Juventus bring back Morata

Juventus’ lengthy search for a new centre-forward came to an end on Tuesday as they announced the acquisition of Alvaro Morata from Atletico Madrid, who returns in Turin five years after his first stint at the club. Morata spent two seasons with the Bianconeri between 2014 and 2015, scoring 27 goals in 93 appearances, including one in Berlin’s Champions League final, and left because Real Madrid activated the buy-back clause that was included in the original deal. Continue reading

Edin Dzeko represents best fit for Juventus

Juventus has been linked with a move for a new number nine all summer and is reportedly closing in on Roma’s Edin Dzeko. The Italian champions have previously been linked with Luis Suarez and Olivier Giroud, but the Bosnian international has since emerged as the favorite. His arrival will see Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik make the move to Roma, with Dzeko signing with Juve.

The Bianconeri may have been linked with a number of strikers over the past summer, but Dzeko is arguably the best fit for Andrea Pirlo. Juventus has lacked a dominant number nine, capable of imposing himself in the final third and struggled with Gonzalo Higuain spearheading the attack. Cristiano Ronaldo thrived with Mario Mandzukic alongside him in his first season and will be hoping to strike a similar partnership with Dzeko. His 16 million euro price-tag may be a lot for a player on the wrong side of thirty, but the striker still has a lot left to give.

The Roma man offers a towering penalty box presence, much like Mandzukic, but is equally capable of creating chances himself. Last season, Dzeko registered 16 goals and added an impressive 11 assists, highlighting his well-rounded nature. In this sense, he’s unlike any striker Juve have had in recent years.

While Pirlo’s preferred formation remains unclear, Dzeko has all the qualities to complement the likes of Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, and Dejan Kulusevski. Whether the rookie tactician deploys a 3-5-2 and fields Dzeko in a two-striker setup, or tasks the Bosnian with leading the line himself, the Roma man will slot in seamlessly.

In many ways, Dzeko represents the best stop-gap option for Juve, given the current options. The Roma hitman will reportedly join on a two-year deal worth 7.5 million euros per season. His salary may be hefty, but given the short-term nature of the contract, Dzeko won’t hold up too much of Juve’s wage bill.

Suarez, by contrast, was reportedly ready to ink a three-year contract worth 10 million euros per season. The Barcelona striker is a proven goalscorer but investing 30 million euros in Suarez would be incredibly short-sighted. Juventus has struggled to rid themselves of their deadwood in recent times and has found it difficult to part ways with their declining players. Had it not been for Inter Miami, the Bianconeri essentially had no suitors for Higuain and would have struggled to move him on, beyond a potential buyout.

Dzeko, on the other hand,  has another year of quality football in his legs if last season was anything to go by, and could play a subdued role in the final year of his deal. In addition, Dzeko’s skill-set is constantly evolving and has since established himself as one of the league’s best creators in the final third. Even if the goals begin to dry up next year, Dzeko can still contribute significantly in the final third. Juventus lacked a creative outlet at times last season, relying heavily on Dybala to get things going.

The Argentine international dropped deep into midfield regularly, leaving a gap up front. As a result, opposition defenses focused much of their attention on Ronaldo and stifled the Bianconeri easily with a deep block. Dzeko will not only provide an impressive passing range but will also attract attention from the opposing center-backs, giving Dybala and Ronaldo to license to roam dangerously.

Dejan Kulusevski is another player worth monitoring in this respect and will thrive with Dzeko as his target. The former Parma man excelled last season with Gli Crociati and will be looking to take the next step this season with Juve. Dzeko’s arrival rounds off Juventus’s offensive acquisitions for this summer and offers Pirlo yet another weapon to shake things up in the final third. Last season, the Bianconeri fell short at crucial moments and looked toothless in the return leg against Lyon. Dzeko’s signing may come as a surprise, but make no mistake about it: Of all the reported options, the Roma man is the best fit.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round One

Bologna: Gary Medel is suspended and is also recovering from a grade one strain in the semimembranosus muscle on the right thigh, therefore he could miss week two as well.

