Juventus V Chievo
Serie A Week 3 – Saturday, 9th September – 16:00 GMT – Juventus Stadium
Juventus-Chievo Verona marks the start of a grueling one month and a half, where the Bianconeri will play every three days. Once again, I Bianconeri open the Serie A weekend with an early start on Saturday. Not exactly ideal considering the late arrivals of some South American internationals, but this is why you build a deep roster. Considering the matches with the NTs and that the Barcelona game is coming up next Tuesday, some heavy rotation could be in the cards, with Massimiliano Allegri immediately asked to deal with fatigue, small nagging injuries and saving some players for more prestigious matches.
The defence could be revolutionized. Giorgio Chiellini left the national team because of calf problem, but the tests revealed it not to be too serious: he will try to recover for the Champions League tilt, but there is no reason for him to risk this one. Andrea Barzagli was given a two-day rest after the games with Italy, he will be available but unlikely to play. That leaves the coach with only three center-backs fully available and only one spent the last two weeks in Vinovo: Benedikt Howedes. Therefore, he is the front runner to start, but not a lock, alongside either Daniele Rugani or Medhi Benatia. Stephan Lichtsteiner should start on the right considering that he is out of the UEFA list, while Kwadwo Asamoah could replace Alex Sandro, who has an history of resting before big games, but this is not sure yet. Wojciech Szczesny has already been announced as a starter.
Sami Khedira needs to be managed carefully, and with Claudio Marchisio on the shelf, Blaise Matuidi is set to feature from the get-go. Miralem Pjanic will be his partner. The most interesting situation involves the trequartisti department. Douglas Costa was the only one not to leave: it would be shock if he did not start in this one. His versatility gives the coach some rope. Juan Cuadrado traveled overseas and re-joined the group only on Thursday, while Mario Mandzukic played almost two full games with Croatia. We know that Allegri has been reluctant to bench the Croatian forward, but the Colombian winger is suspended for the next match. Paulo Dybala is coming off two tough games with Argentina and a long flight home: he could rest, even though it is hard to keep him out right now. The wild card could be Federico Bernardeschi, who was barely used by Giampiero Ventura and could play either centrally or on the right, but Allegri’s words seem to indicate that it will take a while for the former Fiorentina to start. So, if Dybala is benched, 4-3-3 with Stefano Sturaro is more likely than 4-2-3-1. Two pure wingers probably make more sense than having Mandzukic in a trident.
Juventus obviously won the first the first two Serie A games. The last one, against Genoa, was almost cathartic compared to what happened last season: immediately down two-nothing, Bianconeri scratched and clawed, climbing their way back until the final 4-2 thanks to a hat-trick by Dybala. I suspect that we will see a bunch of similar games this year, as the defence is shakier than in the past, but the attack is stronger. Daniele Rugani’s performance guarding Andrej Galabinov, a big body but not a world-beater by any stretch, was a concern: he needs to bounce back immediately. On the other hand, it was nice to see Cuadrado rekindle some of his old magic to score a beautiful and decisive goal.
Some news from the transfer market front, because somehow it is still open in Turkey: Stephan Lichtsteiner refused Besiktas’ offer and is set to stay, while the management does not to want to sell Kwadwo Asamoah to Galatasaray. Juventus can not afford to lose fullbacks right now.
UPDATE: It looks like it is going to be a very muscular 4-3-3 with Sturaro in the midfield, Mandzukic as left winger and Benatia-Rugani in the defence. De Sciglio is closing in on Lichtsteiner.
4-2-3-1: Szczesny; Lichtsteiner, Howedes, Rugani, Sandro, Pjanic, Matuidi; Costa, Dybala, Mandzukic; Higuain.
Marchisio (knee), Pjaca (knee), Chiellini (hamstring), Khedira.
Players and coaches change, but somehow Chievo Verona always remain the same boring team. It is obviously a commendable reality considering that it hails from a small neighbourhood in Verona and that it has basically no fans, but still not the most appealing one to follow. You know that one way or the other they are going to avoid relegation, probably pretty easily because they are so stout. They rarely have exciting youngsters and their games are usually low-scoring. That being said, they are often a tough opponent to defeat.
In the first two games of the season, they have beaten Udinese on the road and they lost against Lazio at home, both ended with a 1-2 result. It took a while, and a great goal by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, for the Biancocelesti to solve the puzzle. Juventus will need to either be super fierce from the start or very patient in this one. They do not have a great counter-attack because they lack pacey players, but they are extremely expert and physical.
The only change to the regular XI compared to last season is Manuel Pucciarelli, acquired from Empoli. Certainly a quality player that would have been wasted in Serie B, but it does not move the needle much. Anyway, they were missing a second-striker and Riccardo Meggiorini will be out for a few months because of an ACL tear. Gianluca Gaudino and Luca Garritano are more interesting purchases, but some time will pass before they enter the rotation: they could give the midfield some pizazz, finally dethroning Ivan Radovanovic and Perparim Hetemaj. The management clearly had an eye on the long-term plans with these two acquisitions, bringing in the potential replacements one or two years earlier than needed. There is a slight chance Hetemaj is rested after the international games, with Nicola Rigoni and Samuel Bastien as the likely replacements.
Their defence is almost geriatric, but it works. The coach constantly rotates Dario Dainelli, Alessandro Gamberini and Bostjan Cesar, maybe the prospect Mattia Bani could manage to get some minutes down the line. Fabrizio Cacciatore and Massimo Gobbi will start on the flanks, but they will face competition from the newcomers Nenad Tomovic and Pawel Jaroszynski in the near future.
Juventus beat Chievo Verona in both matches last year. In 2016/2017, the Flying Donkeys had a little mutation in their identity: they lost most of the games against bigger teams, but they were more consistent in the clashes with clubs that had a similar quality. We will see whether that will be the case this season as well.
4-3-1-2: Sorrentino; Cacciatore, Gamberini, Dainelli, Gobbi; Castro, Radovanovic, Hetemaj; Inglese, Pucciarelli.