Serie A Game of the Round – Juventus vs Sassuolo

Juventus’ first faux pas at home came at the hands of Sassuolo in a great match, which had the proper amount of fun and signifcance, with no disrepect to the fantastic Cagliari-Sampdoria thriller.

The Bianconeri came into the fixture having won four in a row, the most recent out thanks to a late surge against Atalanta, while the Emiliani were pipped at the post by Lazio last week and in general had showed improvements over the last four rounds.

Maurizio Sarri picked Gonzalo Higuain and Federico Bernardeschi over Paulo Dybala and Aaron Ramsey up front, with Cristiano Ronaldo made the XI for the second game in a row after knee injury. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 14

Standings implications: changing of the guard atop of the standings as Juventus stumbled against Sassuolo and Inter took full advantage with a two-one victory over SPAL. Lazio keep dominating and trashed Udinese in this round, while Roma prevailed on a difficult pitch like Verona’s one. Atalanta returned to form with by manhandling Brescia away, instead Napoli’s issues continue as they were upended at home by the middling Bologna. Torino and Milan obtained gritty slump-busting Ws against Genoa and Parma, while Lecce again showed off their ability on the road with a one-nil win in Florence. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 14 vs Sassuolo

Despite getting an early lead, Juventus again waited to be in a hole before playing with some purpose, but this time could not pull off the comeback and overcome a woeful defensive day and were thus held to a tie by Sassuolo.

Leonardo Bonucci (3 points): the veteran centre-back hit the net with a sneaky and probably deflected strike and was not necessarily at fault into the collapses on the two goals. The first one generated on a corner kick on the other end so most of the team failed to track back, then Jeremie Boga did the rest with a gem. On the second one, Matthijs De Ligt started things off with an errant pass that he should have avoided in the first place, Juan Cuadrado did not settle it and then Gianluigi Buffon had a senior citizen moment on a routine shot. Surely the worst showing by the back-line since the Napoli game at the beginning of the season. Alex Sandro returned from his injury but was very lacklustre and slow in general. Continue reading

Bonucci touts De Ligt and comments on Ronaldo and UCL

Leonardo Bonucci touched on some football-related topics after presenting his bullying-related book ‘Il mio amico Leo’ on Friday: “It is an atypical initiative but it can help a lot of people and this was our goal from the beginning when we started discussing this story. Bullyism is a plague of our times, we want to help out who suffer from it but also who perpetrates it. As a parent, I think we can all be more careful about the behaviour of our kids, this stuffs comes more from lack of attention on our part. Children tend to have behavioural changes when they are going through a tough time.” Continue reading

Did Juventus fail to learn lessons from last summer with Bonucci and Cuadrado’s extensions?

Albert Einstein once famously said that “insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result” which applies to all sorts of walks of life. This mantra has become very popular with those looking to turn their lives around, but it applies to all sorts of walks of life including football transfers and signings.

More and more clubs are learning that signing older players to long term deals is usually a great way to hamstring your club financially, while focusing on younger players helps you lower your wages while providing assets to make significant capital gains down the road.

Juventus saw this first hand last summer when they were able to make a massive plusvalenza on Moise’ Kean since he was a home grown player while struggling so significantly to move the likes of Sami Khedira, Blaise Matuidi, Gonzalo Higuain and especially Mario Mandzukic that they strongly considered selling Paulo Dybala to make a big enough capital gain to cover the cost of having such an expensive squad.

While both Matuidi and Khedira found themselves frequently starting so far this season and Gonzalo Higuain had a very surprising renaissance, the squad is so bloated that Emre Can and Mario Mandzukic were kept off the Champions League squad and Adrien Rabiot has struggled to find regular playing time (things could have been even worse had Aaron Ramsey been able to stay healthy).

So with all of this in mind, you can make a case Juventus is engaging in some insane behavior since they are repeating same behavior with the announcement of extensions for Leonardo Bonucci through 2024 and Juan Cuadrado through 2022 (both players have the same agent by the way) despite the fact they are 32 and 31 respectively. On top of that because of their bloated squad, Juventus is carrying a massive wage bill which is now even higher because both Bonucci and Cuadrado

But is there a case to be made that these extensions do have some appropriate reasoning behind it? At bare minimum they have to be better decisions than last year’s puzzling decision to give new deals to Sami Khedira and Mario Mandzukic? Safe to say the latter is certainly true since at least Bonucci and Cuadrado have been amongst the best players at their respective positions this season which certainly could not be said for Khedira and Mandzukic last year.

