Juventus Top Perfomers – Round Seven vs Inter

Juventus head into the second international break as top of the table after outlasting Inter the most anticipated game of the early season.

Leonardo Bonucci: all defenders played a role in holding La Beneamata to one goal, as their furious fast-breaks were certainly a lot to deal with. Bonucci had the final key interception on a Romelu Lukaku through ball for a wide-open Matteo Politano and in general was the one who fared better against the big Belgian and Lautaro Martinez, who were a terror when had some room to manoeuvre. Wojciech Szczesny had one great save and came out beautifully on Matias Vecino late and Alex Sandro thwarted one vary threatening chance of his own and in general looked better than his last few outings. Continue reading

Bonucci gears up for Inter clash and talks up De Ligt

Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci talked to Sky Sport on Friday, two days before the bout with Inter: “It is hard to find a favourite going into the match, there will be a great Juventus on Sunday night, we will travel to Milan in order to win through an excellent performance.”

On the opponents: “They got off to a flier with Antonio Conte on the bench, but that was to be expected. They assembled a great team. Their defence is top-notch, they are doing well and complement each other. The right scheme allows you move in sync and everything becomes easier. They are pulling that off.”

On the game: “We want Scudetto, but they want it too. They had a nice showing against Barcelona, you could see the hand of the coach for an hour. They play vertically and aggressively, then the extra-terrestrial quality of the Blaugrana players emerged. They are growing, it will be a thrilling game and we will trade blows. We are ready to fight.”

On being coached by Conte: “He conveyed to us hunger, a never-give-up attitude and the mentality that allows you to look past the problems to reach your goal. He was able to communicate that since day one. He was perfect for Juventus that year: he needed a chance in a top team and we wanted to return on top after Calciopoli. We needed somebody like him, who made us realize what wearing that jersey truly meant. After three great years, our ways parted but our relationship remained strong.”

On moving from Massimiliano Allegri to Maurizio Sarri: “The new requests are opposite to how Allegri read the game. We guard more a zone or the spaces rather than our man and there were some difficulties there at the beginning. We are growing now and things tend to improve through hard work. Our journey has just become and will not stop here.”

On Matthijs De Ligt: “He has everything in place to become the best in the word. He needs to take it step by step, he was under too much pressure in the first few matches. Everybody has gone through that, it is part of the business, but he is more serene now. He likes to play the ball like I do, he comes from the Dutch school. Differently form me though, he is stronger and fiercer in the one-on-one and in blanketing his man and that is why we initially encountered some problems.”

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Big Week Ahead For Sarri and Juventus

With Juventus set to take on Bayer Leverkusen and Inter this week, it’s the bianconeri’s first real tests of the season since the Napoli clash. In recent weeks, the Italian champions have impressed and have begun showing positive signs that Sarriball is well and truly on its way.

However, Hellas Verona, Brescia and SPAL aren’t exactly the fiercest of challengers and will likely all be near the relegation zone come the season’s end. As a result, the following week will act as the all-important litmus test: Are Juventus real Champions League contenders under Maurizio Sarri and can they keep their Serie A crown?

After going with the 4-3-3 for the early goings of the Serie A season, Sarri went back to his roots and has deployed the more narrow 4-3-1-2 over Juventus’ last three games. This is a formation that the former Chelsea boss used throughout his time with Empoli with great success. In the absence of Douglas Costa, the bianconeri lack wide players capable of beating their men in the final third. While Juan Cuadrado has been a pleasant surprise since returning to the fold, Federico Bernardeschi has disappointed.

The former Fiorentina man frankly lacks the pace to be an out-and-out winger and has looked poor in the early stages of this season. Sarri has even claimed in a recent press conference that Bernardeschi’s future is arguably from a deeper, more central role in midfield as a mezz’ala. 

