Lazio-Bologna: the only game between two teams that actually played last week. The Biancocelesti extended their superb run by grinding out a W versus Genoa, thanks to the usual Ciro Immobile goal and two unlikely heroes coming through, Adam Marusic, who has started over Manuel Lazzari in two matches in a row, and Danilo Cataldi. While Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored against Inter, the bonuses for their other two fantasy stars, Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa, have not been there in recent rounds, leaving Felipe Caicedo as the only serviceable option besides the capocannoniere. Jony has taken over for the injured Senad Lulic and, while he is a high-volume crosser, he has come up with just one assist so far. It could be another ripe day for their offense considering that the Felsinei have a soft defence. Continue reading
Champions League resumes on Wednesday, so Juventus will be back in the competition where they had the most success in so far, as they cruised during the group stage. If it was not for a late two-goal comeback by Atletico Madrid back in the first game, they would have prevailed in each of the six matches in the group stage.
Finishing in first position allowed them to land a fairly cosy match-up with Lyon in the round of 16, an opponent they have familiarity with, since they have faced them four times in recent years, winning in three occasions. The French club is also not having a particular great season as they are in 7th position in Ligue 1 and do not boast a particularly good record at home. Continue reading
Atalanta: Berat Djimsiti was a late scratch for the Champions League game but he is simply dealing with a bruised quad and so he could be available on Sunday. Tomas Sutalo continues nursing a foot edema.
Bologna: Stefano Denswil and Jerdy Schouten were red carded last week. Gary Medel (hamstring) and Roberto Soriano (thigh bruise) are the closest to recovering, but this week is too early for them. Mitchell Dijks (foot) and Ladislav Krejci (knee) will not be back before the end of the month, same for Federico Santander (hip) and Nicola Sansone (hamstring). Mattias Svanberg picked up a thigh strain and will miss three-to-four weeks. Continue reading
SPAL-Juventus: Luigi Di Biagio devised a new system in his debut, arraying his men with a 4-3-3. While they failed to get the win, they attacked more than usual and Andrea Petagna bagged the ninth goal of his campaign. Federico Di Francesco has always been playing in very offensive role, but he is more comfortable out wide and the trident was completed by Mattia Valoti in that case, although Gabriel Strefezza will have his chances too. The duo gets a bump thanks to the coaching change, likewise Mirko Valdifiori, who resurfaced and can be a decent weapon on set pieces, as a matter of fact he picked up an assist with a corner kick. Simone Missiroli is back at box-to-box like earlier in his career, joining the sneaky Lucas Castro. On the downside, Arkadiusz Reca, and Mohamed Fares when he will be ready, will feature as fullback, so few meters behind what they were accustomed to doing. Scoring has been one of their main issues so far, as they have no reliable contributors behind Petagna. Continue reading
Atalanta-Roma: the Goddess continue to add to their offensive arsenal, as Duvan Zapata is returning two his usual pre-injury numbers (two goals and three assists in the last four games) and Ruslan Malinovskyi came through last week. The Ukrainian attacker seems to have surpassed Luis Muriel as first option off the bench. Josip Ilicic did not score against Fiorentina, but still had a great performance and he has been en fuego for a while. The one small negative is that, with their front-line now featuring two quality scorers, Alejandro Gomez is back at looking more to feed them rather than finishing on his own: as a matter of fact he set up two goals last week and has not hit the net since in six weeks. Timothy Castagne came back and he is a bigger offensive weapon than the more diligent Hans Hateboer, but they will likely continue to alternate, while Robin Gosens on the opposite flank is slowing down a bit after a gorgeous January. Mario Pasalic fumbled away a pair of sitters in Florence. Rafael Toloi (one goal and six assists) has been their most intriguing defender. Continue reading
Roma-Bologna: the Giallorossi are in a funk and have played just one convincing game out of the last five. They will be without Lorenzo Pellegrini due to suspension and it is a massive loss considering that he is the mastermind of their offense. They should get Henrikh Mkhitaryan back from injury and perhaps even starting considering the hole at no.10. The other option is likely Diego Perotti and they seem to always be awarded a penalty when he is out there. Edin Dzeko has scored in three straight games and they will face a pretty suspect back-line. Cengiz Under took a step back versus Sassuolo, but he is always pretty assertive when he decides to play, while Justin Kluivert has not done much since coming back from injury, but should improve over time. Paulo Fonseca has elected to keep Aleksandar Kolarov on the bench in the last two matches for tactical reasons, but the decision has not really moved the needle so the stud left-back should soon be back in the XI. Continue reading
Juventus came out with the right attitude in the Fiorentina game, survived a ten-minute lull in the first half, got the lead late with a penalty and then proceeded to earn a larger-than-deserved result to get back on track after the Napoli faux-pas.
Matthijs De Ligt (9 points): the Dutch starlet rounded up the score with a relatively easy header on a corner kick. The two centre-backs took turns in leading the defence: Leonardo Bonucci was flashier in the first half, thwarting a pair of actions, in particular a solo run by Federico Chiesa, where he intervened just in the nick of time before the opponent escaped unabated to the goal; the ex-Ajax man stood out with his physicality in the second half. Wojciech Szczesny’s contribution to the cause should not be overlooked as he prevented La Viola from getting the lead with three superb saves, two on point-blank attempts and one on a long-range effort. Alex Sandro had an unusual pep in his step after intermission, but pretty much more of the same out of him. Continue reading
Atalanta: Josip Ilicic is dealing with some thigh soreness but there is optimism it is nothing serious. Timothy Castagne resumed practicing after some knee pain and Lennart Czyborra is available as well following a contracture. Tomas Sutalo will miss time with a navicular bone edema.
