know he’s not up there yet with Alessandro Del Piero and other legends, but Dybala is one of the reasons I’m still passionate about the team today. He’s always respected the shirt and is arguably the first worthy number 10 we’ve had since Del Piero. I hope he stays with Juve for the long haul.

2) From active players, pick your favorite Juve player by position: one each from defense, midfield and attack. Why did you pick them?

DEF: My favorite defender is 100% Merih Demiral (Gregory says it emphatically!). Since he’s joined, I always thought he would be very important for our success. It’s a shame the serious injury halted his progress, but I’m confident he’ll come back stronger. Demiral embodies everything that Juve should seek in a player. He’s confident, plays with an edge and has that fighting spirit. I’ll be ordering my Demiral jersey very soon.

MID: It has to be Rodrigo Bentancur. I’ve had my doubts about him over the years, but he’s stepped up this season and looks to be evolving into an important player for us. Like Demiral, he plays with an edge to his game which I feel we lack sometimes. I’m looking forward to seeing him make further progress when play hopefully resumes.

STR: It’s an obvious one- Paulo Dybala. You really get the sense that he loves Juve and fights for the shirt every time he steps onto the pitch. It goes without saying, but his left foot is incredible. It’s just amazing to watch him play. Now, if only Fabio Paratici shared the same opinion, we’d be better off.

3) Your choice for most important Juve victory in your lifetime? Why?

Without a doubt, when we knocked out Real Madrid 3-2 on aggregate in 2015. While the win against Inter in 2018 was huge, for me the Real result announced Juve’s return on the world stage and showed the rest of Europe “we are back.” After all, we just took out Real Madrid. The final didn’t go our way, but I can’t recall a win I’ve celebrated more.

4) Choose your all-time favorite Juve match, and why?

Against Inter and on their home turf just over two years ago. At times, it felt like the game and the title were slipping away but as soon as Dybala stepped onto the pitch, it changed everything. I’ll never forget Gonzalo Higuain’s goal to complete the comeback. Made it that much sweeter that it was against Inter at the San Siro.

IMG_1556

5) Where do you rank Sarri among the current generation of Italian coaches? How about among coaches worldwide?

I’d put him in the top five, but I wouldn’t rank him in the top tier of Italian managers at the moment. Conte is in a class of his own, in my opinion. Other than last year, I’d put Allegri in the same tier as Conte. Beyond them, I rate Gasperini highly but it would be interesting to see how he does outside of Atalanta.

Worldwide, I think he’s a top ten manager. If I had to rank them, I’d say this is my top ten: Klopp, Guardiola, Simeone, Conte, Zidane, Allegri, Nagelsmann, Sarri, Tuchel, Gasperini.

6) What’s Juve’s objective for this season? Is it Serie A, the Champions League, or both?

Definitely both. When you have Cristiano Ronaldo on your team, the objective always has to be the Champions League. While I don’t think the team is well equipped for a deep European run, a player like Ronaldo can make the difference in a big game. It would be a waste of his final years if Juve didn’t push for European glory.

7) Perhaps a tough one here but pick two from Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, and Vidal for your midfield, and why?

I love Marchisio and it’ll be hard to leave him out, but I have to go with Pirlo and Vidal. Pirlo is the ultimate Regista and is needed to dictate play. Obviously, it helps he can score a free-kick from just about any angle. As for Vidal, he’s your classic box-to-box midfielder and is not afraid to jump into tackles. Few midfielders impressed me more than prime Vidal and let’s not forget, he could score, too. Juve’s current midfield is really lacking his type of profile.

8) Where are Juve’s weaknesses? Some say right-back, others say left-back, or many mention the midfield. Your take?

It has to be the midfield. This may anger some, but Miralem Pjanic is a complete liability both in and out of possession. Juve can do much better in his position and I think they’ll look to replace him this summer. Blaise Matuidi is necessary to press and offer defensive support, but ultimately he’s far too limited. Remember his turnover against Napoli?

I think this Juve side needs at least two signings in the middle of the park and should arguably offload two or three guys (Sami Khedira, Pjanic and perhaps Adrien Rabiot) As I said before, this midfield lacks fight and demonstrates zero Grinta.

Of course, our depth at full-back is worrisome particularly with Alex Sandro slowing down, but for now, I think Sandro and Juan Cuadrado can manage the situation. Hopefully, Pellegrini comes back in the summer and competes for the left-back position.

9) In your opinion who is the best player (not necessarily your favorite) to ever wear the Juve shirt?

It has to be Del Piero. Record goalscorer and record appearance holder, few match Del Piero’s resume with the club. He’s won it all with us and has inspired many to support Juve over the years. At the height of Italian football, he was one of the best and led Juve to many trophies.

Del Piero set the standard for our number ten jersey and raised the bar for everyone after him. Perhaps Buffon is in it with a shout, but I have to give this one to Pinturicchio.

Lyon Defeats Highlights Juventus’ Woes in Plain Sight

While yesterday’s narrow defeat still gives Juventus a decent shot at progressing, the bianconeri’s lacklustre performance was vastly concerning and brought to light the side’s major issues. After the hosts scored an early goal, Lyon opted to defend in a deep, compact block and did so expertly. The French side conceded very little and emerged victorious keeping a clean sheet.