Cagliari: Luca Ceppitelli, Filip Bradaric and Kiril Despodov are quarantining after catching COVID-19 in late August. Gaston Pereiro suffered a fifth metatarsal fracture in the right foot about two weeks ago and he has a 45-day timetable. Alessandro Deiola is recovering from a clean-up surgery on the right knee he had during his time at Lecce. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round One

FIORENTINA-TORINO

Fiorentina: despite not changing all that much, the Viola have brought in some new interesting pieces during the transfer market window, such as Sofyan Amrabat, who is suspended in this one, Giacomo Bonaventura and Cristiano Biraghi, who seems poised to stay after a solid season at Inter. However, their coach and attack are the same, which means we can expect something akin to what happened in the restart, where Franck Ribery and Gaetano Castrovilli served as the main playmakers, Federico Chiesa was the most consistent scorer, while Christian Kouame, Dusan Vlahovic and Patrick Cutrone, all capable but otherworldly strikers, fight for one spot. The ex-Genoa forward seems to have separated himself from the pack a little during the summer. Bonaventura is supremely sneaky.

Suggested picks: Chiesa, Ribery, Kouame. Continue reading

Dejan Kulusevski ready to hit the ground running at Juventus

Juventus has been linked with a plethora of attacking players in recent times as the new season approaches. Andrea Pirlo has reportedly put a new number nine on top of his transfer list, indicating he’s eager to shake up the Bianconeri’s stuttering frontline. The Italian champions relied heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala in the final third, with the duo combining for over 50 per cent of Juve’s goals in all competitions last season. While their pursuit of a striker rages on, it is a January signing that will arguably have the biggest impact.

When Juve splashed 35 million euros on Dejan Kulusevski this winter, many were left wondering who exactly the 20-year-old is. After all, he had only six months of regular first-team football under his belt with Parma and despite his impressive performances, Kulusevski was relatively unproven.

The Swedish international has now joined Juventus officially and will slot in wonderfully in Pirlo’s new-look front three. Kulusevski established himself as a creative force while on loan at Parma, breaking onto the scene as one of the league’s deadliest counter-attacking threats. The former Parma man initially came through Atalanta’s youth ranks as a creative midfielder and largely featured as a trequartista.

Due to his incredible turn of pace, however, Roberto D’Aversa deployed him on the right-wing. Kulusevski slotted in seamless from a wide position and regularly drifted in centrally, in a free-roam role. At Juventus, the 20-year-old will arguably occupy a similar role and will have ample opportunities to make the right-winger role his own. Douglas Costa has struggled with injuries since joining from Bayern Munich and has simply not looked like a good fit with Ronaldo and Dybala. Bernardeschi, by contrast, failed to make an impact when called upon and will mostly act as attacking depth.

Kulusevski’s vision and wide range of passing will ensure he fits right in alongside Juve’s high-powered front three in a complementary position. The former Parma man is unselfish out of possession and has proven to be a willing runner, as well and will need to bring those qualities to the fore next season. While not much is known about Pirlo’s coaching philosophy, the rookie tactician indicated he wants his side to win the ball back as quickly as possible and press the opposition high. In this sense, Kulusevski is an ideal fit up front and could offer some much-needed defensive cover to Cuadrado when needed.

Another aspect working in Kulusevski’s favour is his impressive versatility. Beyond playing on the wing, the Swedish international has already played significant minutes in middle of the park, be it as a mezz’ala or as a trequartista. Juventus has had issues in the midfield for the better part of three years now and could deploy him on the outside of a midfield three. Given Juventus will be competing on many fronts, Kulusevski may feature in various positions depending on what Pirlo is looking for.

While there are more questions than answers going into the new season for Juve, Kulusevski is one of the few certainties. The former Parma man has demonstrated he’s more than a simple flash in the pan and will be eager to translate that form to a big club. In many ways, Kulusevski will be hoping to follow Dybala’s career path rather than Bernadeschi’s and emerge as a key man for Pirlo. Given the ongoing pandemic and the shortened transfer window, Kulusevski’s signing has fallen off the radar, but make no mistake about it: The 20-year-old is more than ready to hit the ground running in Turin and has all the tools to establish himself as Juve’s X factor in the final third.