The formation change has also coincided with Paulo Dybala’s return to form. Since switching to the ‘Christmas Tree’ formation, the former Palermo man has played an integral role in the buildup and has looked incredibly dangerous between the lines. Linking up with either Cristiano Ronaldo or Gonzalo Higuain, la Joya is not far off his brilliant best.

Outside of Dybala’s return to form, this formation also suits new arrival Aaron Ramsey. Playing in an advanced role, the Welsh international is able to infiltrate the opposition’s defence with late runs into the box. Since returning from injury, Ramsey has been in sensational form and is establishing himself as a key piece to Sarriball.

Equally capable of running behind the defence as he is playing neat touches in tight spaces, Ramsey is the missing piece in Juventus’ eleven. With Miralem Pjanic, Adrien Rabiot and Sami Khedira behind him, the Turin-based giants are now capable of fielding a blend of skill and tenacity in the middle of the park.

Defensively, Juventus are showing improvements, as Matthijs de Ligt is growing every week alongside Leonardo Bonucci. While their fullback crisis is worrying, Alex Sandro has had a phenomenal start to the season and will look to continue that this week.

With Leverkusen and a top-of-the-table clash against Inter on the horizon, Juventus are going to need to continue familiarizing themselves with their new formation and manager’s playing philosophy. As their performances keep improving, it’s clear Sarriball is well on its way. With Juventus’ new arrivals blending in nicely with Ronaldo and co. it’s only a matter of time before free-flowing football is the norm in Turin.

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Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round Six

Samir Handanovic: Inter have given up just one goal so far and he has been a fabulous final bulwark, pulling off amazing saves as per usual. They will square off against Sampdoria on Saturday, which have managed to score only three times so far.

Takehiro Tomiyasu: Bologna will travel to Udine in this round and, while a road game is inherently tricky, the Bianconeri have been unable to find the target in the past three matches and have done it just two times so far, which is the worst clip in the League. They will not get Rodrigo De Paul back either, so it could make sense to pick from the Felsinei back-line and the Japanese fullback has the most upside.   Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round Five vs Brescia

The Bianconeri found themselves in an early hole in Brescia, but were eventually able to crank it up and legitimize the W.

Leonardo Bonucci: the duo of centre-backs both had a very attentive performance and held the Rondinelle forwards in check in all but one action, where Alfredo Donnurumma managed to escape from them on a sudden counter-attack. The interim captain gets the nod over Matthijs De Ligt because he also launched at least a pair of longballs that generated instant chances, but the Dutch starlet plugged holes all night long. Danilo got hurt right away, while Alex Sandro sleepwalked through the game and left too much room to the the opponent on the goal, where obviously the biggest blame falls on Wojciech Szczesny, who had a rare and quite inexplicable blunder. Continue reading

It’s Time for the New Signings

With Juventus taking on Hellas Verona tomorrow, it’s as good a time as any for Maurizio Sarri to rotate his eleven and give the bianconeri’s new arrivals some much-needed playing time.

As the Italian champions debuted with a tough schedule that saw them take on Napoli, Fiorentina and Atletico Madrid in succession, the former Chelsea tactician opted not to ruffle any feathers and stick with Juventus veterans such as Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi among others.

Now with Juventus taking on Hellas Verona, Brescia and SPAL in the coming weeks, Sarri would be wise to rest his starters and look to integrate the new signings. While Matuidi and Khedira haven’t had bad starts to the season by any stretch, they are limited and are currently holding back ‘Sarriball’ from being in full flow.

New arrivals Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot are far more suited to free-flowing football and will benefit from increased playing time in the coming games.

Uruguayan international Rodrigo Bentancur is also expected to feature and has looked impressive in brief cameos thus far. Outside of a revamped midfield, hard-nosed defender Merih Demiral is rumoured to start alongside Leonardo Bonucci.

