Juventus Top Performers – Round 29 vs Genoa

Juventus pulled the plug a smidge too early in the Genoa game, failing to extend their streak of clean sheet, but other than that it was a very mature performance, the best one after the resumption, coronated by three superb goals by their star attackers.

Leonardo Bonucci: another solid outing by both centre-backs, with the Italian one beating out Matthijs De Ligt because the Dutch teammate had a careless pass late in the box that could have been picked off by an opponent, leading to all sorts of troubles. The duo stood up to two very physical strikers, countering with their own muscularity and not letting up until the final 15 minutes. Nothing out of the ordinary for Wojciech Szczesny and Danilo, as the latter did not mess anything up this time. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 29

Atalanta: Ruslan Malinovskyi is suspended for yellow-card accumulation. Josip Ilicic is not 100 percent after an ankle sprain but he is at his coach’s disposal. José Palomino is out with a thigh injury. 

Bologna: Federico Santander and Andreas Skov Olsen remain out with thigh strains. Andrea Poli will miss up to ten days with a thigh pull. 

Brescia: Andrea Cistana (lower leg) and Jhon Chancellor (thigh) will be back in mid-July at the earliest, Dimitri Bisoli (patellar tendon) is out until December. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 28 vs Lecce

Juventus jogged around in the first half, but key mistakes by the opponents paved the way to what ended up to be a larger-than-deserved rout. Lecce caused some troubles at the beginning of the game, but were the cause of their own demise for the second straight round.

Matthijs De Ligt (9 points): just two defenders on the pitch and they got to rest for half of the contest since the lights went off for the Salentini after the red card. The start was not promising as the lack of focus in the back-line was palpable, but no harm was done in this case despite a pair of chances. The Dutch starlet came through on the other hand with a freebie for the four-nil. Wojciech Szczesny had no saves. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 27 vs Bologna

Juventus got off their schneid with the assistance of some sloppy defending by Bologna and kicked off the Serie A resumption with a fairly convincing two-nothing win on the road.

Leonardo Bonucci (five points): other than some oddly misplaced passes by Wojciech Szczesny and some unnecessary risks in the early build-up of some actions, especially at the beginning of the season, it was a sound display for the back-line, once again perfectly anchored by the two centre-backs. Matthijs De Ligt was flashier as usual, Bonucci just a bit tidier and had a great block very late to deny a clear-cut chance by an opponent in a mad scrum. The clean sheet was marred by the deepening of the troubles at left back, as Mattia De Sciglio was forced to bow out due to an injury after an acceptable display and Danilo was sent off for two silly yellow cards. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 27

Fiorentina-Brescia: the Viola will welcome back Franck Ribery, at least in limited fashion at first, and the coach is ready to tweak is system to accommodate him either in the hole or on the left wing, joining Dusan Vlahovic/Patrick Cutrone and obviously Federico Chiesa up front. In the meantime, it could be Gaetano Castrovilli taking on a bigger role. Alfred Duncan and Marco Benassi have some decent potential.  It is an extremely appealing match-up considering Brescia’s defensive woes and absences: Vlahovic and Castrovilli in the particular were in great form before the lockdown. Continue reading

Fan Zone: Enrico covers many Juventus topics including legends Buffon & Del Piero

In the latest Q&A, we welcome Enrico Passarella, a writer who covers diligently the Italian league, in particular fantasy football and transfer news. If you want the latest injury news as well as other updates regarding Serie A then you should give Enrico a follow on Twitter @Guardalinee. You will not regret it.

Check out the Q&A’s first segment below and read what Enrico has to say about legends such as Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon and others. Feel free to reach out to both Enrico and @RamiSoufi on their respective Twitter account. You should scroll below and look for Enrico’s take on Juve’s all-time best player!

1) Name your 3 favorite Juve players, and tell us why?

Gianluigi Buffon: This is a particularly easy one. I was a goalkeeper when I was a kid and that plays a huge role. It is very simple, I always looked up to him and felt a strong
connection because of playing in a similar position on the field despite of course the gap in levels.

Alessandro Del Piero: This is another simple choice. He is an undisputed icon for all things Juventus. He is one of those star players who brought endless joy to the Juve fan base.