This season, Juventus have encountered a number of issues breaking down sides defending in their own penalty area and struggled to create anything of note last night. In fact, it took over eighty minutes for the Italian champions to register their first shot on target. Sarri’s men may still progress to the next round, but if last night highlighted anything, it’s that this Juventus side is NOT built to go toe-to-toe with Europe’s elite.

For one, Juventus’ defence lacks depth out wide. After selling Leonardo Spinazzola and loaning out his replacement Luca Pellegrini, Alex Sandro is the only senior left-back on the roster. Since last season, the Brazilian’s form has declined and offers close to nothing in the final third. Last night, Sandro looked gassed and struggled to beat his man.

On the opposing wing, Danilo did not fare much better. After pushing Cuadrado forward in his natural position, Sarri turned to Danilo for the right-back position. Since joining from Manchester City, the former Real Madrid man has regularly been sidelined and has struggled for form.

When he’s not injured, Danilo represents Juventus’ biggest liability, either at the back or in the final third. Last season, the now-departed Joao Cancelo made the right-back role his own and was arguably the side’s best performer in the first half of the season. Even if they progress past Lyon, Juventus’ questionable depth and options at full-back will come back to haunt them.

Beyond their stuttering fullbacks, Juventus’ biggest problem lies in the midfield. Miralem Pjanic is on the steep decline and hasn’t looked like himself for years while new recruit Adrien Rabiot is typically a passenger in the midfield when given the nod. Outside of Bentancur, Juventus’ midfield lacks drive and incision in the final third and often plays on the peripheries of games. Last night was no different.

Aaron Ramsey, Juventus’ other midfield recruit, is yet to establish himself as a set-starter but is slowly improving. After a top-notch performance on the weekend, the Welshman was inexplicably left out of the eleven by Sarri, leaving Juventus with three extremely similar midfielders on the pitch. If the bianconeri are to have a shot at progressing past Lyon and making a deep European run, Ramsey will need to be at the heart of it. The former Arsenal man is one of the side’s only midfielders that makes runs into the box, opening space for his teammates. Without him on the pitch, opposing sides are happy to drop off, conceding possession outside their penalty area.

The reality is, however, whatever setup Sarri goes with will have its own flaws. The side is poorly constructed and lacks pieces in key areas. If the tactician fields Dybala with Higuain and Ronaldo, Juve will lack balance and offensive options off the bench. If Sarri goes with the 4-3-3, it alienates the bianconeri’s best player Paulo Dybala and shoehorns him into a wide role. If he goes with the 4-3-1-2, he doesn’t have an out-and-out trequartista to make it work. He tried with Douglas Costa and Bernardeschi, and had no success. All this with one decent fullback.

While Ronaldo may very well put the team on his back like he did last year against Atletico Madrid, Juventus’ issues are there for everyone to see and Lyon know the tie is there for the taking. Their full-backs are sub-par, their midfield is anonymous and their roster, as a whole, is unbalanced.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Serie A Fantasy Managers? If you’re up for it play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

 

Juventus Top Performers – Round 25 vs SPAL

The usual defensive slip-up led to a tenser-than-necessary final part in the SPAL game, but Juventus, after an encouraging hour right in the middle of the game, managed to land the plane, returning to winning ways after two road tumbles.

Alex Sandro: the Brazilian left back was move vivacious than usual in Ferrara, uncorked a pair of tasty crosses that could have easily earned him an assist. The left chain worked looked well-oiled, as he, Blaise Matuidi and Cristiano Ronaldo often moved in unison. Danilo was less active than Sandro, but the team had even more success on the other flank, so the 4-3-3 scheme yielded good profits. As for the rest of the defenders, Giorgio Chiellini looked rusty to open the game but got increasingly confident as the minutes went by. Daniele Rugani was fine but he was just a fraction of a second late on a tackle, causing a penalty and soiling his display. Matthijs De Ligt was dominant in the air when he subbed in, while ordinary business for Wojciech Szczesny. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 24

SPAL-Juventus: Luigi Di Biagio devised a new system in his debut, arraying his men with a 4-3-3. While they failed to get the win, they attacked more than usual and Andrea Petagna bagged the ninth goal of his campaign. Federico Di Francesco has always been playing in very offensive role, but he is more comfortable out wide and the trident was completed by Mattia Valoti in that case, although Gabriel Strefezza will have his chances too. The duo gets a bump thanks to the coaching change, likewise Mirko Valdifiori, who resurfaced and can be a decent weapon on set pieces, as a matter of fact he picked up an assist with a corner kick. Simone Missiroli is back at box-to-box like earlier in his career, joining the sneaky Lucas Castro. On the downside, Arkadiusz Reca, and Mohamed Fares when he will be ready, will feature as fullback, so few meters behind what they were accustomed to doing. Scoring has been one of their main issues so far, as they have no reliable contributors behind Petagna. Continue reading