Allegri Opting For Caution Against Atletico Madrid

Juventus Training Session

With their crucial Round of 16 clash approaching, it appears Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri will go for pragmatism when the bianconeri take on Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. Rather than sticking with his three-pronged attack, the former Milan tactician has reportedly been tinkering with Joao Cancelo at right midfield and Mattia De Sciglio at right back in a 4-4-2 – leaving Paulo Dybala on the bench in the process.

Allegri has opted for caution in the past, and has often used this defensive 4-4-2 in away clashes in the Champions League. With Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira occupying the two central midfield positions, Blaise Matuidi typically shifts wide on the left, blocking the opposition’s right flank.

Up top, the tactician is reportedly going to field Mario Mandzukic alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. While a 4-4-2 would essentially mirror Atletico’s formation and would go a long way in nullifying their offensive firepower, this setup has backfired for Allegri in the past before. Against Real Madrid in the Champions League final, the Italian manager went for a similar formation, with Dani Alves occupying the right wing.

His pragmatism worked initially against the Spanish giants, however, as soon as Zinedine Zidane made some tactical tweaks at half-time, his 4-4-2 and by consequence, Juventus’ European dream, soon fell apart. The bianconeri found themselves consistently on the back foot, and had nothing to show for in the final third.

On Wednesday, Allegri cannot afford a similar performance and must find a way to achieve defensive solidity without sitting too deep and playing too safe. An away goal at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium could go a long way in this tight affair and might prove to be the difference over two legs.  While having players like Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi come off the bench against tired legs could sway the tie, one of them needs to start against Los Colchoneros. 

Considering Mandzukic’s flexibility and ability to play on the left both in the offensive and defensive phases, Allegri should field Dybala alongside Ronaldo. The Argentine has played his best football when deployed in a partnership and has recently developed a blossoming relationship with the Portuguese superstar. Coming off an impressive performance and a thunderbolt of a goal against Frosinone, now would be a good time to provide La Joya continuity. Against a defensively staunch Atletico Madrid side, Juventus will need all the creativity they can get to break their deep block.

With Ronaldo attracting much of the centre-backs’ attention, Dybala will have the license to roam between the lines and could carve out space for himself – either to fire strikes or find a teammate in space. As Ronaldo and Dybala wreck havoc centrally, Mandzukic will have ample opportunities to let his presence be known in the eighteen-yard box going up against Santiago Arias.

As it stands now, Allegri’s reported setup will stifle his side in the final third and will inevitably isolate Ronaldo and Mandzukic – forcing Juve to go wide to Cancelo. Considering Godin’s aerial presence and Jan Oblak’s command of his box, filtering in crosses from the wing – a common Allegri tactic – will fail miserably. With the clash approaching, time will tell if Allegri’s caution will be repaid or whether another European disaster is on the horizon for Juventus.

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Squad Overhaul on the Horizon at Juventus

With Juventus conceding six goals in their last two games, question marks have been raised about Massimiliano Allegri and his side’s ability to deliver the Champions League for the first time in 23 years. In just over two weeks time a clash against La Liga giants Atletico Madrid awaits where the stakes could not be higher. A round of sixteen exit would be a disastrous end to an indifferent campaign for the bianconeri; a campaign in which European success was stressed from day one at Villar Perosa. Despite signing Mr. Champions League himself – Cristiano Ronaldo – the Italian champions look no closer to winning Europe’s elite competition than they were last season. In fact, you could argue their chances at winning it all are lower. If Juventus’ recent woes are anything to go by, it means a squad overhaul is on the horizon.

After whimpering out of the Coppa Italia in embarrassing fashion against Atalanta, Juventus hosted newly-promoted Parma. For the first time since March 2012, the bianconeri lined up without one member of their famous ‘BBC’ trio and fielded a hardly inspiring centre-back partnership of Daniele Rugani and latest acquisition Martin Caceres. Since Mehdi Benatia’s departure, reports have surfaced that the Juventus brass would entrust Rugani with a bigger role moving forward, however, it’s safe to say, the defender failed in his first real test.

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Is Aaron Ramsey Juventus’ Missing Piece?

Earlier this month it was announced that Juventus secured Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey on a free transfer at the end of the season. The Welshman’s arrival isn’t the bianconeri’s first bosman dealing, and has come to be a defining feature of the club on the transfer market in recent times. In the past, Juventus signed the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Kingsley Coman, Paul Pogba  and most recently Emre Can among others.

While in the past these transfers helped the Italian giants boost their depth, Ramsey’s signing represents something entirely different. This time around, Juventus are turning to Ramsey to complete their midfield ranks and to give them some much needed creativity and drive from deep. But does the 28-year-old fit the bill?

Since breaking onto the scene with Arsenal, a defining characteristic of Ramsey’s game has been his ability to get forward and create space for himself in the opposition’s box. Last season, the player made the most of his chances in close and registered seven goals and eight assists. Juventus are expecting him to bring this aspect of his game to Turin and take some creative burden off Miralem Pjanic in the midfield. You could even argue Juventus haven’t had a player with Ramsey’s characteristics since Pogba. As of right now, Allegri’s side don’t have a single midfielder with more than two goals, and could use some production from deep.

In Pjanic and Rodrigo Bentancur, the bianconeri have two deep-lying playmakers with a pass-first mentality. In Matuidi and Can, Allegri finds the defensive responsibility he seeks without compromising his team’s balance. With Sami Khedira’s output dropping significantly, it’s normal Juventus are in the market for a progressive midfielder; someone to pick up the slack and drive the team forward in tight affairs. Ramsey is different to what Juventus already have, and will act as an ideal foil alongside Pjanic and Matuidi.