Giorgio Chiellini: I always loved his grit and charisma. I absolutely admired the way he went toe-to-toe with the best opponents while still setting the tone for the whole squad, particularly in key matches.

2) From the current squad, list your favorite players per position & state why? 

Among defenders, I am going with Chiellini again for the reasons I just mentioned a short while ago. I feel confident Matthijs de Ligt can and will fill the void once the captain retires.

In midfield, Rodrigo Bentancur is my choice. Juve can always count on his contribution, including his fair share of yellow cards, and he has shown exponential growth since joining the club. He already has about 30 caps for Uruguay.

In attack, it must be Paulo Dybala. He is truly a joy to watch when he is able to express himself and when he is in good form. I would add that he is a true difference-maker and I strongly believe he can still improve to get to another level.

3) Name the most important Juve triumph in your lifetime, and explain why?

The first Scudetto under Antonio Conte back in 2011 because it meant Juve were finally back where they belong after several difficult years. It was also an incredible achievement as the squad was inferior when compared to other title contenders. At the end, the players pulled it off, with much of it thanks to their drive and perseverance.

4) Choose your favorite Juve match. Why?

No doubt when talking about this one. It is Juventus-Real Madrid in the semifinals of the Champions League in 2003 with the Bianconeri winning 3-1. Juve performed a remarkable comeback against a legendary team and the best Bianconeri players, Del Piero, David Trezeguet and Pavel Nedved scored while our number one Buffon saved a penalty. So all the key players from that squad chipped in on that memorable night. I cannot stress enough how it was a truly magical night.

5) Choose two from Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal for your midfield, and state why?

I am definitely picking Pirlo and Vidal -both unique contributors. There is really nobody like Pirlo, who remains unmatched for the way he was able to pull the strings and dictate the tempo with his class and vision. Vidal was an animal in his prime, he embodied the fighting spirit of the club and it was a gut punch when he decided to leave.

6) What are Juve’s weaknesses? Many focus on the midfield while some say it is the lack of creativity when Dybala is not playing. Your thoughts?

The current fullbacks are not great but the biggest issue lies in the midfield- an area that is too dependent on Miralem Pjanic from a creative standpoint. To make matters worse,  Pjanic has been subpar this year, and does not provide much scoring in any case.

Summer signings Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot were supposed to fix that, but the former has been too injury prone and the latter has yet to really settle in. It is another cautionary tale when it comes to signing free players as it can backfire too. I can see a major investment coming in to fill the gaps in midfield if Juve plan to compete regularly in Europe.

7) Who is the best player to ever wear the Juve shirt?

In the modern era I would confidently say a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. His achievements speak louder than all the words of praise any of us can give. In the past, I’d single out Michel Platini. The Frenchman achieved a lot on both the individual and team level while with the Bianconeri. Still, Buffon’s standing in the history of the sport should not be underestimated so his is a name we must always keep in mind. I am not going to single out one name, so I would let my fellow Juventini ponder on this point.

Fan Zone: Giuseppe on Del Piero & Trezeguet plus Juve’s weaknesses!

In the latest Q&A, Giuseppe Bognanni- a massive Juventus fan- shares many of the highlights as a supporter of the Bianconeri but also brings up one of the lowest points summed up by the serious injury to club legend Alessandro Del Piero against Udinese.

Giuseppe provides some expected answers but he also raises some intriguing points. Without any further delay, let us get to the main topics discussed in the Q&A.

1) Name your 3 all-time favorite Juve players. Why did you choose them? 

Alessandro Del Piero – Much of this has to do with this unique connection I’ve built with Del Piero. Now looking back, I can confidently say it is because we both entered the serious phase of our football at the same time. Del Piero as a professional Juventus player, and myself as a true and committed supporter.

I grew up with his skills, “alla Del Piero” free-kicks and goals. I remember wearing laces around my football socks as he did. As strange as this may sound, I felt pain when he was injured against Udinese. Seeing him fighting to come back was an example for me during my youth. I cried tears of joy when he scored against Germany in World Cup 2006. A few weeks later he proved himself again as a man of values, leading by example and staying at Juventus despite not knowing if we would be relegated into the third or second division.

