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.
With the Massimiliano Allegri era officially over, the Juventus brass identified Maurizio Sarri as the man to lead the revolution at the club. While the past five seasons under Allegri were largely successful, there were clear signs of stagnation, especially amongst some of the side’s key performers. With the former Chelsea boss now at the helm, however, expect a rebirth of sorts for many of these players. Here are three Juventus men that are worth keeping an eye on going into the new season.
Alex Sandro (left back)
When the Brazilian first joined the bianconeri, he was regarded as one of the best fullbacks in the world, and lived up to the hype early on offering some much needed offensive enterprise and flair from the left. However, over the course of the last two seasons, Alex Sandro’s progression has come to a screeching halt, and the former Porto man has looked a shade of his former self.
Luckily for the for the 28-year-old, Sarri tends to get the most out of his offensive fullbacks. At Napoli, Sarri’s tactical setup meant Faouzi Ghoulam played an important role in the final third, and reached a new level under the veteran tactician. Through the use of offensive overloads, Sarri’s fullbacks see plenty of the ball in the opposition’s half, and are seen as much more than mere defenders; a luxury that was not afforded to the Brazilian under Allegri.
At Chelsea, it was much of the same. Whether it was Marcos Alonso or Emerson, both defenders played an integral role in the final third, and progressed as players. Under Sarri, expect Alex Sandro to put his recent woes behind him and re-emerge as one of football’s elite left backs.
Paulo Dybala (attacking-midfielder)
Last season, the Argentine looked out of sorts whenever called upon, and regularly failed to impact proceedings under Allegri. Whether he was playing as the side’s main striker or on the wing, Dybala never fully looked like himself and had his worst season yet in bianconero, netting five goals in Serie A action. Much of this falls on Allegri’s pragmatic outlook, however, la Joya must assume some responsibility and soldier on in the upcoming season.
In Sarri’s first press conference, he quickly outlined that Dybala, alongside Ronaldo and Douglas Costa, will play a key role for him in the final third. At Napoli, the tactician got the best out of Lorenzo Insigne, Callejon and Higuain and turned them into the league’s most feared offensive trios. If his exploits with Insigne are anything to go by, a Napoli player most similar to Dybala, expect the Argentine international to have a big season in Turin.
While it’s still unclear where exactly Dybala will feature given Ronaldo’s presence, he will undoubtedly play a key role in Sarri’s progressive setup, and could finally focus on putting his creativity to use to open up opposition’s defences rather than tracking back. Big season ahead for Juventus’ crown jewel.
Douglas Costa (winger)
The Brazilian, much like Dybala, had a tumultuous season under Allegri riddled by injury problems, and disciplinary concerns. While it was recently reported that the former Bayern man is of interest to French giants PSG, Sarri quickly quashed those rumours and indicated the winger is someone he’s extremely keen on working with.
Given his electric nature, Douglas Costa will fit like a glove in Sarri’s 4-3-3 and will offer some much needed pace and unpredictability in the final third. However, there’s one concern: Sarri’s tactical scheme is one of rigidity and repetition, which may pose an issue to a mercurial player like Douglas Costa.
In any case, if Sarri is able to bridge that gap and demonstrate to him the merits of his setup, expect Douglas Costa to be on his A game next year and torment defences.
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Standings implications: it was a rollercoaster because of the chronological order of the events, but the Champions League race finished in the same way it was entering the round, as Atalanta and Inter were successful and staved off Milan. The Nerazzurri sent Empoli to Serie B as Genoa’s grand plan to wait for the Beneamata to win worked out, as neither them or Fiorentina were interested in attacking in their match. Roma bid farewell to Daniele De Rossi with a W over Parma.
Among the meaningless games, Juventus got beat by Sampdoria, Napoli by Bologna, while Udinese bested Cagliari on the road and Frosinone and Chievo shared the spoils in a nil-nil tie. Continue reading
Salvatore Sirigu (7 points): in another round that was lacking in terms of clean sheets, only three, the tentacular Torino goalie once again separate himself from the pack, mainly for a great save on a Tiemoue Bakayoko deep into the Milan game.