Beyond his

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Three fixtures to watch in match-day one

The new Serie A season is just around the corner with kickoff set for September 19. As is the case every season, the new year presents plenty of intriguing storylines and players to watch out for. Rookie boss Andrea Pirlo is making his managerial debut with Juventus while Inter will be hoping to displace their fierce rivals atop Italian football for the first time in ten years.

Stefano Pioli’s Milan head into the new season confident as ever and will be eager to return to the Champions League after a strong finish. Napoli is another side worth monitoring after a strong summer and could emerge as dark horses for the Scudetto. The capital-based clubs, Roma and Lazio, by contrast, will be hoping to push for top four once more but will need a strong start.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at match-day one and break down the interesting matchups:

Fiorentina-Torino (September 19) 

Fiorentina will be eager to turn the page on last season’s disappointment and spring a surprise this year. La Viola has an impressive core of young talents and will be hoping they can take the next step in their careers. Bartłomiej Dragowski is as reliable as they come between the posts while the imposing Nikola Milenkovic should be able to lead the backline in front of him.

Fiorentina boasts a plethora of talent in the middle of the park, including the likes of Gaetano Castrovilli, Alfred Duncan, and Erick Pulgar. With Chiesa, Vlahovic, and Kouame ahead of them, Beppe Iachini’s men can compete toe-to-toe with just about anyone in the peninsula. Consistency was an issue last season for Fiorentina, but they have enough talent to make a push for European football.

Torino, by contrast, is a side in transition under Marco Giampaolo after a disappointing finish to last season. It will be interesting to see the former Milan tactician back in his comfort zone and lead I Granata back into the upper half of the table.

Juventus-Sampdoria (September 20) 

Andrea Pirlo’s first game in charge will be worth a watch for a number of reasons. For one, not much is known about the former midfielder’s preferred setup as well as his coaching philosophy. His managerial debut against Sampdoria will give the Juventus faithful an early glimpse into what’s in store for them this season.

Beyond Pirlo’s debut, this game will be an early opportunity for Juventus to signal their intentions. The Bianconeri are currently a side in transition, but they will be eager to retain their crown regardless.

Milan-Bologna (September 21)

Milan closed off last season in impressive fashion and will be hoping to translate that form into the new year. Stefano Pioli’s men have had an impressive transfer window so far, adding Sandro Tonali and Brahim Diaz, and will be heading into the new year with high hopes. Bologna is a tricky opponent and possesses enough quality to hurt any opposition in Italy, making this clash must-watch calcio.

Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men will be hoping to break into the top seven this year and could just do that with a bit of luck.

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Juventus’ Top Three Mercato Priorities

With the season just ten days away, Juventus are scrambling to rejuvenate their roster and offer rookie manager Andrea Pirlo significant reinforcements. As the season approaches, Fabio Paratici will be eager to conclude all his mercato business sooner rather than later, starting with the hunt for a new number nine.

Let’s take a deeper look at Juventus’ mercato priorities going into the new season:

1) Sell the deadwood. 

The common theme this transfer window for almost any Italian team has been ‘buy before you sell’. Weston McKennie arrived from Schalke for virtually nothing, while Arthur was swapped for Miralem Pjanic. This indicates that Juventus’s transfer kitty is limited this year unless they can move on unwanted players.

Blaise Matuidi has already joined Inter Miami while Gonzalo Higuain will soon follow, according to reports. Sami Khedira is another player Juventus are eager to part ways with, but the German international is determined to prove his worth to Pirlo. Beyond the former Real Madrid man, Paratici has been unable to move on Douglas Costa, who has spent the better part of the last two seasons sidelined with injuries. Aaron Ramsey is yet another Juventus man whose future is worth monitoring, after failing to make an impact last season despite high wages.

Before the Juventus faithful can dream of a big signing, these are exactly the types of players they need to move on. It won’t be easy and the clock is ticking for Paratici.