David Trezeguet - Quando gioca segna sempre Trezeguet” which translates to “When he plays, Trezeguet always scores”… David is the foreign player with most goals for Juventus. I loved seeing him paired with Alex. When both were starting, I always felt reassured and I was confident goals would arrive. He could disappear from the game but as soon as the ball was in the area or let me just say “his” area, it was a moment of panic for the defenders. He was elegant and humble but also a real killer in front of goal.

Edgar Davids –  If it hasn’t become clear by now, let me just say Alex and David are above all the rest in my opinion. A third pick is always tough- Juve featured the likes of Zidane, Pavel Nedved, Marchisio and Paolo Montero… but if I am forced to choose then Edgar Davids makes it to the podium. He was an absolute beast. He had the Grinta of someone like Gennaro Gattuso but was way more technical. Remember the Nike promotions? Davids with his glasses on, his swagger… How could any young Calcio fan resist?

2) From the current team name your favorite Juve player by position (One each from DEF, MID and ATT).

First, let me just say that my chosen players are linked to each other despite not being from the same country and despite playing in different positions. All three arrived young at the club yet came with great potential- particularly the Dutchman Matthijs de Ligt and of course La Joya Paulo Dybala. Don’t forget Rodrigo Bentancur who represented Uruguay during World Cup 2018 and then in Copa America 2019 when he was entrusted with and duly converted his penalty-kick in the shootout (Peru would eliminate Uruguay on penalties).

DEF: Matthijs de Ligt. I am going to start off by saying Matthijs is my boy! He is the young and talented defender several of the big clubs wanted to sign. Without hesitation he preferred Juve over those elite teams. He’s already learning Italian which is also a sign he’s a smart young man who does everything possible to adapt to his new reality. Being so young and receiving so much criticism after his debut for Juve were hard enough to knock down many others but not him

MID: Rodrigo Bentancur. The young Uruguay midfielder was called the new Zinedine Zidane by my father. That should be enough, onto the next pick Dybala! He’s probably exaggerating a bit but the idea is there. I was at the stadium against Udinese and I noticed Rodrigo was impressive. Against Udinese (something about that team and Juve) he played his first game as a Regista instead of Miralem Pjanic. What a game. What a player. Bentancur showed the vision, defensive skills, forward thinking and fast thinking too. Overall, he rarely ever complains and he has accepted the fact he arrived young and needed to learn and work hard to be in the Starting XI yet he has not given up. He is taking his chances and impressing!

ATT: Paulo Dybala. Paulo has been at Juve for five seasons now and while he has had his ups and downs, no one can deny his immense talent. A times, he was not placed in the ideal position to shine. He may not have a great right foot, but La Joya more than makes up for it with an incredible left-foot. Most importantly, he showed many times how much love he has for Juve.

3) Most important Juve victory in your lifetime? Why?

Being a Juventus fan is great because you have a lot of victories to choose from. To my great misfortune I’m a Libra and when the choices are too many I start doubting. So as  a Libra I get extra allowance and therefore I am picking two victories not one!

Udinese – Juventus 0-2 on May 5th, 2002- It is so important because it represents our famous motto “Fino alla Fine” and more. Can you imagine Lazio beating Inter 4-2 but Juve not believing in a comeback and failing to beat Udinese? That would have been tragic! Luckily, we not only have famous catch phrases but we believe in them too- as a club, a squad and as fans!

Juventus – Parma 4-1 on September 11th, 2011- The wind was changing. A game plan executed so well that as a Juventino- and after two consecutive 7th places- you truly felt the club was entering a new era.

4) Name your all-time favorite Juve match, and why?

I am definitely going with Juventus-Milan on October 2nd, 2011. The final result was a memorable 2-0 win.

It was my first time at the Juventus Stadium with my father, brothers and other family members. We played incredibly well against the title holders. Everything was perfect. The late Claudio Marchisio brace was crazy. What a remarkable game on all levels. Simply put, Juve’s back!

And seeing my father jumping from his seat and finding him 5 rows below, celebrating with Juve fans we never met before was crazy but unforgettable.

5) Pick two from Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, and Arturo Vidal for your midfield, and why?

People who follow me on twitter or YouTube know how much I love Paul Pogba. When you read Marchisio, I read Juventus. Still, if I must choose only two for a perfect 4-4-2 than I go for Pirlo and Vidal.