The Turkish international has patiently waited in the wings and appears more than ready to seize the opportunity. With Giorgio Chiellini out for the foreseeable future, Demiral’s aggression is an asset this Juventus defence desperately craves – as highlighted by their most recent collapse against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

Reports also suggest that Gonzalo Higuain will make way out of the lineup for Paulo Dybala. After a summer linking la Joya away from the club, the former Palermo man opted to stay, rejecting a move to Manchester United. Now with Sarri looking to rotate, it’s time for Dybala to prove himself and demonstrate he has what it takes to play as an outright number nine in the former Napoli tactician’s system.

At Napoli, Dries Mertens played this role to perfection and has a similar skill-set to the Argentine. While the Belgian is arguably a better finisher than Dybala, there’s no reason the Juventus forward can’t get into similar positions as Mertens. While the 25-year-old will be eager to play in more important games, proving himself against Hellas Verona will be a good start after an indifferent season under Allegri. Factor in Higuain’s good form, and it’s clear Dybala has to have a good performance against the newly-promoted side to keep up with his compatriot.

As the season unfolds and Juventus get more comfortable with their new boss, expect to see more and more signs of Sarriball in Turin. Introducing the likes of Dybala, Rabiot and Ramsey – players who are more technical than their direct competitors in their position – will only help in this respect.

As a result, the following weeks are of paramount importance to Sarri and co. Not for the table, but for his playing philosophy. If Juventus wish to play free-flowing football in their coach’s image, the time to buy in is now. On Sarri’s end, it’s time to use Juventus’ deep roster and look for alternatives to the current starters. Starting, of course, with the game against Hellas Verona.

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Juventus Top Performers – UCL Game One vs Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid’s next-level prowess on set pieces denied Juventus of a deserved W, but still plenty of encouraging signs out of this year’s continental debut.

Leonardo Bonucci: the defence got got in two particular situations where not everybody was in the right position and surely the flaws there have been recurring and need to be fixed. On open play, instead, the rear-guard held up well, allowing a scarce amount of chances and no clear-cut ones. Bonucci has taken on more responsibilities since Giorgio Chiellini went down, he has clean up his mistakes and showed great leadership. On top of that, he initiated the first goal with a genius long pass. Continue reading

Sarri and Bonucci preview the Atleti game

Maurizio Sarri discussed the condition of few players and their aim in Champions League in the presser ahead of the clash with Atletico Madrid.

Miralem Pjanic is available, he practiced regularly this morning, then we will decide whether to field him or not. Sami Khedira is a top-notch player: he can defend, attack and handle the ball. Matuidi is world champion with an important past. They are being underestimated. Some players behind them can give us more possession, but we must wait for them to be super ready since they are coming off particular situations in the past few months. Khedira too. Aaron Ramsey played his last game in March, Adrian Rabiot needs better conditioning. They can pitch in, they are growing in practice. We are versatile in the midfield. We are not ready for a full rotation yet.” Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round Three vs Fiorentina

Juventus took a step back in most facets in the game and were lucky to escape from Florence with a point, mostly thank to the opponents’ lack of clutchness

Leonardo Bonucci (5 points): once the defenders and the goalkeeper did away with an obnoxiously low ball possession that almost gifted La Viola two goals, the back-line actually stood tall under constant pressure, showing vast improvements compared to the previous game, which is about the only positive for the Old Lady out of this game. Bonucci helmed the department with his subtle but meaningful interventions and he was not booked, differently from Matthijs De Ligt, who held his own as well and displayed his impressive muscularity in a couple of occasions, on top of a healthy dose of pragmatism. Continue reading

Paratici rules out Dybala leaving and addresses Chiellini injury

Juventus CFO Fabio Paratici formally took Paulo Dybala out of the market for the first time: “I rule out his departure in a definitive way. His picture with Giorgio Chiellini demonstrates how tight this group is. The transfer market is not only made of planning, but also of opportunities and some unexpected events, like Giorgio Chiellini’s one. The ongoing games can lead to some trepidation but we are very serene. If there were any, we could take advantage of some bargains in the time left, otherwise we will stay as is.” Continue reading