Juventus Top Performers – Round 38

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Juventus ended the season with a loss against Sampdoria following yet another subpar perfomance where the lack of motivation played a big factor. The Bianconeri therefore finish the 2018/2019 campaign with 90 points, four losses, all on the road and two of them in the last month, an 11-point gap over the second-placed team Napoli, the best statistical defence (30 goals allowed) and the third most prolific attack (behind the Partenopei and Atalanta).

Mattia De Sciglio: nobody really impressed in the back-line, or in the whole squad to be really honest, but at least the ex-Milan fullback was not among those duped by Gregoire Defrel on the first Blucerchiato goal and added a pair of decent forays on offense that led to semi-dangerous situations. Martin Caceres had a similar showing on the other flank minus the okay contribution on the other end. Continue reading

De Sciglio comments on Champions League and Barzagli retiring

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Mattia De Sciglio briefly talked to Sky Sport yesterday and begun by weighing on the recent matches and the upcoming one with Roma: “Against Inter, we were too relaxed in the first half, but we played well in the second one. The clash with the Giallorossi is important and prestigious, so we will have to follow our plan from the get-go. We are focused on what we need to do because we are professionals. The transfer market rumours do not affect us whatsoever.”

On Champions League: “There was some regret while watching the semifinal and there will be always be some bitterness for not advancing. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 29

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Juventus: Cristiano Ronaldo picked up a thigh strain while playing with Portugal and is unlikely to play in the next three games. Sami Khedira has been cleared to practice after a heart problem, but it will take him a little longer before playing. Douglas Costa (quad, calf), Juan Cuadrado (knee) and Andrea Barzagli (calf) remain sidelined, while Mattia De Sciglio has recovered from a thigh pull.

Napoli: Fabian Ruiz will be available after a tough flu. Lorenzo Insigne was on track to play but suffered a relapse of a thigh contracture.  Continue reading

Cristiano thinks positively and Curva Sud announce truce

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Cristiano Ronaldo spoke to Juventus TV on Sunday: “I think this team is having an exceptional season, especially in Serie A. We have a large lead over the second team, the squad is strong and we are happy for our performances. We have took home the Supercoppa against Milan, our goal now is Scudetto and obviously Champions League.”

“The lads are fine and confident, we believe in the comeback. We want to have a special night. Atletico Madrid are tough, everybody knows it: they defend well, they do not take chances and counter. But we are ready, we want to do everything we can in order to beat them. The details will make the difference, but we want to advance. This is how football is made: nobody expected to lose in the first leg, but everything can happen and we want to bounce back at home, in front of our crowd.” 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

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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Juventus Top Performers – Round 23

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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.

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