Pirlo’s vision, ability to find impossible passing lanes, his greatness at short and long range passing, his leadership and free-kicks are unparalleled. He gives you that sense of security and you know he’ll invent something out of nothing. He will come up with a genius move.

And what about Vidal? I say Vidal because the genius needs a protector. A beast, a player you always want on your team. Vidal has great understanding of football, is a fighter, the perfect box-to-box midfielder and on top of that he will give that 110% for you. He is the poster boy for Fino alla Fine.

6) What is Juve’s main weakness? Is it the right-back or left-back position, or the  midfield which is often mentioned as the squad’s Achilles heel? 

From the moment our midfield was dismantled it became one of our persistent weaknesses.

I also think we have great individuals but not a great team. Our squad has a mix of skillful and physically strong players but they have often looked incompatible together. One of the major problems we have since last year is the Dybala and Pjanic tandem. It just doesn’t work. Miralem can’t play in a two-man midfield. He’s not fast enough and misses the physical attributes needed to pull his weight on the defensive end. He needs to be protected by two other midfielders.

Dybala can’t play in a 4-3-3 if he’s on the right side of the field. He’s lost there and tends to wander and then veer towards the center instinctively a lot during the game. When he plays as a Falso Nueve or in a 4-3-1-2 it’s even more clear how the two can’t play together. As we miss creativity and contribution from the midfield, Dybala goes back to start building and creating himself. That means Pjanic remains in the back without any offensive duties- they create an automatic overlap in duties.

Look at this season, when did Pjanic play extremely well? At the start, when Paulo was benched. When were Dybala’s best games? Inter, Udinese, etc all games where Pjanic was benched or injured. That in my opinion is also the reason why both names are always rumored to be on the way out- perhaps one must go?

7) Who is the best player to ever wear the Juve shirt?

I think this one is a given and you should know by now that I am sticking my neck out for my “football career partner” Alessandro Del Piero! The Del Piero pre-Udinese injury (the dreadful date of November 8th, 1998) was the goat. The real goat. Remember at the time Serie A was the best any elite player could dream of.

Fan Zone: Gregory on Nedved, Buffon, Dybala & more Juve talk

Gregory Caltabanis is an established writer and reporter who covers extensively European football, but what matters for the purposes of this Q&A is Gregory’s unfaltering allegiance to Italian giants Juventus.

Gregory is part of the @FantaCalcioGame team as well! They run the most popular Fantasy Serie A Game, but for now let’s go straight to the Q&A with Gregory offering lots of interesting takes on legends such as Pavel Nedved and Gianluigi Buffon.

1) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Juve players (ranked by preference) and why?

Pavel Nedved: My all-time favorite Juve player is undoubtedly Nedved. One of the first games I saw as a kid was Juve against Milan in 2005 and all I remember seeing was a player with blonde locks run effortlessly down the left wing. Of course, it was Nedved. From that point forward, I always watched Juve and became a fan. The rest is history.

Gianluigi Buffon: After Nedved, I would have to say it’s Buffon. Buffon has been with the team since I’ve followed them and is the main reason I’m a goalkeeper to this day. Beyond saving countless goals, he’s a class act both on and off the field. I’ll never forget his save on Zidane’s header in 2006.

Paulo Dybala: The last one is a bit difficult, but I have to go with Dybala. I know he’s not up there yet with Alessandro Del Piero and other legends, but Dybala is one of the reasons I’m still passionate about the team today. He’s always respected the shirt and is arguably the first worthy number 10 we’ve had since Del Piero. I hope he stays with Juve for the long haul.

2) From active players, pick your favorite Juve player by position: one each from defense, midfield and attack. Why did you pick them?

DEF: My favorite defender is 100% Merih Demiral (Gregory says it emphatically!). Since he’s joined, I always thought he would be very important for our success. It’s a shame the serious injury halted his progress, but I’m confident he’ll come back stronger. Demiral embodies everything that Juve should seek in a player. He’s confident, plays with an edge and has that fighting spirit. I’ll be ordering my Demiral jersey very soon.

MID: It has to be Rodrigo Bentancur. I’ve had my doubts about him over the years, but he’s stepped up this season and looks to be evolving into an important player for us. Like Demiral, he plays with an edge to his game which I feel we lack sometimes. I’m looking forward to seeing him make further progress when play hopefully resumes.

