Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 14

Atalanta: Luis Muriel and Hans Hateboer subbed off due to knocks on the knee in Champions League, but there is optimism they will be able to play Saturday. Duvan Zapata flew to Spain for further check-ups on his thigh and will remain sidelined. Rafael Toloi is suspended. Simon Kjaer has been ruled out due to fatigue. 

Bologna: Mattia Destro is improving after his knee problem and could be called up, while Mitchell Dijks (toe) and Roberto Soriano (knee) are having troubles absorbing edemas. The midfielder is actually at risk of missing all the December games. Federico Santander is nursing a thigh strain. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 13

Atalanta-Juventus: after producing at an historic pace through the first ten weeks, the Goddess failed to score in their last two matches against Sampdoria and Cagliari. Josip Ilicic and Ruslan Malinovskyi are suspended, but the Slovenian attacker has appealed, but they will get a boost from the return of Duvan Zapata, who is expected to feature at least in limited capacity. He notched six goals in seven appearances before getting hurt. Luis Muriel is no longer red-hot, as he has not found the target in the last three rounds, but he will be again their main scoring option from the jump. Alejandro Gomez is going through something similar, but he always has loads of potential as an assist-man. Mario Pasalic is likely to move to the hole and he can pretty sneaky there. Robin Gosens has been their best wing-back so far, but also Timothy Castagne has hit the net once. Continue reading

Solving Sarri’s Attacking Conundrum

Since returning from the first international break, Juventus have looked lethargic in the final third and have struggled to find the back of the net. In a majority of the biaconeri’s wins, one goal has separated them from their opponent and they have rarely played the opposition off the pitch. While much was promised when Maurizio Sarri was hired, we are yet to see Sarriball in full flow. Currently, the former Napoli tactician is faced with a selection headache in the final third and is under immense pressure to make his front-three fire on all cylinders.

Right now, Cristiano Ronaldo is experiencing a rough patch and has arguably played his worst football in recent memory. Sarri has not shied away from tough decisions and has subbed off the Portuguese superstar in Juventus’ last two wins. Despite reports suggesting Ronaldo was carrying a knock, the former Real Madrid man joined up with Portugal for the international break and scored a hat-trick.

Alongside him, Sarri has typically opted for one of Gonzalo Higuain or Paulo Dybala. In Sarri’s ‘Christmas-Tree’ (4-3-1-2) formation, an out-and-out number nine is of the utmost importance and Higuain has thrived since returning. Whether he’s linking up the attack with deft touches around the box or creating space for himself to score, Higuain has epitomized what a modern number nine is and is almost undroppable.

Much like Higuain, Dybala has benefitted greatly from Sarri’s arrival and has put last season’s woes behind him. Most recently, la Joya scored a crucial goal against Milan, gliding past their captain Alessio Romagnoli as if he wasn’t there. Before these match-winning exploits, Dybala notched a brace against Lokomotiv Moscow and has regularly been Juventus’ best player this season. Given his good form along with Higuain’s importance to Sarri’s tactical schemes, it’s difficult to leave one of them on the bench.

Yet, in the name of balance, it needs to be done. Otherwise, with Dybala, Higuain and Ronaldo all on the pitch, Sarri fears Juve would be overrun in the midfield. He briefly used the trio together against Inter but promptly brought on another midfielder into the fold to regain control.

Factor in Douglas Costa’s return to fitness and electric nature on the ball and it’s clear Sarri is faced with quite the selection conundrum in attack. Should he play a 4-3-3 to accommodate the Brazilian? On the other hand, who should he drop between Higuain and Dybala? Finally, and perhaps most crucially, how does he get the most out of an out-of-form Ronaldo? These are all questions Sarri will be pondering deeply over the course of this international break and will largely come to define this season.

Despite the headaches these issues may give him, it’s a positive problem for Sarri. After all, who wouldn’t want an attack as deep and as versatile as Juve’s? The important thing now, however, is piecing it all together all-while maintaining defensive solidity and balance. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.