Bonucci has certainly come a long way in the past eighteen months. He was a pariah with many fans of the club because of his one season at Milan and upon his return, he was often a liability on defense. When Juventus signed Mathijs De Ligt this summer and acquired the rights to Mehdi Demiral after previously parking him at Sassuolo because they didn’t have a non EU slot available, many expected Bonucci to leave when the first links to Paris St Germain emerged.

Paratici and Sarri have to be thrilled that those talks went nowhere and Bonucci stayed. On top of Chiellini suffering a torn ACL, Demiral looked completely overmatched when he started against Hellas Verona, which aren’t exactly known for having a potent attack, De Ligt has had some fairly significant growing pains adapting to a new league and living up to his price, and despite his former mentor Sarri joining the club- Daniele Rugani is as much an afterthought as Juventus as “Solo” is with Star Wars fans.

Bonucci has been one of the best center backs in all of Serie A this season and has kept the captain armband during Chiellini’s absence even when Gigi Buffon started- a clear sign he’s been fully accepted back at the club after his sabbatical at Milan. But it does remain to be seen how Bonucci’s contract will look like in 2022 and 2023 when he’ll be well into his mid 30s earning over 6 million after taxes.

Juan Cuadrado went from being a super sub to becoming Joao Cancelo’s replacement. There’s a lot of concern when the Portuguese international left Turin because he was such a devastating offensive weapon, arguably the only spark of creativity in Allegri’s pragmatic and predictable offense.

Cuadrado has more than made up for what Joao Cancelo provided offensively, while being nowhere near as much as a liability defensively as his predecessor who had to be benched in key matches because there was serious concern he would make a costly mistake. Now Cuadrado has been so effective that there’s talk Juventus will sell Mattia De Sciglio, who started over Joao Cancelo in those key matches last season, since he has nailed down the starting job.

Considering how thin the market at right back in, giving Cuadrado a new contract until 2022 doesn’t seem that bad because just a few months before the only realistic options to replace Joao Cancelo included overpaying for Trippier, bringing back Dani Alves who had off field issues previously at Juventus or hoping Hysaj could turn his career around.

So while on the surface it looks like Juventus is repeating the same behavior with contract extensions to older players, there are enough mitigating circumstances to say Paratici is right to gamble he can prove Albert Einstein wrong.

Ronaldo closes case and Juventus injury updates

After the win over Luxembourg, which allowed Portugal to punch their ticket to Euro 2020, Cristiano Ronaldo put a bow to the controversy surrounding him recently in an interview with A Bola: “I have been limited by an injury in the past three weeks. There was not any polemic on my part, but it is true that I do not like to sub off. I have tried to help Juventus playing through it and was taken out in the last two matches. Nobody likes that, but I understand because I was not 100 percent.” Continue reading

Ronaldo case updates and Danilo discusses adapation to Italy

Leonardo Bonucci weighed on Cristiano Ronaldo leaving the stadium after subbing off against Milan at the end of a presser in Coverciano, where Italy practice: “We will discuss it when we will be all back in Turin. There are a lot of games left to be played, he will have several opportunities to do better than in the past and achieve new records for himself and for Juventus.”

Despite the recent knee ailment, after stating that he felt great before the game, Ronaldo scored a hat-trick against Lituania. According to a report coming from Portugal, which was not confirmed by Italian sources, the star has already cleared things up with the coach and will have a meeting with vice-president Pavel Nedved and few teammates after he will return from international duties. Continue reading

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

Juventus players talk ahead of Derby della Mole

Some Bianconeri linchpins spoke to the press yesterday in preparation for today’s Derby della Mole. Leonardo Bonucci gave an interview to La Stampa: “It will be a very difficult and balanced game. After a strong start, the Granata are going through a critical moment and the loss with Lazio was tough, but the Derby is always a match of his own: they will throw everything at use, but we must spring towards Scudetto.”

On Maurizio Sarri: “I could not believe he was coming here until I saw him sign. Everything is still in front of us, we want this year to be historic. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Ten

Standings implications: it took them 96 minutes, but Juventus downed Genoa therefore replied to Inter, which looked tired but withstood Brescia’s assault. Napoli and Atalanta shared the spoiled in the most anticipated match of the round. The Roma teams dominated, with the Giallorossi trashing Udinese away and Lazio doing the same to Torino at the Olimpico Stadium. Cagliari continue to march on and upended Bologna. Fiorentina staged a comeback to defeat Sassuolo. Verona blitzed Parma on the road, while Sampdoria and Lecce tied one-one. Milan have a pulse and squeaked by SPAL. Continue reading