Genoa V Juventus
Serie A Week 2 – Saturday, 26th August – 17:00 GMT – Stadio Luigi Ferrari’s
Juventus were not at their best on Saturday against Cagliari, however they were good enough to easily defeat the opponents, three-nil. Even when the build-up of the action looks a bit clunky, the Old Lady has many ways to score and everything becomes easy when the goal arrives early, as we have seen multiple times in the past. This time it was Mario Mandzukic who broke the deadlock, while the magnificent goal by Paulo Dybala at the end of the first half was the death blow. La Joya is the most fit player right now and can carry the team for a little while. Gonzalo Higuain did not have a great game and his fitness does not look on point, but he still managed to score, because that is what he does.
Another early Saturday game against a Rossoblù team: This time, the team will face Genoa. Last year it ended 3-1 in one of the worst performances in recent years, so redemption is necessary. While the management is looking for one more midfielder to veer towards a more constant use of 4-3-3, which is viable with the current roster but there is a shortage of alternatives, 4-2-3-1 will continue to be the way to go, especially against lesser enemies.
Compared to last week’s XI, Douglas Costa is threatening Juan Cuadrado’s job, while Mattia De Sciglio could supplant Stephan Lichtsteiner. Federico Bernardeschi is in the mix as well for the right flank, while Mandzukic appears to have the other one on lockdown. Daniele Rugani should be confirmed as Giorgio Chiellini’s partner and it would be fair to give him a prolonged run: he certainly fared better than Andrea Barzagli and Medhi Benatia against Lazio in the opening game.
Unfortunate news from the infirmary: Claudio Marchisio’s left knee is still a little unstable and will need a one-month specific program to strengthen the muscles in that area to avoid major injuries. Therefore, Sami Khedira is slated to start in this one, but it is being reported that Blaise Matuidi has impressed Massimiliano Allegri since joining, so he may be already put in the XI. The German international looked spry in his stint against Cagliari, a friendly reminder that basically all current Juventus midfielders work better in a three-man midfield. Still, 4-2-3-1 is so tasty offensively, so it is a hard choice, but you do not necessarily have to make a permanent one.
It looks like Giuseppe Marotta & co. are close to sealing the deal for Benedikt Howedes: he could help thanks to his versatility and he would be a decent insurance policy in case of injuries. Unfortunately, it looks like they have thrown in the towel for Leonardo Spinazzola, who will stay at Atalanta. He would have been the ideal fullback to bring in, so let’s see whether they will look at somebody else, considering that Kwadwo Asamoah appears to be close to Galatasaray and has not been called up, or if they will stay as is.
4-2-3-1: Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Rugani, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic; Douglas Costa, Dybala, Mandzukic; Higuain.
Marchisio (knee), Pjaca (knee).
Genoa had a decent outing against Sassuolo, where they looked unafraid despite last year’s away struggles and the heavy turnover they had in the summer. They have sold Giovanni Simeone, and Nicolas Burdisso and Mauricio Pinilla left as well, but they did pretty well on the market, signing Gianluca Lapadula, Andrea Bertolacci, Ricardo Centurion, Ervin Zukanovic, Luca Rossettini and Nicolas Spolli, among others. The XI was revolutionised, but they held their own against a good opponent and could have easily come away with three points.
Milan Juric used 3-4-3 against Sassuolo, exhuming Adel Taarabt on the left after disappointing second stint last season and with Goran Pandev on the right. It could be their regular scheme in easier games, or a go-to formation when they need to score, but on Saturday they will probably opt for a stouter 3-4-2-1, with only one between Pandev and Taarabt and somebody more muscular as attacking midfielder.
The coach has been singing the praise of two youngsters this summer: Davide Biraschi, a very physical centre-back who is ready for the starting job after a season riding the pine, and Stehane Omeonga, who was at Avellino last season. Omeonga could be the addition in the midfield, or slightly more advanced, where Miguel Veloso and Andrea Bertolacci have already shown to have good chemistry and an interesting blend of skills. The other option could be Luca Rigoni, who has featured a lot in this role, but he appears to be on his way out. The future of the two wingbacks, Darko Lazovic and Diego Laxalt, is pretty uncertain, but they are the heartbeat of their offense and replacing them properly would not be an easy task.
Zukanovic, Centurion and Lapadula are dealing with nagging injuries: they might be called up, but they are unlikely to start. They will be three valuable additions along the way and I am very curious to see what the former Milan and Pescara striker can do as the go-to-guy in a Serie A side. In the meantime, Serie B long-timer Andrej Galabinov will take his place: a solid center-forward, who has unsuspecting agility and technique for his size. Zukanovic would replace Santiago Gentiletti if he was ready in time.
They will be without Armando Izzo, who will be sidelined until October for match-fixing related charges, the good old “failing to report”, from his time at Avellino. The prosecutor initially asked a five-year ban for him, so after all it is not that bad of a situation for him.
They have two intriguing teenagers in the roster: Eddy Salcedo and Pietro Pellegri, who are being pursued by Juventus after Inter failed to close the deal for them. Salcedo made his debut in the last game, while Pellegri scored last season, but has been hit by an injury in the summer. It is rumoured that any deal will have rich incentives to have them play this year and the next, so it will be interesting to track how how they perform.
3-4-2-1: Perin; Biraschi, Rossettini, Gentiletti; Lazovic, Veloso, Bertolacci, Laxalt; Pandev, Omeonga; Galabinov.