STR: It’s an obvious one- Paulo Dybala. You really get the sense that he loves Juve and fights for the shirt every time he steps onto the pitch. It goes without saying, but his left foot is incredible. It’s just amazing to watch him play. Now, if only Fabio Paratici shared the same opinion, we’d be better off.

3) Your choice for most important Juve victory in your lifetime? Why?

Without a doubt, when we knocked out Real Madrid 3-2 on aggregate in 2015. While the win against Inter in 2018 was huge, for me the Real result announced Juve’s return on the world stage and showed the rest of Europe “we are back.” After all, we just took out Real Madrid. The final didn’t go our way, but I can’t recall a win I’ve celebrated more.

4) Choose your all-time favorite Juve match, and why?

Against Inter and on their home turf just over two years ago. At times, it felt like the game and the title were slipping away but as soon as Dybala stepped onto the pitch, it changed everything. I’ll never forget Gonzalo Higuain’s goal to complete the comeback. Made it that much sweeter that it was against Inter at the San Siro.

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5) Where do you rank Sarri among the current generation of Italian coaches? How about among coaches worldwide?

I’d put him in the top five, but I wouldn’t rank him in the top tier of Italian managers at the moment. Conte is in a class of his own, in my opinion. Other than last year, I’d put Allegri in the same tier as Conte. Beyond them, I rate Gasperini highly but it would be interesting to see how he does outside of Atalanta.

Worldwide, I think he’s a top ten manager. If I had to rank them, I’d say this is my top ten: Klopp, Guardiola, Simeone, Conte, Zidane, Allegri, Nagelsmann, Sarri, Tuchel, Gasperini.

6) What’s Juve’s objective for this season? Is it Serie A, the Champions League, or both?

Definitely both. When you have Cristiano Ronaldo on your team, the objective always has to be the Champions League. While I don’t think the team is well equipped for a deep European run, a player like Ronaldo can make the difference in a big game. It would be a waste of his final years if Juve didn’t push for European glory.

7) Perhaps a tough one here but pick two from Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, and Vidal for your midfield, and why?

I love Marchisio and it’ll be hard to leave him out, but I have to go with Pirlo and Vidal. Pirlo is the ultimate Regista and is needed to dictate play. Obviously, it helps he can score a free-kick from just about any angle. As for Vidal, he’s your classic box-to-box midfielder and is not afraid to jump into tackles. Few midfielders impressed me more than prime Vidal and let’s not forget, he could score, too. Juve’s current midfield is really lacking his type of profile.

8) Where are Juve’s weaknesses? Some say right-back, others say left-back, or many mention the midfield. Your take?

It has to be the midfield. This may anger some, but Miralem Pjanic is a complete liability both in and out of possession. Juve can do much better in his position and I think they’ll look to replace him this summer. Blaise Matuidi is necessary to press and offer defensive support, but ultimately he’s far too limited. Remember his turnover against Napoli?

I think this Juve side needs at least two signings in the middle of the park and should arguably offload two or three guys (Sami Khedira, Pjanic and perhaps Adrien Rabiot) As I said before, this midfield lacks fight and demonstrates zero Grinta.

Of course, our depth at full-back is worrisome particularly with Alex Sandro slowing down, but for now, I think Sandro and Juan Cuadrado can manage the situation. Hopefully, Pellegrini comes back in the summer and competes for the left-back position.

9) In your opinion who is the best player (not necessarily your favorite) to ever wear the Juve shirt?

It has to be Del Piero. Record goalscorer and record appearance holder, few match Del Piero’s resume with the club. He’s won it all with us and has inspired many to support Juve over the years. At the height of Italian football, he was one of the best and led Juve to many trophies.

Del Piero set the standard for our number ten jersey and raised the bar for everyone after him. Perhaps Buffon is in it with a shout, but I have to give this one to Pinturicchio.

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 26

Marco Silvestri: Verona and their stifling defence will visit an undermanned Sampdoria squad on Monday. The Scaligeri have not given up more than one goal in the past eight rounds.

Kostas Manolas: Napoli can be very stingy when they want to be, as evidenced by the Barcelona clash, and Torino have been incredibly subpar offensively over the last two months. Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Mario Rui have more upside than the Greek centre-back, but it is possible that the coach rotates the squad a bit. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 26

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