2) A new number nine

Juventus parted ways with both Mario Mandzukic and Moise Kean last summer and have failed to replace either ever since. With Higuain declining and on his way to Major League Soccer, Pirlo requested a new number nine for his setup. Edin Dzeko and Luis Suarez are the two most recent strikers linked with a move to Turin, with the Uruguayan emerging as the favorite.

Juventus will reportedly pay Barcelona three million euros with potential bonuses rising to 16 million euros, and will offer Suarez a three-year deal. The entire operation will reach around 45 million euros between wages and transfer fees if recent reports are credible. While Juventus need a number nine and Suarez fits the bill, this is a move that reeks of desperation and resembles the Bianconeri’s past mishaps on the transfer window.

There is currently a dearth of quality number nines available, making Suarez one of Juve’s only realistic options. Paratici’s hands may be tied, but he may regret this move a year or two down the line.

3) One surprise signing? 

After securing a number nine, Juventus could use another profile, be it at fullback or in the midfield. Reinforcing at fullback seems to be down Paratici’s list of priorities, but Real Madrid’s Sergio Reguilon could be an interesting opportunity. The Spanish giants have made it clear he’s available and he could be available at a decent price. Reguilon’s arrival could make Alex Sandro expendable, freeing up some much-needed transfer budget.

Beyond their fullback needs, Juventus could arguably use another creative midfielder. The likes of Rodrigo De Paul and Luis Alberto have been previously linked with a move to Turin, indicating a move for a midfield maestro may be on the cards. In this sense, Lyon’s Houssem Aouar should be a priority and is reportedly available at a decent price. If Juventus can broker a deal for the French international, it would go a long way at addressing their lack of dynamism and creativity in the middle of the park.

However, let’s be clear – any surprise move is completely contingent on selling their deadwood, something Paratici has struggled with since assuming his position.

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Juventus aiming for a magical tenth Scudetto!

They say that the more things change, the more things stay the same and although the world around us is evolving with each passing day, there is still a constant feature that comes from within the confines of Italian football.

A constant that is found at the Allianz Stadium with Juventus racking up a ninth successive Serie A title last season. Now there is a question that sits on everyone’s lips – can the Old Lady go on and make it ten in a row?

Clearly, there is no doubt that Juventus have been the dominant force in Italian football over the past decade. Although some have come close to bloodying their nose, the status quo has remained since the 2011/12 season with Juve being crowned champions at the end of every single season.

Depending on where your support lies, Juve’s continued dominance has either been a great thing or some scene out of a horror movie. Anyone who supports the Bianconeri be grinning at the prospect of a tenth consecutive league title.

Unfortunately for the anti-Juve crowd, another winning season for the Old Lady would mean more bad news for the rest of the top division in Italy. When you consider that last season’s edition of the Bianconeri was hardly a vintage offering, there is indeed room for the Italian champions to improve this time around!

With potential changes still on the horizon, Juventus remain the favorites to win another Serie A title. Former legendary midfielder Andrea Pirlo is now at the managerial helm- and his name could be etched into immortality at the end of the season.

It’s been a rather tumultuous summer for both Pirlo and Juve- one that has seen the 41-year-old earn a career promotion far quicker than he or anyone else for that matter, could have ever envisioned.

Although they are by far the superior squad on the domestic front, the Bianconeri have yet to return to the top of the continental scene with another disappointing offering in
the Champions League last season. This meant heads would eventually roll.

Even though Maurizio Sarri led the club to their ninth successive and his first-ever Serie A title, it was deemed as not enough by the powers that be. With their European exploits falling short, the former Chelsea manager was shown the exit door.

A decision that meant a replacement for Sarri had to come from within and even though Pirlo had only been appointed as manager of Juventus U23 nine days previously, he soon found himself taking charge of the first team instead.

While the appointment seemingly follows a recent trend all over Europe and one that has seen club greats return to take the managerial reigns and where the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United have blazed a trail, Juventus have now followed.

This means Pirlo either has the easiest job in world football or the hardest because this is a team of talented stars that some claim almost picks itself. On the flip side, it could also be far too big a task for the man who won 116 international caps for Italy.

Even though he was considered one of the greatest deep-lying playmakers of all time, his managerial nous is yet to be trusted and although immortality is perhaps waiting, his coaching career could be over before it has already begun.