Capable of playing anywhere down the middle, Ramsey’s versatility will undoubtedly be a welcomed addition in Allegri’s setup. However, expect him to make the mezz’ala spot – outside of the midfield three – his own rather quickly upon his arrival. With Pjanic pulling the strings from deep and Matuidi doing much of the dirty work, Ramsey will have the freedom he seeks to push forward.

While the Welsh international, at times, has held onto the ball for too long, expect this to change quickly in Juventus’ extremely structured setup. Simply put, he won’t be afforded minutes if this persists. That being said, over the years the bianconeri have demonstrated an uncanny ability to iron out a player’s weaknesses and quickly turn them into strengths.

Despite arriving on a free transfer, Ramsey is expected to make around £300,000-a-week; a wage typically given to top players. Moreover, his salary indicates that he’s likely going to be Juventus’ only midfield reinforcement in the upcoming summer as it would simply be unfeasible to commit similar money to another player. Given his increased wage and Juventus’ desire to get the deal done as quickly as possible, it highlights the club’s belief in the player.

Over his Arsenal career, Ramsey has polarized opinion, especially in his early days, but has since established himself as a fan favourite. At Juventus, the 28-year-old will be armed with both the proper coaching, a clear system and the teammates to take his game to the next level, competing for Europe’s top honours in the process. This on its own should motivate Ramsey to succeed and hit the ground running upon his arrival.

Juventus are putting many of their eggs in one basket with this investment, but Ramsey will prove to be the midfielder the club are missing. For one, he’s got all the characteristics they’re looking for and have lacked since Khedira’s drop. Secondly, considering Juventus’ rigorous system, Ramsey’s job will be clear. While this signing has all the makings of a good one, only time will tell if Ramsey will be the man to finally solve Juventus’ midfield conundrum.

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Globe Soccer Awards recap

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Juventus had a satisfactory night at the Globe Soccer Awards, where they brought home few awards. Cristiano Ronaldo was named player of the year and also had the best goal: “First of all, happy new year. 2019 is here, so 2018 is the past. I got off to a good start with this fantastic award for that beautiful goal, unfortunately against my current team, so I can not be completely happy. I thank the fans, because football would be nothing without them. My objective for 2019 is to keep scoring, everybody knows how hard it is. I have netted 700 goals in my career and I believe this was my prettiest one.” Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 19

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Another rollercoaster ride for Juventus, which, despite pulling the strings for the first half an hour in each half, had to be saved from the second straight 2-2 tie by a VAR review and a fortuitous offside. The win allows the Bianconeri to stay undefeated and arrive to the turning point of the schedule with a record-breaking point tally, 53.

Daniel Rugani: nobody was overly impressive in the back-line today, which gave up a goal on a penalty against the run of play due to an unlucky handball by Emre Can. Sampdoria attacked with some vigor only after equalizing and late in the game, but all in all there were not any big chances, besides Riccardo Saponara’s gem. The spot could have gone to Mattia Perin, who displayed some of his daredevil attitude, if he had not made a mess with his feet prior to the disallowed 2-2 goal. Continue reading

Allegri introduce Juventus vs Sampdoria

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Massimiliano Allegri held the final pre-game presser of 2018 earlier today and begun by addressing the regrettable events prior and during Inter-Napoli: “The President of the Federation issued a statement and there are some precautionary measures that can be arranged. We can turn the ship, but we have to do it with facts and not with words. I hope this could finally be the right time.”

“I do not think that stopping the games is the right way, that should only happen if there are public order problems. That being sad, I do not tolerate any kind of racism or insult towards tragedies or the dead. We no longer have respect in Italy. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 19

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Juventus: Blaise Matuidi and Medhi Benatia missed the last game, but they will be available to play. Federico Bernardeschi has been called up after missing time with a thigh pull. Rodrigo Bentancur is suspended. Juan Cuadrado underwent knee surgery and could be on the shelf for three months. 

Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne and Kalidou Koulibaly were handed two-game bans. Marek Hamsik subbed off against Inter due to a thigh injury and will try to recover for the first game of 2019. Continue reading

Allegri previews the Atalanta game

Juventus Training Session

Massimiliano Allegri did not hold the usual presser on Christmas, but still talked about the Atalanta game to Sky Sport: “Cristiano Ronaldo will not start tomorrow, he will be for the first time with me on the bench. I am very happy about how he is doing, as everybody. Looking at the stats, this was his best starts in terms of goals and other numbers. However, he has to peak in March, in the home stretch of the Champions League, where he could be a deciding factor, like he has been in the last few years.”

On Italian football: “I do not anything to ask in particular, but I would prefer if we all rowed in the same direction, both on the political and on the more technical level.” Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 16

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Juventus sweated it out in the Derby, rope-a-doping for the first hour of the game, but then was able to capitalize on an incredible mistake by Simone Zaza and Salvador Ichazo to gain yet another win in the the domestic league, breaking a record as far as the top five European championships are concerned.

Giorgio Chiellini (5 points): in the cold Turin night, the Granata, and Andrea Belotti in particular, were much more energetic than the Old Lady. Despite that, they were held in check and did not manage to create many clean-cut chances, as Mattia Perin ended up making just three saves and only one had an above average level of difficulty. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 15

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Juventus were rather fortunate to not find themselves in a hole after a shaky first half and hour, when they allowed some clear-cut changes to Inter, then begun to take control of the operations late in the first half and managed the game pretty well after getting the lead.

Joao Cancelo (7 points): the Portuguese fullback was a little imprecise defensively in this one, but he continues to be absolutely electric when running up and down the flank. On top of being a constant thorn into Inter’s side, he gets the credit for that cross that had such a sharp trajectory that could not be intercepted by Samir Handanovic and set up Mario Mandzukic’s comfy header. Continue reading