Juventus Top Performers – Round 28

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Juventus were devoid of energies and mostly of ideas too on Sunday in Genoa and were handed their first loss of the season in Serie A play. They almost managed to get by through experience, but once the VAR disallowed the Paulo Dybala goal the Griffon just overwhelmed them. The Bianconeri’s record run on the road, where they had not been defeated for 27 matches in a row obviously came to end.

Joao Cancelo: all the defenders were docked a point because of the two goals they allowed. Cancelo had the best outing among those who were fielded on Sunday as he showed flashes of his best self, in particular when he played as left winger after half time. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – UCL Round of 16 Return Leg

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Juventus painted a masterpiece on Tuesday night, thanks to an amazing collective effort, a rarely seen fierceness and an out-of-the-blue tactical solution and got the ‘magical night’ they have been looking for.

Joao Cancelo: he was arguably one of the least effective players on the pitch, relatively speaking and considering his skills, as he could have done more with all the space he had at his disposal. However, bonus points are part of the equation and he sent in a pinpoint cross to set up Cristiano Ronaldo’s second goal. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 27

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Juventus: Miralem Pjanic and Joao Cancelo are suspended, while Douglas Costa (quad, calf), Sami Khedira (heart) and Juan Cuadrado (knee) remain sidelined. Mattia De Sciglio has been ruled out late due a thigh problem.

Napoli: Alex Meret is disqualified and Raul Albiol is recovering from a clean-up knee surgery.

Milan: Ricardo Rodriguez is banned. Hakan Calhanoglu might not play as he flew to Germany for the birth of his child eariler this week . Mattia Caldara is expected to be back in the squad list, while Cristian Zapata is more likely to return next week.   Continue reading

Dybala Winner Spares Juventus’ Blushes Once More

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Following their heavy defeat against Atletico Madrid, Juventus travelled to Bologna in hopes of sparking a reaction; a turnaround of sorts. However, nothing of the sort would take place at the Renato Dall’Ara as the bianconeri, much like it has been the case all season, would eek out a narrow victory, somewhat undeservedly maintaining their historic pace. In fact, Allegri’s side are the first team in Italian history to win 22 of their first 25 league games, and yet, Juventus still look a side devoid of any ideas in the final third.

For the first fifteen minutes, the hosts were by far the better side and were unlucky not to find the back of the net on a couple occasions. A midfield trio of Poli, Pulgar and Soriano had quietly dominated the proceedings for the better portion of the first half. After watching his conventional 4-3-3 crumble against Atletico, Allegri implemented a few notable changes in his setup on Sunday. Federico Bernardeschi started the game as a mezz’ala whereas Joao Cancelo was deployed on the right wing.

While these changes are a step in the right direction, Allegri is yet to find a place for his most creative forward Paulo Dybala. When Dybala is in form, so are Juve. Until now, Dybala’s been an awkward fit alongside Ronaldo and Mandzukic, and has yet to reach his former heights in Allegri’s current setup. Against Bologna, the former Palermo man started from the bench and inevitably came on with just over thirty minutes to play.

It would only take La Joya eight minutes before firing Juventus ahead, and securing the three points. With the win, Juventus maintained their lead at the top over Napoli, yet, in reality, all Dybala’s winner did was add further paper over the cracks in Turin. If the Italian giants want to overcome Atletico Madrid and score three goals in the return leg, they will need to do so with Dybala firing on all cylinders. Whether it means Mandzukic starting on the bench or not remains to be seen, however, one thing’s for certain: On March 12, Allegri needs to get it right.

With Bernardeschi starting to pick up form again and Douglas Costa returning from injury shortly, Allegri could field a highly-offensive and mobile 4-4-2 with Dybala and Ronaldo up top. Rather than experimenting with Cancelo on the wing, the Milan tactician should allow the fullback to play in his natural position, where he gets forward to devastating effect. Unlike in Serie A, Allegri can’t get away with overpowering his opposition in Europe and must demonstrate character with his starting eleven.

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Allegri talks before Bologna-Juventus

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Coach Massimiliano Allegri met the press today and obviously returned on the Atletico Madrid game and the comparison with what happend with Real last year: “The circumstances are different, we have 20 days to prepare this fixture, which will be our match of the year. With enthusiasm and adrenaline. I do not know whether we will advance, but we have to do everything in our power to pull it off. In order to get there, we have to do well in the next three league games. We face Bologna which have a new coach and a new attitude, they have won in Milan, tied with Genoa and did not deserve to lose against Roma. It is an important game because we want to arrive to the Napoli clash with the same lead. We need eight more wins in Serie A.” Continue reading

Stubborn Allegri Costs Juventus Again

Juventus Training Session

With the league just about wrapped up, Juventus travelled to Madrid with massive expectations on their shoulders. Crash out of the Champions League, and their season is effectively over. Despite the magnitude of the clash, the bianconeri looked a broken side at the Wanda Metropolitano and allowed Atletico Madrid to dominate from start to finish. Armed with Cristiano Ronaldo, this season was supposed to be different for the Italian giants and yet, Juventus arguably put in their worst European performance in six years.

