juventus v atalanta
Match Preview Serie A, Serie A

Juventus v Atalanta Full Match Preview and Scouting

November 26, 2021 - 10:02 pm

The last two matches showed the two sides of the coin of the style of football Juventus use. It could work well if the opponents played right into your hands, with sterile possession and leaving prairies in the back, as Lazio did. Instead, if it can look ugly if the adversaries have a potent offense, take their time to patiently overwhelm the defense and maybe even score early, like in the Chelsea game. The Bianconeri just gave up too easily because coming back appeared too challenging, and that is a product of the strategy. It is tough to imagine Massimiliano Allegri overhauling his approach, and the fans are left hoping it works out in any given game.

It took a slew of absences and an in-game injury to do it, but the coach finally deployed a pure 4-3-3 versus Lazio, and good things followed. On the other hand, he walked back on it a few days later, with a very uninspiring formation and de facto two fake wingers, with meager returns. The pace is just much better with two speedy attackers next to a center-forward. Adrien Rabiot and Weston McKennie are natural box-to-box and can exploit their dynamism in the role while playing too wide or too centrally hampers them both. Since neither is particularly refined technically or a proficient playmaker, it makes more sense to at least exploit their physical skills.

The reservations of going full send with 4-3-3 are maybe related to Paulo Dybala and Manuel Locatelli. But La Joya would only be just a smidge out of position and would still be able to cut inside plenty. Arguably, he would avoid being jammed up more starting from there, and he would find himself in excellent position to fire off with his left foot more often. If the defensive tasks were too taxing, it could turn into 4-4-2 in the passive phase, with Chiesa tracking back more on the other flank, something he has no issues doing with his insane motor.

Juventus used this stratagem, but on the other side, with Cristiano Ronaldo, so it would not be a revolutionary shift. Locatelli fared well in both matches and has been able to handle everything that has been thrown at him so far. The three-man midfield fits Arthur better too, regardless of what his best position could be, which is still unknown at this stage. Despite a pair of misplaced key passes, Dejan Kulusevski had a decent performance versus Lazio, and he is way more at ease on the wing. So the tactic would be easily sustainable also when Dybala or Chiesa need to rest. Even Moise Kean could play on the left in a pinch in a trident.

The absence of Danilo is a big blow because, while not super flashy, he is one of the most consistent contributors in the roster. Rather than some slapdash solutions, the gaffer should just stick Juan Cuadrado at right-back, or Mattia De Sciglio if he is not at ease with the Colombian in certain matchups, and simplify the scheme with a three-man frontline. After all, only two sides in Italy use the hybrid 4-4-2/3-5-2, and the other one is Cagliari. But I suspect, if he had the men to do it, he might be tempted to go with a full-fledged 3-5-2 first.

The coach suggested that Dybala is ready to start. Giorgio Chiellini and Federico Bernardeschi are back too, but they will probably begin on the bench. Luca Pellegrini might unseat Alex Sandro. Some rotation in the midfield is possible, as McKennie or Rabiot could get a day off.  Moise Kean has a shot too. The scheme is TBD.

Juventus (4-4-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, De Ligt, Alex Sandro; Chiesa, McKennie, Locatelli, Rabiot; Dybala, Morata. 

Injuries: De Sciglio (thigh strain), Ramsey. 

 

Depending on how you see Atalanta, their start of the season could be either pretty neat or a little disappointing. Given that they were one of the few top sides that had continuity on the bench and in the roster, they could have positioned themselves as legit title contenders. They really have done that so far, but it is still early, and Milan and Napoli’s juggernaut status is commencing to wane.

On the other hand, they were actually weakened from the summer window, and they have had terrible injury luck. So they are actually in a good spot, some key pieces are coming back, and it would be nothing new to see them rip off a lengthy run in the second half of the season. They could legitimately enter the Scudetto race if a couple of things broke right for them and the clubs in front of them slowed down.

It might be too soon to look at the standings, but it is hard not to see this one as a monumental clash for the Champions League zone. Juventus are four points below the Bergamaschi, the most credible competitors given what they accomplished in recent seasons and the issues and inconsistency of the other sides. We will see how Napoli will hold up now without Victor Osimhen, but a loss could make even a top-four finish a mirage.

The Orobici swapped out Cristian Romero for Merih Demiral and, besides the large amount of money they earned, that has been a net loss technically. The Turk is too aggressive on reads and tackles and not as immaculate when man-marking. He looks like the Argentinian defender when he first joined from Genoa. He could get there down the line, but using him as the linchpin of a three-man defence is a risky proposition due to his freelancing. He will compete with the steadier Jose Luis Palomino and Berat Djimsiti for two spots in this one. And the results of bringing Juan Musso for Pierluigi Gollini have not been all that visible, as the Argentinian can look great in some saves but a little lacking in other situations.

In any case, Atalanta have never had the stingiest defense as they prefer to outgun opponents. That has been more difficult to do with Robin Gosens and Luis Muriel on the shelf for a significant amount of time. Despite the role, the German fullback is basically their second-best scoring threat. And it took the striker a few appearances to round back into shape after the injury.

Since Hans Hateboer has been sidelined too, their vaunted flank game took a major hit. Davide Zappacosta has been a very nice addition and kept their production afloat, especially assist-wise. However, the plan fully works only if both wingbacks are active and maybe finalize each other’s forays, but the impact of Joakim Maehle has been very muted.

As a result, the attack has had to do all the heavy lifting, and they managed for the most part once they got in a rhythm. Duvan Zapata has scored in six matches in a row, and Mario Pasalic has been the midfielder that contributed to the most goals this season, counting also assists. They love to have a tactical no.10, and they could not have found two better than he and Matteo Pessina. The output from the third offensive spot is more feast-or-famine, as Josip Ilicic and Ruslan Malinovskyi are pretty moody. But they have talent and class for days, and their left feet are weapons.

Atalanta have been consistently great in away fixtures for years. They will take command even more than Lazio since they have a much quicker rhythm. On the other hand, they will leave room to counter. How well Juventus will match their intensity will determine whether the game will go like against the Biancocelesti or as in London.

Atalanta (3-4-2-1): Musso; Toloi, Palomino, Djimsiti; Zappacosta, De Roon, Freuler, Maehle; Malinovskyi, Pasalic; Zapata. 

Injuries: Gosens (thigh strain), Lovato (thigh strain). 

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