Bologna v Juventus
Serie A Week 27 – Monday, 22nd June – 21:45 GMT – Stadio Renato Dall’Ara
A thoroughly mediocre performance ended in fitting and typical fashion versus Napoli. While the problems on penalties are innate at a club level and there is not much you can do there, other than perhaps pick takers that actually make sense, the biggest issue is that Juventus no-showed for the second final in a row and the opponents deserved to win because they were hungrier and created more.
It was also a decisive step backwards compared to the Milan game, where at least there were some semblance of good football in the first half. On Wednesday, instead, it was an appalling dud and the Azzurri’s goalie was never threatened. Failing to score for two matches in a row is inexcusable and unconceivable and now we are left wondering what are the reasons behind the notable regression.
Schemes, lineup choices and movements can be debated all day long, but if the intensity is basically non-existent, the buck stops there, because it is literally the fuel for everything else. You can not go anywhere with a sloth-like rhythm and that is what we saw in last seven days. The situation begs the question of how much of the current struggles are caused by the three-month stoppage? Is it really all of it as the coach stated? Or is is something more underneath the surface? Have the players turned on the manager?
While Sarri-ball has never really been in full force in Turin, the Inter match right before the hiatus was one of the finest performances of the season, but came soon after some of the worst ones against Lyon and Verona. It has not been a straight line, but a bumpy ride, also affected by home/away splits. These inconsistencies could very well kill the title hopes if they are not rectified in a hurry as the upcoming sprint will be unforgiving.
Beyond the general suckiness, it was worth nothing that the CR9 experimented lasted just one game and he was back on the left wing. Anyway, Gonzalo Higuain should return fairly soon and Douglas Costa in the last two outings has not done much to prove he is an indispensable starter, but at least he did not get hurt. Hopefully, like everybody else, it is a just a matter of time for him to get going. Aaron Ramsey managed to shake off his issues and that is good news and the coach has not been shy in pulling Miralem Pjanic to be more offensive-minded. There are reports that say that the Bosnian international and Sarri actually had a falling out, and so he could be benched right away. We will see about that, certainly the manager has not been shy in pulling him. Perhaps Adrien Rabiot should be tried in that role considering his pace, or better lack thereof, but he is a fairly skilled ball handler.
Since troubles rarely came on their own, the injury bug has begun to hit hard, taking out the generally reliable Alex Sandro, pretty much the only player who does not have a proper back-up, and Sami Khedira, in this case likely for the rest of the season. Love him or hate him, depth is key and every absence is hurtful. At left-back, we will have to hope Danilo and Mattia De Sciglio suddenly wake up and become fully trustable players, while I guess jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none Federico Bernardeschi will see some run in the midfield when needed. If another couple of players will go down, the situation will be extremely dire.
4-3-3: Szczesny; Cuadrado, De Ligt, Bonucci, De Sciglio; Ramsey, Bentancur, Matuidi; Costa, Dybala, Ronaldo.
Sandro (knee), Khedira (thigh).
It took Bologna a while to fully hit their stride, but with an impressive stretch at the start of December and the beginning of February, where they lost just twice and won a bunch of games, they surged in the standings. They are fully set to finish in the top half of the table, despite slowing down a little in the final matches before the lockdown, where they were dropped by Genoa and equalized with Udinese at home, then were the latest victims of Lazio’s wrath.
They have a lot of quality up front, but they are pretty suspect in the back. It is a very determined and resilient squad, proactive to their own detriment at times, helmed by a great coach for this zone of the table in Sinisa Mihajlovic. They do not have a go-to guy scoring-wise, but Musa Barrow is trying to become that: they generally play with Rodrigo Palacio as false-nine to open things up, then they spread the wealth around.
Riccardo Orsolini continues to develop and has been their leading scorer and his brazenness sets the tone. The next step for him would be to get rid of some inconsistency: he can bust out dominating performances, where he bags gorgeous goals and glides past opponents at ease, but he can also have the kind of displays where he gets too stubborn and begins to shoot from every position.
Musa Barrow joined in January and, after a year and a half toiling away at Atalanta behind superior players, quickly proved that the only thing that he was lacking was playing time, certainly not talent. He is not only simply a speedster that toes the offside trap: he can be a reference point, and he is fairly technical. Both him and Palacio can also play on the left flank, which has been very helpful when Nicola Sansone was forced to miss time. Now he is fully back, so they have an extra guy up front to bring off the bench.
At some point in the near future, Barrow will take over as no.9 and, and with his mobility, it will not be a drastic change compared to having the veteran Argentine striker, who is a great leader and playmaker, but has also had some major misses and has never been a goal poacher.
They will have to deal with three suspensions: Jerdy Schouten, Federico Santander, who is a supremely physical super-sub for when they need to score, and Mattia Bani. Schouten had come into his own during their streak, but now they will likely go back to Gary Medel next to Andrea Poli in the pivot spots, although they lose some pizzazz and freshness. Nicolas Dominguez, who came over in January, could partly make up for it, although his adaptation period came to an abrupt end and so he could be a little behind.
Their back-line has been subpar even when relatively complete: they have conceded at least a goal in 21 consecutive rounds, so the absence of a key component like Bani is a big deal. They are poised to move the sloppy Stefano Denswil to the centre, but the hiatus allowed them to recover Mitchell Dijks at left back. His return will solve some unbalance issues, as Takehiro Tomiyasu on the other flank has been a revelation and a meaningful part of their offence.
It is a side that will not go down without a fight and can do damage in a number of ways, so Juventus will be to bring it, but Bologna have some clear weak spots that can be exploited and have not been particularly superb at home.
4-2-3-1: Skorupski; Tomiyasu, Danilo, Denswil, Dijks; Poli, Medel; Orsolini, Soriano, Sansone; Barrow.
Skov Olsen (thigh).
Schouten, Bani, Santander.