Crotone v Juventus
Serie A Week 24 – Wednesday, 8th February – 17:00 GMT – Stadio Ezio Scida
On Sunday night, it took a little more work than usual against a very worthy opponent, but Juventus managed once again to defend the home turf and gain a massive win in the showdown against Inter. Massimiliano Allegri confirmed his five-star lineup, as they have brilliantly labelled it in Italy, and the squad was once again the aggressor. Nerazzurri, as expected considering their stellar form, stood tall and fought back, but a stunner by Juan Cuadrado took them down. The game was then marred by pointless protests by the opponent, which will cost them going forward.
Basically the whole team played pretty well: Paulo Dybala was magnificent in the early portion of the game, Sami Khedira was very energetic and so on. It is fair to highlight the performance of Giorgio Chiellini, who put together his best match of the season and always seems to get up when he faces Inter, going back to his epic duels with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Cuadrado was of course the MVP with that goal.
Unfortunately, there is little time to rejoice as the wheel keeps spinning and it is time for a little midweek action in Crotone. Finally we play that game that was postponed because of the Supercoppa in Doha, so there will no longer be any asterisks in the standings.
A curious note from the last tilt: it was the first time we fielded the same lineup twice in a row. We will not make it to three, because there will be some changes in the XI, however, as we know, with this tactic we do not have many options to rotate the squad, especially up front. Allegri gave a couple of indications during the pre-game presser. He had already stated that it will take at least a month for Claudio Marchisio to be in good condition after last season’s ACL tear, unfortunately Il Principino will miss this one, where he would have had a good chance to start, due to back pain. Chiellini is off the squad list for resting purposes, so one between Daniele Rugani and Medhi Benatia will take his spot.
Dani Alves played few minutes on Sunday and should get the start against Crotone. It probably will not be the case on Wednesday, but it would be nice to test if the squad could sustain having Alves, Alex Sandro, Khedira, Miralem Pjanic, Mario Mandzukic, Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain, our best offensive players, all together on the pitch at the time, or if it would just be terribly unbalanced.
Khedira is certainly a candidate to be benched after all the heavy lifting he has done in the last few games: the new formation revitalized him as well after he mailed in the last two months. Tomas Rincon has probably a little more experience than Stefano Sturaro in a two-man midfield: the overall tactic was different at Genoa, but he was playing in a similar role. Kwadwo Asamoah could play in the defence but at this stage Sandro is still the favourite. Mario Lemina has not been called up, but it has been reported that he resumed practicing with the rest of the group so his back injury was fortunately not serious.
Could we finally see Marko Pjaca from the start? I will believe it when I see it, but the coach said that it is possible. It would make the most sense for him to replace Mandzukic, who has been great in the last four games and cramped up in the final minutes of the Inter game. But he could play on the right replacing Cuadrado.
Hernanes is about to join Hebei Fortune: a welcomed and unexpected profit for Juventus for a player that had some decent runs as a backup but was never able to win the fans’ trust and completely fell out of favour with 4-2-3-1, where there is simply not a position for him.
4-2-3-1: Buffon; Alves, Rugani, Bonucci, Sandro; Rincon, Pjanic; Pjaca, Dybala, Mandzukic; Higuain.
Chiellini, Marchisio (back), Lemina (back), Mandragora (foot).
Crotone are trying to scratch and claw to stay alive: they were a good story last season but it looks like they will a one-and-done in Serie A as they are in penultimate position and nine points behind Empoli. The main challenge for Juventus will be to play on the road, at the Ezio Scida stadium, where the Sharks have lost only once in their last four games, gaining seven total points. In this stretch they faced Sampdoria, Pescara, Bologna and Empoli, not exactly battleships, but if they want to have a shot at competing concretely to avoid the drop they will have to make points at home. Calabria is also a hotbed for Juventus fans, so the atmosphere should not be too hostile. Here they say “Juve in trasferta, Calabria deserta,” which translates, sadly without rhyme, as “Juventus on the road, Calabria deserted.”
They come off a costly defeat against a direct opponent like Palermo, where they lost 1-0, and their hopes took a big hit. They try to put up a fight and they have few gritty players, but the talent just is not there. Davide Nicola has used a couple of different systems, settling on a simple 4-4-2 in recent weeks. They will be without Lorenzo Crisetig because of a suspension. Marcus Rohden missed the last game because of knee sprain and will remain out, so they are a little thin both on the flanks, due also to the recent departure of Raffaele Palladino, and in the midfield, as the Swedish player can cover both positions.
Andrea Nalini got the start as right winger in the last game and that could very well be the case on Wednesday. The other options are Maxwell Acosty, who just arrived from Latina, and Aleksandar Tonev, who barely played this year because of persisting knee problems. A tactical switch is always possible when Juventus come to town, but they just do not have the alternatives to go to a three-man midfield, but the youngster Cazim Suljic, who has yet to debut. They could also easily go to a three-man defence adding Claiton Dos Santos and advancing their fullbacks, who are very offensive-minded. It kind of worked for Inter, as Jeison Murillo did a good job on Mandzukic, while in the previous games Juventus had greatly exploited the mismatch between the Croatian striker and the right back. However, Nicola would have to come up with a sort of 3-4-2-1 to make it work considering the shortage of midfielders.
Their best players are Diego Falcinelli, who has scored eight goal so far and is relentless in his search for the ball and the goal, and Adrian Stoian, who usually plays wide on the left. Leonardo Capezzi and Andrea Barberis will play in the midfield with Crisetig sidelined. They have a very young squad and that shows sometimes, with evitable blunders. They play a classic low-table team style, with long passes towards the center-forwards. They are usually dangerous from distance but especially on set pieces, as also their defenders have had luck attacking the box.
4-4-2: Cordaz; Rosi, Ceccherini, Ferrari, Mesbah; Nalini, Capezzi, Barberis, Stoian; Falcinelli, Trotta.