Pirlo’s one overriding objective is to make sure the championship link continues. Should it break then whoever oversees the lapse in dominance in Italy will have to carry a huge burden for years to come. Nothing less than the Scudetto is expected. Probably more convincing and entertaining performances are expected as well.

Sarri was brought in to improve the club’s performances and to provide entertaining football because his predecessor Max Allegri had been a serial winner with the Bianconeri yet his last two seasons were marked by dull and unconvincing football.

The rest of Italy’s football fraternity is hoping that Juventus’ luck finally runs out and that this is the season when a new club is crowned king. At the same time, it is unfair to say that the last nine Serie A titles have been won by luck and nothing more.

Quite simply, this is a team that is superior and deeper than all the competition can provide. The fact that the Bianconeri keep winning, may suggest that the man in charge is not all that important as he acts as nothing more than an interchangeable entity.

Antonio Conte then Allegri and Sarri have all won the league title when in charge of Juve. This means Pirlo is up next and if he can secure the tenth consecutive Scudetto with some convincing performances on top of that, a bright future beckons for
both him and the club.

If Juve do get into double figures in terms of successive titles then who knows
at what number the streak will finally end!

Pirlo heavily experimenting in the early days of his Juventus tenure

When Andrea Pirlo was hired by Juventus, not much was known about his coaching philosophy, let alone his preferred formation. The rookie manager is yet to submit his final thesis to Coverciano and will be doing so in October to receive his UEFA badge. As a result, many Italian outlets have speculated heavily about Pirlo’s preferred setup, based on his first training sessions.

Let’s take a look at the different options.

1) (3-5-2/3-4-1-2): Woj; De Ligt/Danilo, Bonucci/Rugani, Demiral/Chiellini; Cuadrado/Bernardeschi, Bentancur/McKennie, Arthur, Kulusevski/Rabiot, Alex Sandro; Dybala, Ronaldo. 

It’s been recently reported that Pirlo is looking to introduce a back three to Juve, a formation he enjoyed plenty of success in during his playing days. The former Milan man is already familiar with the inner workings of the formation and will be eager to impart his knowledge on his new side.

At the back, there are no real surprises with De Ligt, Bonucci, Chiellini, Demiral and Rugani occupying the central positions. Danilo has reportedly been training as a right center-back in recent sessions, indicating a position switch may be on the cards for the Brazilian. In many ways, the deeper role would suit him as the former Manchester City man struggles when tasked with getting forward.

Out wide, Alex Sandro and Cuadrado will arguably start, but Federico Bernardeschi’s progression is worth monitoring. Pirlo is said to be grooming him for the left wingback position, but ultimately, he can feature on either side. The former Fiorentina man played his best football from the right-hand side of a 3-5-2 and will look to get his career back on track under Pirlo.

In the midfield, Arthur is expected to start as Pirlo’s regista with two of Rodrigo Bentancur, Adrien Rabiot, and the newly-arrived Weston McKennie. When Pirlo’s looking to shake things up and get a more offensive outlook on the game, he can also introduce Dejan Kulusevski in a trequartista role behind the front two. The Swedish international thrived as Parma’s creative outlet this season and will undoubtedly emerge as a key man under Pirlo.

The front two of Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo will round off the side and will be eager to build on their budding partnership. La Joya has been at his best in this formation in the past, linking up to devastating effect with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente. The persisting links to Edin Dzeko and Moise Kean should come as no surprise, as either would slot in wonderfully in a front two and would offer some much-needed depth.

In many ways, this reported 3-5-2 would get the most of Pirlo’s current squad and help the Bianconeri’s stuttering players turn their fortunes around.

2) (4-3-1-2): Woj; Cuadrado, De Ligt, Bonucci, Alex Sandro; Bentancur, Arthur, Rabiot; Kulusevski; Dybala, Ronaldo. 

The main difference here is essentially the back four but is ultimately very similar to the 3-5-2. Dybala and Ronaldo would maintain their spots up front with Kulusevski roaming dangerously behind them. With this setup, Pirlo ensures his front three are in their best positions and could open up any opposition.