As Sarri has shown, this prospect is much more difficult than it seems and is a delicate situation to approach. Over the course of the next months, Sarri’s handling of the situation will dictate how far Juve will go and will shape the future of Juventus’ attack.

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Sarri updates on injured players and more in pre-Milan presser

Maurizio Sarri assessed the status and the performances of few of his players in the press conference before the clash with Milan: “They are a good team that did not start off well, but this matters relatively in a single game. We have to play with a different intensity in the back compared to the game in Moscow and in order to do that we have to take the field in slightly different manner.”

On Cristiano Ronaldo: “I still do not know because he was with the medical staff yesterday. We will see later today and then tomorrow morning. He is not dealing with anything serious, just some pain in his knee that causes him some troubles during the games.” Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 12

Inter-Verona: while Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku continue to be very reliable, the Beneamata are getting additional pieces back, as Matias Vecino scored in Champions League and Stefano Sensi looked pretty good in his stint off the bench. The two are certainly better fantasy options than Roberto Gagliardini, who filled in while they were sidelined, and the ex Sassuolo player, in particular, was fantastic at the beginning of the season. Valentino Lazaro was okay against Brescia and his skill-set is interesting, especially against the minnows where he would not need to defend a lot. Matteo Politano got hurt in Dortmund, so the first man up off the bench in the attack would be Salvatore Esposito. Verona have scored just nine times so far, so their back-line is certainly in play despite the ongoing clean sheet-less run. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – UCL Round Four vs Lokomotiv Moscow

Juventus again managed to dig deep right at the conclusion of a game and secured the qualification to the next stage of Champions League thanks to a late goal by Douglas Costa.

Leonardo Bonucci: in general, the back-line handled the physicality of the Lokomotiv strikers, Eder in particular, better than in Turin, which represented a small surprise considering the two more muscular centre-backs were not on the pitch. Leonardo Bonucci and Daniele Rugani answered well to that challenge, but the whole defence were often too content with sitting back rather than assailing the opponents on their rare raids, which caused the goal and some other unnecessarily dangerous situations. Continue reading

Sarri rules out De Ligt and assesses his time in Turin

Maurizio Sarri updated on Matthijs De Ligt’s status and weighed in on Gonzalo Higuain and their journey up to this point in the pre-game presser ahead of the tilt against Lokomotiv Moscow.

“Seeing some growth out of the team and reaching the next stage are goals that go hand-in-hand. You do not collect points in Europe if you do not play well. It will be a difficult game, they gave us fits it the first contest. We want to secure the qualification, then aim at the first place in the following one, but they are still in the running. We have to focus on our performance to get the result we want.” Continue reading

Sarri provides injury updates and more in pre-Genoa presser

Maurizio Sarri was back in front of the presser earlier to day to set the stage of the game against Genoa: “The team is doing pretty well, they adapted to a new style, then clearly we still have several situations that we need to perfect, which is normal. We have some untapped potential and room for improvement. We are on the right track, but we are aware we need to still work a lot.”

On Federico Bernardeschi: “He is fine, he just had some misses like his teammates. It is a matter than involves the whole team not just him.” Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round Ten

Juventus: Miralem Pjanic (thigh) and Gonzalo Higuain (head) were ruled out. while Rodrigo Bentancur, who hurt his ribs, is good to go. Douglas Costa has resumed practicing fully and might return to the squad either here or on Sunday, while Aaron Ramsey is still limited, but he is the squad list. 

Inter: Stefano Sensi is progressing but will not come back here. The reports about Matias Vecino’s thigh injury have been scarce, but he was not dealing with a major problem. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round Nine

Juventus: Aaron Ramsey and Douglas Costa are set to miss another one as they continue working their way back from thigh injuries. Mattia De Sciglio, instead, could make the squad list.

Inter: Stefano Sensi is likely to miss another two matches due to a psoas muscle problem. Matias Vecino was held out midweek due to muscle fatigue and he is questionable. Continue reading