Atalanta v Juventus
Coppa Italia – Tuesday, 29th January – 19:45 GMT – Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia
Juventus were inevitably going to struggle to break down Chievo at the Bentegodi, but a bizarre series of red cards ended up deciding the game in the favour of the Bianconeri. I Mussi Volanti are all too adept at parking men behind the ball and making it difficult for their opponents, so it came as no surprise that the Juve attack was up against for much of the opening half with chances coming at a premium. Samuel Bastien’s sending off shortly before half time looked absolutely justified as the youngster clattered into Kwadwo Asamoah before tugging the Ghanian back in a pointless challenge that reduced I Mussi Volanti to 10 men. Shortly after the restart, in a moment of utter stupidity, Fabrizio Cacciatore sealed Chievo’s fate when he protested with the referee before standing on the sidelines with arms in a ‘handcuff’ gesture, a move that earned him a straight red card.
Juve pushed, probbed and prodded before eventually breaking down Chievo with a fine solo goal from Sami Khedira before Gonzalo Higuain returned nodded home to end his brief goal drought and wrap the three points. It was another uninspiring performance where the players seemed all too slow in the build up and failed to move the ball around fast enough to cause Chievo any surprises. The 4-3-3 seems a good way to go, provided we have the kind of players that can really utilise the width to exploit opposition defences, however, Mario Mandzukic seems to perform better in a 4-2-3-1 or better yet, alternating with Pipa up front. As we saw late in the game, Douglas Costa seems to operate so much better on the left, while Federico Bernardeschi has the kind of pace and trickery we need to open up a stubborn back line.
Allegri confirmed that Gigi Buffon is fit and back in the squad, ready to start against Atalanta, while Giorgio Chiellini was rested with this match in mind. Andrea Barzagli started at the weekend alongside Medhi Benatia, so we may see Daniele Rugani get a run out, alongside Stephan Lichtsteiner and Alex Sandro in the full-back positions. Claudio Marchisio is another who’s returned from injury although Stefano Sturaro will likely make the starting XI with Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi probably making up the three man midfield. Up front, Bernardeschi should get the nod with Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain completing the lineup.
4-3-3: Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Chiellini, Rugani, Sandro; Sturaro, Bentancur, Matuidi; Bernardeschi, Higuain, Mandzukic.
Dybala (hamstring), Cuadrado (groin), Howedes (hamstring).
3-4-2-1: Berisha; Toloi, Caldara, Masiello; Hateboer, Cristante, Freuler, Spinazzola; Gomez, Ilicic; Petagna