Dybala Set to Start Against Ajax

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With Mario Mandzukic out injured, reports suggest that Paulo Dybala could get the start alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Federico Bernardeschi. Until now, la Joya has struggled to impose himself on games, and has looked an awkward fit in Allegri’s various formations this season.

Instructed to drop deep to receive the ball, Dybala has often been on the periphery of games, and has largely struggled to impact the proceedings from an unfamiliar deeper role. With the score tied at one all, and going back to the Juventus Stadium, the return leg against Ajax is a great opportunity for Dybala to make a statement, and prove doubters wrong. Recently, there’s been reports linking Dybala with a move away due to his recent struggles; something that he’ll be eager to quash as soon as possible.

Against Ajax, Allegri is reportedly fielding Dybala as the out-and-out striker, a position he’s rarely played this season. When given the opportunity to play closer to the goal, the Argentine international has not disappointed, scoring six goals in ten games. Going up against Matthjis de Ligt won’t be easy, but if anyone has the skill-set to drag him out of position, it’s Dybala. In doing so, the former Palermo man could open up spaces for Ronaldo to attack. In the first leg, de Ligt was a rock at the back, and marshalled Mandzukic wonderfully when necessary.

Moreover, with Emre Can returning, and acting as the shield for the back four, Miralem Pjanic will be given the license to get forward; a luxury he was not afforded in the first leg. With the Bosnian international getting forward to dictate play, Dybala won’t be forced to drop as deep as he normally does, and he’ll be able to make the most of his ability in and around the eighteen-yard box.

When Pjanic is allowed to play in a more advanced role, the team plays noticeably better, as evidenced in the return leg against Atletico Madrid. Against Ajax, expect it to be no different as the former Roma man will look to get forward with more regularity. The importance of Can’s return cannot be emphasized enough, and it will have a massive impact on the team, as well as Dybala’s game as a whole. Rather than being forced to act as the side’s creator, Dybala could focus on hurting Ajax in the final phase.

Mandzukic’s absence, by contrast, will be felt, however, given his recent form it may be for the best. While Mandzukic sacrifices himself for the team, and unselfishly goes into aerial duels, the Croatian has been largely ineffective these past few weeks, and could do with a spell on the sidelines to recover ahead of a crucial stage in the season.

In theory, Mandzukic’s rugged style of play attracts defenders, and opens up space for his teammates – namely Ronaldo. However, if the first leg was anything to go by, Mandzukic struggled immensely to acclimate himself with the pace of the play and frankly isn’t suited to play against Ajax.

Dybala, by contrast, is a far more technical player and could interchange nicely with Ronaldo and Bernardeschi. As a result, it will be difficult for Ajax to cope with Juventus’ attack if there’s no consistent reference point throughout. In addition, the Argentine has proven time and time again that he’s ready for the biggest stage, scoring crucial goals in the Champions League against Barcelona, and Tottenham. Factor in Nicolas Tagliafico’s suspension, and things get harder for the Ajax rearguard playing away from home.

With all to play for in Turin, Allegri is turning to a familiar face in Dybala to help see his side through. While it hasn’t been his best season in bianconero, the quality is still there and it would be foolish to give up on him now. Against Ajax, he will be afforded a massive opportunity to make a statement; an opportunity Dybala cannot squander.

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Rugani and Allegri preview the Ajax tilt

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Daniele Rugani, who will start for the injured Giorgio Chiellini, and Massimiliano Allegri addressed the press late yesterday. The defender had the floor first: “We all know the value of Chiellini, I will do my best to make up for his absence. It is a very nice moment for me, I am going through it with enthusiasm. These are the kinds of game you dream about where you are a kid.”

On Matthijs De Ligt: “I know him, I faced him with the national team. We might play together in the future, why not? It is always a good thing to feature next to strong players. They have several of them, it is natural that there is some interest around them.” Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 31

Scudetto Juve: Buffon immortale, Dybala 22 gol / SPECIALE

Juventus-Milan: the Bianconeri are coming off a convincing outing in Cagliari, where they notched their second shutout win in a row and in general their seventh victory in the last eight fixtures. On the other hand, the Rossoneri failed to take home the full loot for three matches in a row as they lost to Inter and Sampdoria and then tied with Udinese. The Old Lady is likely to have back both Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala for this game, while Cristiano Ronaldo is slated to sit one more out. Some players could be spared in the Ajax game, in any case Moise Kean and Federico Bernardeschi are in terrific form and have lead them scoring-wise. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 30

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Milan-Udinese: the Rossoneri slowed down just as things were starting to get really interesting, as they were defeated by Inter and Sampdoria after they had managed to surpass the Nerazzurri riding a five-game winning streak. They also have to look behind at the onrushing Atalanta and Lazio. Udinese came out on top in Igor Tudor’s second debut, besting Genoa after two losses to Juventus and Napoli, although their home numbers were solid also before the firing of Davide Nicola. Milan have had troubles feeding Krzysztof Piatek in the last two matches and they do not really have a second reliable scoring option because Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu are more creators and have not had much feeling with the goal recently. Samu Castillejo did not deliver in Genoa despite the opportunity to start. Lucas Paquetà and Franck Kessie were benched after international duties, but they should be back in the XI here and could provide a decent boost. The Brazilian starlet might play closer to the guy and Patrick Cutrone could get to start over Suso in a different scheme.  Continue reading

Kean Deserving of More Minutes in Ronaldo’s Absence

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After Cristiano Ronaldo went down clutching his hamstring in Portgual’s latest Euro qualifier against Serbia, alarm bells went off in Turin. With a crucial Champions League clash approaching against Ajax, Juventus want their star man fit and raring to go. It has since been reported that the former Real Madrid man will likely miss the bianconeri’s clashes against Empoli, Cagliari and Milan but will be fit for their quarter-final encounter.