The midfield is where the main difference lies with one of Rabiot or Bentancur coming in for one of the center-backs from the back three. While this formation is intriguing from an offensive perspective, it stretches Juve’s depth pretty thin and does not give Pirlo much flexibility off the bench to shake things up. McKennie and Bernardeschi could help in this respect, but the Bianconeri would still need a few reinforcements from the summer mercato – notably a striker or two.

The final option for Pirlo is to deploy a 4-3-3 with any combination of Ronaldo, Dybala, Kulusevski, and Douglas Costa as his front three. The Brazilian, however, appears to be on the outs in Turin, after struggling with recurring injuries since arriving from Bayern Munich. The back four and midfield would remain unchanged from the 4-3-1-2 and is arguably the best formation for Juve’s star man, Ronaldo.

As the season approaches, it will be interesting to see what Pirlo has in store for his Juventus side. As of right now, the Juventus faithful are venturing into the unknown with Pirlo and will get their answers shortly as pre-season approaches.

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Juventus on the hunt for a striker, but who fits best?

Juventus has reportedly prioritized the signing of a new number nine and have already informed Gonzalo Higuain he has been deemed surplus to requirements by Andrea Pirlo. The Argentine’s departure leaves a gaping hole up front, one that the Bianconeri are eager to fill.

Paulo Dybala has deputized as a false nine towards the tail end of last season under Maurizio Sarri but typically is at his best working in tandem. As a result, Juventus has been linked with a plethora of strikers – some who are better fits than others. Let’s now take a deeper look at their transfer targets.

Roma’s Edin Dzeko is said to be atop Pirlo’s list for strikers and has been heavily linked with a move to Juventus in recent times. The Bosnian international is currently weighing up his future and will meet with Roma’s executives shortly to outline the path ahead. While Dzeko may be 34 years old, the striker offers the Bianconeri a physical presence in the final third and will help occupy the opposition’s center-backs. In addition, Dzeko excels at holding up the ball and bringing his teammates into play.

In terms of feasibility, Dzeko’s signing could represent a worthy rental and give the Bianconeri some much-needed depth upfront. Provided Juve can secure him on a short-term deal on reasonable wages, the Roma man could just emerge as Pirlo’s number nine.

Beyond Dzeko, Juve has also been linked with Barcelona’s Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan is reportedly extremely keen on joining the Italian champions and will begin negotiating his exit shortly. According to reports, Suarez’s does not figure in Ronald Koeman’s plans – who is eager to rejuvenate the Catalan giants. The main obstacle between Juventus and Suarez is undoubtedly his increased wages. However, that may be remedied with a hefty severance package from Barcelona, which in turn, may lead to Suarez accepting a pay-cut to join Juve.

Despite all his experience, Suarez isn’t exactly the best fit and has slowed down since last season. The Uruguayan has not been his typical fiery self in the final third and does not press the opposition with as much urgency. In this sense, Suarez would be very similar to Higuain and would not be a step in the right direction. The veteran forward may be spurred on by a new challenge in Italy, but as of right now, there are better options.

The last name Juventus have been linked with is their former academy graduate Moise Kean. The Bianconeri inexplicably sold the Italian international to Everton last summer and are reportedly eyeing a sensational return. Recent reports have suggested that Juventus are looking to insert Aaron Ramsey in a potential deal for Kean, bringing down the overall cost of the operation.

Kean impressed in a subdued role in his first season with Juve and is already familiar with Serie A. Unlike Suarez and Dzeko, Kean has the benefit of youth on his side and will command fewer wages than the veteran hitmen. The Everton man has struggled to adapt to life in England, failing to impress in his limited appearances, but could revitalize his career with a return to Juve.

With the new season kicking off in under a month’s time, expect Juventus to have their new striker sooner rather than later. Whether they opt for a veteran, short-term option including the likes of Dzeko or Suarez or go for a high-upside move with the return of Kean, remains to be seen, but one thing’s for certain: Andrea Pirlo is here to shake things up and is clearly eager to rejuvenate Juventus’ stuttering frontline.

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