While many of their stars frankly didn’t show up, Massimiliano Allegri will have to shoulder much of the blame for Juve’s most recent European embarrassment. With the score tied at zero, and still all to play for, Diego Simeone acted proactively bringing on Thomas Lemar, Alvaro Morata, and Angel Correa, essentially giving his side the extra push they needed to claim the victory.

Allegri, by contrast, acted timidly both with his starting lineup and in-game substitutions, keeping Joao Cancelo on the bench in favour of Mattia De Sciglio and only introduced Federico Bernardeschi by the time it was too late. Meanwhile, the former Milan tactician had Dybala operating from the right, as if he was a natural winger. Naturally, what transpired throughout the ninety minutes was an unmitigated disaster, culminating in a heavy defeat, which if we’re being honest, could have been much, much worse for Allegri. He’ll will be thanking VAR and Diego Costa.

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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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Allegri Must Make Amends With Dybala

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With Juventus entering a crucial stretch in their season, Massimiliano Allegri must put aside his differences with Paulo Dybala and find a place for him in his lineup. Immediately. 

When the bianconeri took on Parma last weekend, La Joya was left on the bench and stormed off in frustration after Allegri used his third and final substitute. The former Palermo man has since apologized for his outburst and was constrained to the sidelines once more in Juventus’ most recent win against Sassuolo, coming on in the 83rd minute.

This season, Dybala has seen a change in his role and has typically operated from deeper, as per Allegri’s instructions. The Juventus tactician even went so far as to dub him a “box-to-box” midfielder in a press-conference earlier this season. Adapting to a completely new role, Dybala has experienced some growing pains and has struggled to influence games from the midfield.

All too often, the 25-year-old wanders wide in hopes of carving out space for himself. What this leads to, however, is Dybala getting less touches near the opposition’s goal and far less chances to use his creativity to dictate play.

With Ronaldo occupying the sole striker position, it doesn’t leave much room for the Argentine international in the final third. Factor in Mario Mandzukic’s importance and ability to combine with the former Real Madrid star, and you quickly realize Dybala is an awkward fit in Allegri’s current setup. While the obvious solution would be to field Dybala behind Mandzukic and Ronaldo, it would take away from the Croatian’s aerial threat – something Juventus could ill afford.

Since being fielded on the left wing, Mandzukic has been able to bully the opposition’s fullback and take advantage of the notable height difference to head home crucial goals. Fielding him centrally again would make the former Bayern Munich man face off in the air against centre-backs and would reduce his aerial presence. This season, Mandzukic has been immense for the bianconeri and has established himself as their big-game player, scoring against Napoli, Inter, Milan, Roma and Lazio. Moving him positions at this point in the season would not only be detrimental to his game, but to Juventus’ overall play. So where does all this leave Dybala?

Over the course of his career, the Juventus playmaker has been at his most dangerous playing behind a striker as a trequartista. In this role, he’s capable of playing between the opposition’s lines and play off his teammate. Last year, Dybala scored 22 goals in league play when playing alongside Higuain – something that Allegri should not banish from his memory just yet.

Juventus v SSC Napoli - Serie A

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Allegri talks ahead of Sassuolo-Juventus

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Coach Massimiliano Allegri begun by addressing the talk of the week, which was Paulo Dybala leaving the bench early against Parma: “He apologized and it was the only right thing to do since he is an intelligent guy. The club gave him the no.10, which is a big responsibility, and he is the vice-captain. His behavior was not aligned to that, but he understood and the case is closed.”

On Dybala’s role: “It has not changed, it is just a matter of skills of who plays alongside him. Cristiano Ronaldo is different from Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic. He has always had few chances, even though he did not score. He plays in the same position, it is not like he is used as fullback. He has always been involved in the build-up of the action and always tried to finish it as well. Continue reading

Allegri: “We will need the right type of performance to bounce back”

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Coach Massimiliano Allegri previewed the Parma clash earlier today: “Giorgio Chiellini’s injury is not too serious, but it will take him 10-15 days to recover. He is likely to miss the next two games and then we will re-evaluate him.”

On the lineup: “Mario Mandzukic will return tomorrow and I have yet to decide who to field alongside him and Cristiano Ronaldo. Somebody needs a break because we have spent a lot of energies, we need fresh legs. Martin Caceres is a reliable player and will pair up with Daniele Rugani tomorrow. Miralem Pjanic is ready, we will see about the box-to-box midfielder, I might use Federico Bernardeschi there. Leonardo Spinazzola has good chances to start, Mattia Perin will be in the XI. The most important thing is to get back on track.” Continue reading