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

Serie A Top Performers – Coppa Italia Quarter-Finals

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Juventus this time could not overcome their own struggles in all the facets of the game and got deservedly eliminated by Atalanta in the round of eight of Coppa Italia, which they had won in the previous four editions. A very pedestrian showing that ends the often manifested target of winning the treble and represents an alarming signal for the challenges ahead.

Alex Sandro: when you give up three goals, clearly no defenders performed well. Sandro was the only who did not actively took part in one of the goals, two caused by misplaced passes by Joao Cancelo and Mattia De Sciglio, while Daniele Rugani and Wojciech Szczesny did not look great in the second one. A two-minute black-out at the end of the first half, the Bianconeri were unable to recover from. The squad had already started off poorly, but the back-line in particular was plagued by mental mistakes after Giorgio Chiellini was forced out of the game by a calf injury. The officials might have to revisit their stance about not signing a centre-back.

Sami Khedira: again the three-man midfield looked completely idea-less without Miralem Pjanic leading them and the situation did not change when he got into the game. Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi spent the night chasing after the much more energetic Atalanta players and, alongside the rest of the ball club, were very sloppy in the passing game. The German world champion did not perform much better, but he had one of the few chances with a header on a corner.

Federico Bernardeschi: he was almost the only one who tried to drag the team out of its funk, making plays in multiple positions, but without being effective. At least he put in a modicum of effort in a game where the squad just did not have it. Paulo Dybala had a slew of turnovers and was thrown around by the opponents all night long. In the last couple of games it was evident why the coach prefers Cristiano Ronaldo wide, as it become too easily to engulf him and cut off the feeds for him when he is surrounded by centre-back. Douglas Costa was affected by the general apathy and imprecision of his teammates. It is the first time this season that the front-line fails to score a goal and it is the first loss on the road in a domestic game since 2017.

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Injury updates, Dybala and Sandro speak, Juventus continue fight 2006 Scudetto

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Medhi Benatia was supposed to start against Bologna, but he bowed out after the warm-ups and the club informed it was due to a thigh adductor ailment, whose severity was not fully disclosed but it will keep the defender on the mend for the Supercoppa as well. Daniele Rugani was not even on the bench due to a knock, but he resumed practicing partially yesterday and he and Joao Cancelo are in the squad list for Jeddah. The team has yet to issue an official update on Mario Mandzukic, but he is rumoured to be facing a three-to-four week absence with his thigh injury. Continue reading

Juventus 2018 Stats Recap

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In 2018, Juventus brought home the seventh Scudetto in a row and the Coppa Italia and it was a record year in several stats, as documented by the official website. They conquered 101 points in the calendar year, tying the record of the legendary 1948’s Torino (if a win was worth as much as now). The loot in the first 19 games, 53 points, is unmatched both in Europe and in Serie A history.

They won 80,8% of the home games: they had done better only in 1932 (81.8%). The percentage of losses (11,5%) is the third lowest in their history, trailing only to what they achieved in 1932 (6%) but also more recently in 2016 (9.8%). Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 18

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Thomas Strakosha: Lazio have conceded at least a goal in few matches in a row, but they were a little unlucky against Cagliari and the match-up versus Bologna is favorable in that department, since the Rossoblù have scored just seven times at home, the second fewest of any Serie A team, and have had very little juice offensively lately.

Alex Sandro: a trip to Bergamo is never too comfortable for any team, but the Juventus back-line has repelled even better opponents on their way to six consecutive clean sheets. The fullback, fresh off a contract renewal, always makes his presence felt on offense. Continue reading

New Contract, Rejuvenated Alex Sandro

Earlier this week, Juventus reported that Brazilian fullback Alex Sandro signed a new and improved contract tying him down to the club until 2023. Until that point, Alex Sandro had been a shade of his former self and struggled for consistency down the left-hand side, with his teammate Joao Cancelo stealing much of the spotlight on the opposing wing.

There was also strong rumours coming from England linking the player with a move to the Premier League, with both Manchester clubs interested. Today against Roma, the 27-year-old put the rumours to bed and gave the Juventus faithful a glimpse of what they’ve been missing for the past season or so, marauding the left flank with ease.

With much of the focus on Cristiano Ronaldo on the left, Alex Sandro got forward to devastating effect and had the first real chance of the game. However, Roma keeper Robin Olsen got down nicely to parry it to safety from in close. The former Porto man would not stop there and continued his impressive performance by dribbling past the Roma midfield on another occasion. Sandro would carve out just enough space for himself inside the box to fire a powerful shot destined for the top corner. Again, however, Olsen proved to be a worthy match. Powering his way through the opposing defence it was clear Sandro was back to his very best.

Continue reading