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.

Continue reading

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.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Serie A Fantasy Managers? If you’re up to challenging the best then play www.seriea-fantasy.com now!

Allegri Must Make Amends With Dybala

dybala

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

Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 23

juventus

As it is often the case, Juventus roared back after two stumbles, escaped the first wild 15 minutes and then proceeded to cruise to victory, re-sending Napoli back to -11 in the standings.

Mattia De Sciglio (5 points): the spot would have gone to Wojciech Szczesny if it was not for that botched unnecessary deep clearance in the second half that rattled the fans’ coronary arteries. However, he did keep thing from unraveling right away with a daredevil coming out on Filip Djuricic, where he took and won the gamble, and then brilliantly saved an attempt from downtown by Manuel Locatelli. Continue reading

Serie A Top Performers – Coppa Italia Quarter-Finals

Soccer: Italy's Cup; Atalanta - Juventus

Juventus this time could not overcome their own struggles in all the facets of the game and got deservedly eliminated by Atalanta in the round of eight of Coppa Italia, which they had won in the previous four editions. A very pedestrian showing that ends the often manifested target of winning the treble and represents an alarming signal for the challenges ahead.

Alex Sandro: when you give up three goals, clearly no defenders performed well. Sandro was the only who did not actively took part in one of the goals, two caused by misplaced passes by Joao Cancelo and Mattia De Sciglio, while Daniele Rugani and Wojciech Szczesny did not look great in the second one. A two-minute black-out at the end of the first half, the Bianconeri were unable to recover from. The squad had already started off poorly, but the back-line in particular was plagued by mental mistakes after Giorgio Chiellini was forced out of the game by a calf injury. The officials might have to revisit their stance about not signing a centre-back.

Sami Khedira: again the three-man midfield looked completely idea-less without Miralem Pjanic leading them and the situation did not change when he got into the game. Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi spent the night chasing after the much more energetic Atalanta players and, alongside the rest of the ball club, were very sloppy in the passing game. The German world champion did not perform much better, but he had one of the few chances with a header on a corner.

Federico Bernardeschi: he was almost the only one who tried to drag the team out of its funk, making plays in multiple positions, but without being effective. At least he put in a modicum of effort in a game where the squad just did not have it. Paulo Dybala had a slew of turnovers and was thrown around by the opponents all night long. In the last couple of games it was evident why the coach prefers Cristiano Ronaldo wide, as it become too easily to engulf him and cut off the feeds for him when he is surrounded by centre-back. Douglas Costa was affected by the general apathy and imprecision of his teammates. It is the first time this season that the front-line fails to score a goal and it is the first loss on the road in a domestic game since 2017.

Are you a Serie A expert? Can you defeat the top Serie A Fantasy Managers? If you think so, play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 17

albiol

Alex Meret (7 points): five clean sheets this week, with some fine goalkeeping too. Napoli had to sweat against SPAL, but the youngster answered the bell with two solid saves to protect the result late.

Raul Albiol (9 points): the Azzurri attack came up shot on Saturday, but the Spanish defender steered the game in their direction with a wicked header that turned out to be the game-winner.

Mattia De Sciglio (7 points): Juventus’ back-line did not crack under pressure versus Roma and the fullback played a major role in the deciding goal with a sharp cross to set up Mario Mandzukic. Continue reading

New Contract, Rejuvenated Alex Sandro

Earlier this week, Juventus reported that Brazilian fullback Alex Sandro signed a new and improved contract tying him down to the club until 2023. Until that point, Alex Sandro had been a shade of his former self and struggled for consistency down the left-hand side, with his teammate Joao Cancelo stealing much of the spotlight on the opposing wing.

There was also strong rumours coming from England linking the player with a move to the Premier League, with both Manchester clubs interested. Today against Roma, the 27-year-old put the rumours to bed and gave the Juventus faithful a glimpse of what they’ve been missing for the past season or so, marauding the left flank with ease.

With much of the focus on Cristiano Ronaldo on the left, Alex Sandro got forward to devastating effect and had the first real chance of the game. However, Roma keeper Robin Olsen got down nicely to parry it to safety from in close. The former Porto man would not stop there and continued his impressive performance by dribbling past the Roma midfield on another occasion. Sandro would carve out just enough space for himself inside the box to fire a powerful shot destined for the top corner. Again, however, Olsen proved to be a worthy match. Powering his way through the opposing defence it was clear Sandro was back to his very best.

Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 17

juventusroma

Juventus withstood Roma’s second half push and came away with yet another win mostly built thanks to a dominant first half, even though they were unable to seal the game.

Mattia De Sciglio (7 points): his growth has been visible, not only compared to his last days at Milan, when he looked lost, but also from last year. A real resurgence. At times in his two seasons at the club he was handpicked in some matches because he was a more defensive option than the alternatives, which is surely true, but, with Joao Cancelo out and the starting job on lockdown for the next few games, his confidence is skyrocketing and it shows when he attacks. In this one, he capped his recent satisfactory run with a majestic lefty cross for Mario Mandzukic, where he really looked like his Portuguese teammate. Continue reading

Serie A Club of the Week – Round 14 – Juventus

juventus

Juventus were the only team to defeat the opponent by multiple goals while also keeping a clean sheet, therefore they get to make an appearance in the club of the week column, something than has been less frequent than one would expect considering they have won 13 out of 14 games. The match was also much more challenging than what the final score indicates.

Massimiliano Allegri chose Mattia De Sciglio to replace the injured Federico Chiesa, but he moved Joao Cancelo to the left flank, so he did not have the burden of dealing with Federico Chiesa, and gave Miralem Pjanic a rare rest day, with Juan Cuadrado deployed as box-to-box midfield. Paulo Dybala completed the triden, tracked back a lot to contribute to the build-up. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Champions League – Round 4

ronaldo

Juventus somehow found a way to lose the first game of the season against Manchester United on Wednesday, making a mess in the final minutes after pulling the strings for the majority of the match. A result that delays the qualification to the next phase and puts the top spot in the group in jeopardy. Here are the best performers for each position.

Mattia De Sciglio: third start in a row for the Italian fullback, who is gaining confidence game after game and is also shaking off some of his usual shyness in attacking, because he had a couple of interesting sorties in this one. Continue reading