Bologna v Juventus
Serie A Week 38 – Saturday, 27th May – 17:00 GMT – Stadio Renato Dall’Ara
Juventus sealed the deal on the record-breaking sixth Scudetto in a row on Sunday. The guys were assertive and focused from the get go and it immediately became apparent that they were done messing around and that the ugly performance in Rome left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. This streak and the Coppa Italia’s one prove just how dominant the squad has been in this decade and how well the management has worked. There has been a lot of turnover in the roster, incredible players have left or retired, but we have always stayed on top.
The last, now rendered pointless, Serie A game of the season prompts another edition of the rest vs rust debate that we usually see in other sports like American football or the NBA. The Champions League final is on Saturday, so the players will be pretty fresh anyway. On the other hand, everybody is a little sore, banged up or overworked at this time of the year and the most used players could benefit from a day off, which would also prevent silly and untimely injuries.
The thorniest case involves Sami Khedira: he has had a clean year, but recently suffered a mild hamstring ailment. He will start because they want to verify his condition, but there is certainly a little risk. It helps that Claudio Marchisio is playing as well as he is and that is pretty much the only duel regarding the Cardiff lineup. Dani Alves is suspended.
Massimiliano Allegri has basically announced the starting XI: Emil Audero will start on goal, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah on the flanks, two between Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Medhi Benatia in the middle. The attack will be the usual one. Claudio Marchisio, Miralem Pjanic and Tomas Rincon will battle for the final spot. Daniele Rugani is said to be recovered. It could also be a nice occasion to give some youngsters a little run, like Federico Mattiello and Moise Kean, while Rolando Mandragora is with the U-20 national team.
Mario Mandzukic has extended his contract till 2020, which guarantees that he will stay this summer. Juventus will obviously look to add a flank player in the summer to bolster the depth and will probably land a very good one, but I am not so sure the Croatian will be easily supplanted in the starting XI. He is not your prototypical speedy, slippery winger, but his work rate is commendable and his matchup with fullbacks in the box is always a competitive advantage.
4-2-3-1: Audero; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Benatia, Asamoah; Marchisio, Khedira; Cuadrado, Dybala, Mandzukic; Higuian.
Bologna have had an up and down year, but it hard to gauge whether it was disappointing one because their ambitions are not quite clear. They have one of the richest owner in Serie A, if not the wealthiest, but their budget is not particularly glorious. If they aimed at avoiding relegation, they had a great season. If they wanted something more, there is a lot of work to be done.
They have performed better at home but in many games they looked flimsy. Goals have been hard to come by and that is why Roberto Donadoni is experimenting with a more offensive 4-2-3-1 ahead of next season. They have not had a ton of bright notes apart from Simone Verdi, who put together an outstanding campaign despite breaking his ankle and showed that he could become a big-time player after struggling in his first adventures outside of Milan.
As for the other youngsters, Adam Masina’s development has stalled, Godfred Donsah and Emil Krafth have disappointed, Marios Oikonomou and Filip Helander have not been able to beat out Daniele Gastaldello and Domenico Maietta for the starting job. Federico Viviani, Erick Pulgar and Ladislav Krejci have had OK years, but the jury is still out on their ceiling. Federico Di Francesco is interesting, but has not gotten consistent playing time.
They will be without Di Francesco, Maietta and Juan Manuel Valencia due to injuries. Masina has been dealing with nagging tendinous soreness and has missed a couple of games, but he could return and play for Ibrahima Mbaye. Replacing Di Francesco will be a problem: they could deploy Luca Rizzo there, who can be used as tactical winger, or go back to 4-3-3 with one more central midfielder. Orji Okwokwo was originally subbed in when Di Francesco got hurt, but he is unlikely to start. Another solution could be to use Bruno Petkovs as attacking midfielder/second striker and Verdi on the flank, as he is used to.
4-2-3-1: Mirante; Torosidis, Gastaldello, Oikonomou, Mbaye; Pulgar, Taider; Rizzo, Verdi, Krejci; Destro.
Di Francesco (hamstring), Maietta (hamstring), Valencia.