Good-looking football and the aesthetes will have to wait patiently. In the meantime, Juventus have found a formula to win consistently. The one-nil victories always leave room for improvement or dissatisfaction and leave you wondering how sustainable seeking such result could really be. However, the last two seasons proved that success should not be taken for granted. It is almost as if the Bianconeri needed to learn how to crawl before they could walk after very confusing times. Maybe they will be able to run down the line. Still, it is a great confidence boost.
Massimiliano Allegri’s strategy will never blow anybody away, but the upside of his hiring has been in full display in recent tilts. What he may lack in style points, he makes up for as a motivator and as the emotional leader of the team. From Federico Bernardeschi to Mattia De Sciglio, he has revived players that had completely fallen out of favor, making them useful contributors. The fullback has been outright impressive in the last two games, and that is a stunning development.
Dejan Kulusevski decided the Zenit game after a few cameos where he was more assertive than last season. It would be a tremendous addition if he lived up to the potential he showed at Parma. While Federico Chiesa and Matthijs De Ligt did not need the whole “welcome to Juventus” process the gaffer initially hinted to, the Swedish starlet would arguably benefit from it.
Last year’s mess affected him the hardest, as he felt the burden of joining a top team but without enjoying any of the benefits. It was almost a completely lost campaign for him. He got a fresh start in the summer, which allowed him to start rebuilding his confidence. At a minimum, given his skills and motor, he should be a weapon to throw at opponents in late-game situations. Then, maybe, he could return being the player that took the League by storm with the Ducali.
Rodrigo Bentancur was already here with Allegri, and he has been way better, plus the quiet leadership of Manuel Locatelli helped him a lot. Alex Sandro has seemed like a different player right away, also thanks to increased offensive freedom. And whatever Jedi mind tricks were applied to Wojciech Szczesny after the early blunders, they worked out. From Arthur to Weston McKennie, who has been quite distant from his early levels, from Moise Kean to a thoroughly dominant version of Matthijs De Ligt and a more consistent Adrien Rabiot, there is still a lot of unexplored potential in the Juventus roster. And that is where the manager can work his magic.
Paulo Dybala will be back in the squad and Rabiot has shaken off COVID, although he is not ready for this one. Therefore, the squad will tackle the upcoming stretch of matches with a clean bill of health, aside from Moise Kean, who picked up some late muscle fatigue. There will probably not be room for shenanigans as far as the lineup is concerned in this one. Giorgio Chiellini is likely to play over Matthijs De Ligt to lock horns with Edin Dzeko. Federico Bernardeschi is in line to get another start on the left wing. The gaffer was asked about it, but it would be odd if he rested Federico Chiesa in this one.
Juventus (4-4-2): Szczesny; Danilo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Cuadrado, Bentancur, Locatelli, Bernardeschi; Chiesa, Morata.
Injuries: Kean (muscle fatigue), Rabiot (COVID).
Inter got off to a great start, almost as a visceral reaction after a challenging summer. Then the problems started to arise, and they waned a little. Also, Simone Inzaghi is no Antonio Conte, and the departures were massive, even though the newcomers have done pretty well so far. But really, the main issue for all the contenders has been Napoli’s relentless pace, which magnifies every faux-pas.
Without a proper hammer on the bench, the Nerazzurri have been more volatile. That has also had some positives because they have been capable of offensive outbursts due to the more freelancing style. On the other hand, the defense has been significantly leakier because the balance of the team has been thrown off at times. Their shortcomings came to a head versus Lazio, where they just exited the tilt mentally.
Without Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi, they have lost maybe more from a star-power and intimidation viewpoint than production-wise. Edin Dzeko has been exquisite, and Lautaro Martinez has further picked up his scoring. Joaquin Correa started with a bang but tailed off afterward, but he is the kind of player they rarely had last year, only in the few stretches where Alexis Sanchez was healthy and humming. In any case, the Argentinian attacker is out for this one, and that is one less thing to worry about.
They have not fully unleashed Denzel Dumfries yet, but it took the Moroccan star a while too to find his groove when he first joined. On the other hand, Matteo Darmian has been very steady and is occasionally a problem in the final third, as he is often the man opponents forget to guard. They have mainly deployed the Dutchman in easier matches because he is not entirely there defensively, or in situations where they needed to score. He basically plays as a proper winger.
The geometry of the side has tilted more to the left wing since Ivan Perisic has continued to provide strong performances, and Federico Dimarco had no issues carrying over his tremendous skills from Verona to the Nerazzurri. He is one of the best crossers in Serie A, and they even field him as left center-back at times to have a lot more punch.
The scheme has not changed, nor has their supreme physicality taken a major hit. They tend to play at a quicker pace and go through the middle more. Nicolò Barella has become an even more significant factor on offense with his bursting runs and has already dished a few assists. Marcelo Brozovic has become master in his role. Hakan Calhanoglu has been more feast-or-famine, which is no surprise since he has been consistent for only a few months at Milan.
If the Turk does not bring it, they are missing a bit of creativity in the midfield. However, that is not a dramatic difference. Christian Eriksen had turned into a center-piece only in the final chunk of the past campaign. So they are more than accustomed to having two muscular and dynamic guys next to Brozovic rather than with a technical one. Arturo Vidal has been lively in his limited appearances, and Matias Vecino has been fine too since shaking off his recurrent ailments. One of the two could start over Calhanoglu since he is dealing with an ankle sprain, but he appears to be trending in the right direction.
Their increased pace makes them more unpredictable but also a tad more vulnerable in the back, and some teams have been able to take advantage of that. They tend to take command of games more and attack in bunches. They have a lot of different arrows in their quiver, from Dzeko and Martinez’s excellence in the box, to their prowess on set pieces, to the playmaking of Brozovic, Barella, Calhanoglu, Perisic and Correa. But it can also work against them as they are more exposed to counter-attacks. And Juventus have launched some good ones recently.
Inter (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella, Brozovic, Vidal, Perisic; Lautaro Martinez, Dzeko.
Injuries: Eriksen (heart condition), Correa (thigh injury).