Sarri dishes bad news about Ronaldo and more in presser

Maurizio Sarri held an early presser ahead of the Atalanta and begun by addressing the status of Cristiano Ronaldo and the recent controversy: “We did not really need to clear the air. I come from the amateurs in the 90’s and the reactions after subbing off were the same. Either I spent all my time trying to clarify that or I let them blow some steam. It is not a problem, the issue is his knee injury, which got worse in the second Portugal match. We are trying to solve it through some specific practices: it is affecting him mentally as well. We want him back for the Champions League tilt with Atletico Madrid, he has 99 percent chances of missing tomorrow’s match.”

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report

Atalanta: Josip Ilicic lost the appeal so he will serve the second game of his suspension. Ruslan Malinovskyi is disqualified as well. Duvan Zapata is ready after missing time with a thigh strain, while Luis Muriel and Remo Freuler, who picked up some muscular ailments with their national teams, should be okay.

Bologna: Mattia Bani and Danilo are banned. Takehiro Tomiyasu is poised to come back from a thigh strain, while Federico Santander suffered the same injury few days ago and will miss three weeks. Roberto Soriano and Mitchell Dijks will miss another one due to a knee and toe edema respectively, also Mattia Destro remains on the shelf due to knee soreness. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 11

Roma-Napoli: the Giallorossi have reached a pretty strong level of consistency and they are starting to recovering pieces, which will further add to their arsenal. Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov have been terrific all year long, Nicolò Zaniolo has started scoring, Justin Kluivert did damage in Udine and even Javier Pastore is starting to look good playing with continuity. Gianluca Mancini has been a stabilyzing presence, allowing the other contributors to focus more on the offense, primarly Jordan Veretout has begun to be more impactful as a playmaker after a slow start at his new club. Diego Perotti and Cengiz Under will likely need some time before being fit enough to receiving considerable playing time.  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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Sarri provides injury updates and more ahead of Bologna game

Maurizio Sarri was back in front of the press today to discuss few topics ahead of the Bologna game. He started off by assessing the form of Douglas Costa and the other injured players: “I do not know where the news about his return came from because he has always been practicing on his own so far. The question about the scheme will be relevant at a later time. Danilo, Aaron Ramsey and Mattia De Sciglio all re-joined the group in the last few days.” 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

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 5

Brescia-Juventus: two questions loom large on the game, one for each side. Mario Balotelli is eligible to return after the suspension, but his conditioning might be a problem after skipping the summer preparation, so he might be initially be kept on the bench. Cristiano Ronaldo has been ruled out due to muscle fatigue and it is new situation under Maurizio Sarri; they also do not have Douglas Costa, so they lack a pure left-wing player. Federico Bernardeschi could certainly be adapted there, but he has struggled so far, so the coach might try new solutions, like for instance fielding Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain together. Whoever ends up starting up front will have to shoulder a bigger load sans Ronaldo. Continue reading

Sarri suggests Ronaldo might not play against Brescia

Maurizio Sarri assessed the form of some of his players, hinted that Cristiano Ronaldo might be spared and previewed the Brescia game in today’s presser ahead of the midweek round.

On the lineup choices: “I want to evaluate the physical data first, we want to avoid injuries. We need to have continuity, but other factors must be taken into consideration as well. We will evaluate the situation today, some might need to be rested. Cristiano Ronaldo had some fatigue in his thigh muscle yesterday and it is normal after playing this much.” 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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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