Bologna: Takehiro Tomiyasu is suspended. Nicola Sansone should be fine after some muscle fatigue and Stefano Denswil is on track to return from a thigh problem. Gary Medel (thigh) and Ladislav Krejci (knee) are poised to remain on the shelf.
Brescia: Mario Balotelli will finish serving his two-game suspension. Continue reading
While Maurizio Sarri’s first season has been a relative success thus far, Juventus’ performances haven’t exactly typified their tactician’s vision to the fullest degree. Until now, the bianconeri have grinded out wins due to individual brilliance like they always have. At a certain point, results alone won’t be enough to satisfy Juventus’ top brass. After all, Sarri’s hiring represented an identity shift for the club. One that predicated the importance of quality football along with the club’s innate desire to win.
In order to do this, Juventus will need to take a deeper look at their roster and significantly shake up their personnel to fit Sarri’s needs. Here are five players that the Italian champions should consider selling.
Blaise Matuidi - The Frenchman has established himself as a crucial starter under Sarri for his importance in the defensive third and pressing phases. When it comes to the final third, on the other hand, Matuidi struggles to combine with his teammates and often slows down Juventus’ attack to a point where an over-reliance is created on their right-hand side. If the bianconeri are serious about Sarriball, Matuidi can no longer be an undisputed starter and should be slowly phased out for a more technical midfielder.
While much is made of his defensive responsibilities, the former PSG man is currently averaging fewer interceptions and tackles per game than Miralem Pjanic, Rodrigo Bentancur and Adrien Rabiot. As a result, it’s only a matter of time before Matuidi finds himself on the chopping block. Given his inflated wages and declining form, Juve would be wise to move Matuidi this summer.
Federico Bernardeschi - Since his man-of-the-match performance in the second leg against Atletico Madrid last season, Bernardeschi has been a shadow of his former self and has struggled immensely in the final third. In fact, in his fifteen appearances this season, the former Fiorentina man is yet to score a goal or register an assist. This output is simply unacceptable from a player who came in with such high expectations.
Recently, there’s been reports that Juventus are considering a swap deal for Milan’s Paqueta, indicating their desire to move on from the stuttering winger. With Dejan Kulusevski coming in, Bernardeschi is a luxury Juve can no longer afford and should sell him to the highest bidder.
Emre Can - Like Bernardeschi, Can is yet to display consistency since joining Juve and has struggled to adapt to life in Italy. Recent reports suggest the former Liverpool man will be joining Borussia Dortmund for 25 million euros, a deal the biaconeri should look to complete as soon as possible. Simply put, the German international does not suit Sarri’s football and Juventus could do with the extra money to bolster their midfield.
His sale would not only represent a boosted transfer kitty but also more room for other midfielders. Sandro Tonali, anyone? While Can’s Juventus tenure is nearing its end, it’s best for all parties to move on and cut their losses.
Miralem Pjanic - This one’s a bit more complicated than the other three and isn’t as clear-cut. Despite flashes of quality, Pjanic is not your typical Sarriball regista and simply does not offer enough in the offensive or defensive phases. While he regularly posts impressive pass completion numbers, his stats aren’t representative of his dwindling influence on the pitch. Since his Roma days, the Bosnian international has been far too passive both in and out of possession. At the base of their midfield, Juventus need someone that is capable of taking risks with the ball and is not afraid of jumping into a tackle.
Pjanic specializes in neither of those departments and could be improved upon easily. Once again, Brescia’s Sandro Tonali comes to mind. While Pjanic is far from the problem with Juventus’ midfield, there a plethora of better options at regista; all options the Italian champions should consider come the summer-time. The very best are ruthless and Juventus must be this.
Alex Sandro - Alex Sandro’s situation is very similar to Pjanic’s. Both players face no competition for their respective roles and complacency has seeped into their play. Unlike Pjanic, I believe Juve could do well to keep the Brazilian past this season, however, they must bring in a viable number one left-back to overtake him. Whether it’s Luca Pellegrini, or a bonafide top quality fullback, Sarri can only do so much with average fullbacks.
The former Porto man offers little in the final third and rarely if ever, beats his man. Combined with Matuidi’s inability to contribute offensively, Juve’s left-hand side is a non-factor besides Cristiano Ronaldo. This can’t go on. Despite this, I wouldn’t mind Juve keeping him, as long as it’s as a backup moving forward.
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In a tough day for the whole sports world, Juventus put out their worst and most unexplainable performances of the season in Naples, started playing only when the horse had already bolted and failed to take advantage of the enemies’ stumbles earlier in the day.
Leonardo Bonucci: the back-line was decent for about 70 minutes and the first goal did not come from a mistake by the defenders, but rather from Lorenzo Insigne having too much freedom to shoot from outside the box and Wojciech Szcesny rejecting it too centrally, although the save was not that easy. In the second, instead, which turned out to be very meaningful, Insigne was left alone in the box on a rebound and Matthijs De Ligt slightly deflected the shot, rendering pretty useless a pretty good outing up to that point. So the spot goes to the captain, only because somebody has to get it. Continue reading