In the meantime, Massimiliano Allegri would be wise to make the most of the squad depth at his disposal, and give Moise Kean a more prominent role. Since the beginning of the season, the Italian international hasn’t played much, but has not disappointed when given the chance, consistently finding the back of the net.

Most recently, Kean made his presence felt on the international level, scoring two goals in two starts in Gli Azzurri’s Euro qualifiers against Finland and Liechtenstein. While the level of the opposition was questionable at best, the 19-year-old, much like it has been the case all season, did well to make the most of his opportunities and announce himself on the world stage.

With Ronaldo out for the foreseeable future and with the league practically wrapped up, it’s as good a time as any to allow Kean to prove his worth, starting with the Empoli game. However, latest reports indicate that Allegri is going the safe route and will field a front three of Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and Federico Bernardeschi.

Since the new year, Mandzukic has struggled for form, and hasn’t scored in his last ten games in all competitions. You would have to go all the way back to his goal against Roma on December 22nd for his last strike. Against Atletico Madrid, the Croatian looked a shadow of his former self, and was regularly beat in the air by the imposing Diego Godin or Jose Gimenez. A spell on the sidelines allowing him to recover could do him some good. Mandzukic will always prove to be a willing runner but, Allegri’s side are going to need more from him if they are to hoist the Champions League.

Dybala, by contrast, hasn’t had his best year in bianconero and has had issues adapting to a deeper role since Ronaldo’s arrival.

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While giving them minutes together alongside Bernardeschi – a surefire starter at this point – is a good contingency plan should Ronaldo miss out of the Ajax clash, Kean should still be afforded more playing time. After all, he’s one of the few Juventus forwards that has consistently made an impact when on the pitch in recent times while others have struggled.

Moreover, it would prove to Kean that Juventus are serious about his development, and would go a long way in future contract negotiations. With half of Europe queuing up for the Italian’s signature, as recent reports would suggest, Juventus must do everything in their power to ensure he stays long-term.

As April 10th approaches, and with Ronaldo’s injury status still uncertain, Allegri must ensure his front-line are firing on all cylinders. One thing’s for certain: Benching Kean and stopping his momentum at this point in the season isn’t the best way to go about that.

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Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 29

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Juventus-Empoli: the Bianconeri are coming off their first Serie A loss this season, against Genoa, while they dropped points just twice at home thus far. The Azzurri defeated Frosinone in Aurelio Andreazzoli’s return match, nabbing the second win in the last 13 rounds. They have lost in five of the last six away games. The Old Lady will be without Cristiano Ronaldo, who got hurt while playing with Portugal, and Douglas Costa, who remains sidelined. Therefore, Federico Bernardeschi, Moise Kean, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic will lead the charge and try to alleviate the absence of the Portuguese star. They could be helped by the fact that the Tuscans have one of the leakiest defenses in the League. Continue reading

Bernardeschi and Cancelo comment on Juventus matters from NT camps

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Federico Bernardeschi and Joao Cancelo touched on some Juventus-related topics while talking to the press from their respective national team camps. The Italian winger weighed in on the possible suspension of Cristiano Ronaldo: “I think it would be insane, I hope the situation will get resolved right away. He is champion, you can not add much more compared to what he does on the pitch. He has great charisma and stature. When you are around him daily, you can really learn a lot if you manage to look at him in a slightly detached way. He is always serene and confident that everything will work out.” Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 27

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Juventus-Udinese: despite being under siege for the whole second half, the Bianconeri survived in Napoli and further broaden their lead atop of the standings. Despite the results in the domestic league, where they have won four in a row and seven in the last eight and are still undefeated, the squad seems to be trending down in the last couple of weeks. The Zebrette are coming off two massive wins over Chievo and Bologna, which allowed them to jump to the 15th position and move seven points clear of the final three spots. Miralem Pjanic and Joao Cancelo are suspended and coach Massimiliano Allegri is expected to heavily rotate the squad ahead of the second leg with Atletico Madrid, but they are not particularly deep. 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

Juventus Top Performers – Round 26

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Favourable circumstances in the early going directed the clash with Napoli in Juventus’ way and, to their credit, the Bianconeri struck when they smelled blood in the first half, which, with some luck, allowed them to hang on despite struggling almightily in the second one.

Leonardo Bonucci: he and Wojciech Szczesny, who had a couple of very solid saves, had the best performance out of the defensive pack, as Giorgio Chiellini had a rare mistake letting José Callejon slip behind him on the 1-2 goal. Bonucci was very attentive and commanding throughout the contest and had a key block late in the game on a menacing shot. Continue reading