Genoa v Juventus
Serie A Week 4 – Sunday, 20th September – 14:00 GMT – Stadio Luigi Ferraris
After a streak of disappointing matches, Juventus has finally given us a big satisfaction in the Manchester City match. It is probably not a coincidence that the best seasonal performance has arrived in Champions League. By the way, it would have been a good game even if we had dropped points because Juventus finally played well for the first time in this season.
For the time being, 4-3-3 is clearly the go-to formation, at least in big games. Juan Cuadrado is in stellar condition and simply can not be benched, but that is no surprise to who had followed him in his Fiorentina stint. I do not know what happened to him at Chelsea, but the Colombian winger has always been very capable of taking his opponent on and generally creating havoc in the attack, so he definitely adds a new element to the offense. Unfortunately, and this is where selling Kingsley Coman really hurts us: we do not have many options on the wings, so we will have to alternate the trident with the usual diamond lineup.
Hernanes has stated a number of times that he feels that he is a trequartista and his recent history backs that up, but the matter is very simple: with Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira sidelined by injuries and waiting to see what we have in Mario Lemina, the Brazilian midfielder is the best option as the deep-lying playmaker. He has the poise, the vision and the passing abilities, but of course he will have to adjust and, in my opinion, he was a little shy on Tuesday, he will have to ask for the ball and organize the action more.
This game is sandwiched between two midweek matches so it is possible that some players will be rested to manage the energies but, as we face Frosinone at home on Wednesday, we will see the better XI in this one. The attack should be composed by Cuadrado and Alvaro Morata on the wings, who should be really commended for their work rate, and likely Paulo Dybala as the centre-forward since Mario Mandzukic could be spared.
Dybala has played on the right flank in one of the first friendlies and this is probably a solution Allegri will have to think about if he wants to use 4-3-3 on a regular basis: the Argentinian striker has the body type of a winger, but he has no experience in that role. Cuadrado has played on the left in the past so he could eventually replace Morata there, who, of course, can spearhead the attack. I wonder if Roberto Pereyra and Kwadwo Asamoah could be options there too.
Alex Sandro should be the left back: there have been some chatter about using him as left winger, but I do not recall any fullback playing well in a more advanced position, even though we have already seen that Sandro is extremely skilled. Paul Pogba has missed one practice with the flu but he should be ready to go. At this stage, Stefano Sturaro has the edge on Pereyra, who is really the one damaged by this tactic because Pogba and Hernanes are not known for their defensive phase so one more workhorse is needed, and Mario Lemina for the third spot in the midfield, although the Frenchman has a chance to make his debut. Martin Caceres has been ruled out because of a minor muscular injury.
4-3-3: Buffon; Lichsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Sturaro, Hernanes, Pogba; Cuadrado, Dybala, Morata.
Khedira (thigh), Asamoah (knee), Marchisio (thigh), Caceres (thigh).
Unsurprisingly, Genoa have changed a lot during the summer, letting go Andrea Bertolacci, Juraj Kucka and Iago Falque, but they have managed to retain their star Diego Perotti and have put together a decent roster. Their record is not particularly impressive as they have won just one game, at home against Hellas Verona in a rather commanding fashion, but even in the two games they have lost, against Palermo and Fiorentina on the road, they have not been outplayed and they could have easily come away with at least a point in both occasions.
Gian Piero Gasperini has a very versatile squad at disposal and is continuing to use his usual fluid 3-4-3 that can usually turn into 4-3-3 or 3-4-1-2. As a matter of fact, they have so many tactical midfielders that can play in the hole – Olivier Ntcham, Tino Costa and Blerim Dzemaili – that we will see the last formation more and more.
The coach is dealing with a number of injured or out of shape players in all areas, so his choices are limited in this one. As Ezequiel Munoz is ailing, the defense should be formed by Sebastien De Maio, Nicolas Burdisso and Armando Izzo, with Giovanni Marchese as a possible starter if they opt for a four-man defence. They have lost Tino Costa, who has been the starter so far alongside Tomas Rincon, for quite some time: the natural replacement would be Dzemaili, but he joined the team late and is said not to be in pristine condition. The alternative is Manchester City loanee Ntcham, who has been very solid so far but has primarily played in a more advanced role.
While Cristian Ansaldi gets ready, Diego Laxalt fills the void at LWB, where he has actually done a good job, with Issa Cissokho favored over Diogo Figueiras, another banged up player, to start at RWB. Diego Perotti has been preserved against Fiorentina but is fully healthy. They have not found yet the ideal Falque replacement on the right flank, either Diego Capel or Darko Lazovic will be used there in the event Ntcham plays in the midfield. Goran Pandev, who has scored seven times already against Juventus, will be the centre-forward as Leonardo Pavoletti is out. Mattia Perin is still recovering from offseason should surgery, so Eugenio Lamanna will once again defend their net.
Despite the problems, we can expect a side that at least tries to play in a proactive way, surely very physical, especially in the back three and in the midfield. They have not really had Perotti and Pavoletti both available at the same time, so they have struggled to score so far, but they should be closer to full forces on Sunday compared to the previous games.
3-4-3: Lamanna; De Maio, Burdisso, Izzo; Cissokho, Rincon, Dzemaili, Laxalt; Ntcham, Pandev, Perotti.
Perin (shoulder), Tino Costa (thigh), Pavoletti (ankle), Munoz (thigh), Gakpe (leg), Tambe (ankle).
Infographics from www.sporticos.com