Juventus v Bayer Leverkusen
Champions League – Tuesday, 1st October – 20:00 GMT – Juventus Stadium
The win against SPAL came in relatively good fashion with everyone chipping into to get us over the finish line ASAP. The experimentation to the line-up and the prospect of the visitors holding 11 men behind the ball could have made it really difficult, but the team emerged unscathed and with a better understanding of their own strengths and what Sarri wants from them.
Matthijs De Ligt turned in a great shift looking far more composed and confident at the back, cleaning up after Bonucci on occasion and generally giving a far better account of himself. The performance prompted both Sarri and Gigi Buffon to single out the youngster for praise ahead of a tricky couple of ties against Leverkusen and Inter.
Blaise Matuidi did a fine job at left-back deputising for Alex Sandro, and while Juan Cuadrado wasn’t foot-perfect in defence, his crosses were better, and he did he a decent enough job at right-back. Miralem Pjanic really seems to be benefiting of late, playing another game where he averaged over 100 passes while scoring a screamer to get Juve up and running- he’s looked much better in the last two matches and perhaps it’s no coincidence that we played 4-3-1-2 in both games where his role has been absolutely vital. The Bosnian maestro said as much in the presser earlier today, alluding to influence Sarri has had on his performances:
“The more we play, the more we begin to understand the mechanisms. With Allegri we played differently, now I look more for transitions because I have so many players in front of me who know how to move between the lines.”
Aaron Ramsey has been a godsend, especially to the front-line where he’s linked so well with Paulo Dybala in particular, forming an almost immediate understanding. Playing a little more advanced and just behind the front two hasn’t been a problem for the Welshman who has shown exactly what Juve have lacked in recent years: a complete box-to-box midfielder who can think on his feet. He’s yet to fully adapt and build up his fitness to the point where he can play the full 90 minutes, but the signs are encouraging and if he can stay fit, he may prove the most astute signing of the summer.
Sarri didn’t give much away in his presser but when asked if Ronaldo, Dybala and Higuain could all play together, he suggested it may not happen just yet:
“It’s a beautiful suggestion, but we’re still not balanced enough. For now, we can only try this solution for spells in matches.
“I don’t know if anyone will rest. Our physical condition is growing, but the mental one is also linked.”
Alex Sandro is expected to return to Turin in time for the game so the line-up is unlikely to change all that much. Szczesny is expected to return in goal with Cuadrado probably playing right back and Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs De Ligt playing in the defence. The midfield will likely be the same trio of Matuidi, Pjanic and Sami Khedira. Ramsey will probably keep his spot behind a front two of Ronaldo and Dybala.
4-3-1-2: Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, De Ligt, Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic, Matuidi; Ramsey; Dybala, Ronaldo
Costa (thigh), Chiellini (knee), De Sciglio (thigh), Perin (shoulder), Pjaca (knee).
4-2-3-1: Hrádecky; Wendell, Bender, Tah, Bender; Aránguiz, Baumgartlinger; Volland, Amiri, Havertz; Alario
Leon Baily, Bellarbi