Federico Fazio (9 points): he paved the way for Roma’s easy win against Cagliari by leaping into the air to precisely send the ball towards the far post and outside of Alessio Cragno’s reach. He has impressively already scored five times this year.
Aleksandar Kolarov (9 points): after multiple attempts, he was the one to finally bag Roma’s third goal on Saturday, with a persistent foray that he started and finished tracking down the second ball after a teammate was denied. Continue reading
Samir Handanovic: Inter remain one of the most trustworthy defences and they have allowed the fewest goals at home. They will tangle with Sampdoria this week, which have been shutout in their last two games.
Faouzi Ghoulam: Mario Rui got hurt against Fiorentina, which paves the way for the Algerian left back, who is always a threat offensively. Napoli have kept three clean sheets in a row.
Jens Larsen: while Udinese are laboring as a team, the Danish is thriving as wing back and is much more involved offensively, even scoring recently. Chievo have given up a lot of goals as of late and have failed to hit the net in three of their last four road fixtures. Continue reading
Goals galore in Serie A this week: here are the top 11 perfomers.
Gianluigi Donnarumma (7 points): just four clean sheets in this round, by Milan, Torino, Napoli and Juventus. The starlet once again showed off his cat-like reflexes with a pair of superb saves on a header by Iago Falque and on an attempt by Andrea Belotti.
Faouzi Ghoulam (9 points): his return on the pitch after over a year and two major knee injuries could not have gone any better as he perfectly set up the two goal by Arkadiusz Milik with crisp crosses. Continue reading
An easy call for club of the week this time around, as Napoli quickly disposed of Frosinone on Saturday. As he often does, Carlo Ancelotti looked ahead, at the decisive Champions League clash with Liverpool coming on Tuesday, and spared some of his best men: Raul Albiol, José Callejon, Fabian Ruiz and Dries Mertens. Sebastiano Luperto, Adam Ounas and Arkadiusz Milik drew the start.
It was an evening of debuts and returns, as Alex Meret was between the sticks for the first time after being sidelined by an early forearm fracture, Faouzi Ghoulam got the first start in over a year and Amin Younes played his first minutes with the Azzurri after recovering from an Achilles tear. Continue reading
Juventus: Sami Khedira (hamstring) and Mario Mandzukic (ankle) played in Champions League, while Douglas Costa was ruled out for another thigh problem, same for Moise Kean. They are unlikely to be available for the weekend. Federico Bernardeschi is questionable for the muscular ailment that has been bugging him for a while.
Inter: Radja Nainggolan started against Barcelona, but he is still less than 100 percent because of the recent ankle sprain so he could be rested.
Napoli: Dries Mertens subbed off versus PSG because of a bruised shoulder, but he avoided further complications and should be good to go for the weekend. Continue reading
Juventus: Mario Mandzukic missed the Champions League game with an ankle sprain and will not be available in the weekend. Emre Can is dealing with a thyroid issue and his status is uncertain until further tests. Sami Khedira will skip a couple more games with his hamstring strain.
Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne subbed off against PSG for a knock on the chest but he should be good to go. Simone Verdi could miss up to a month with a grade one thigh (adductor) strain. Alex Meret and Faouzi Ghoulam were called up midweek, while Adam Ounas and Sebatiano Luperto were out because of muscle fatigue, which they will try to solve by Sunday. Continue reading
Juventus: Paulo Dybala had a little scare with Argentina, but his knee is fine. Daniele Rugani nursed a rib fracture during the break. The only injured player is Sami Khedira, who is dealing with a hamstring strain. Leonardo Spinazzola is close, but he has not been called up for this weekend.
Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne has picked up a minor injury and will not be available. Kalidou Koulibaly returned early from international duties because of muscle fatigue and he is likely to rest. Faouzi Ghoulam (kneecap fracture), Amin Younes (torn Achilles) and Alex Meret (arm fracture) are inching closer to a return but the could be held out for another week. Sebastiano Luperto is fatigued. Continue reading