Juventus v Fiorentina
Serie A Week 5 – Wednesday, 20th September – 19:45 GMT – Juventus Stadium
Business as usual for the Bianconeri in the lunchtime match against Sassuolo. Paulo Dybala is in King Midas mode and the three goals were just marvelous. The first one shows how much confidence La Joya has in his abilities right now. Obviously, we can not expect him to maintain this scoring average, but watching him is pure bliss. The goal we conceded was pretty random and a little slip-up is understandable after going up two-nil. It was a solid performance and Juventus were commanding and they let Sassuolo play a bit only at the end of the first half.
Next up is the always heated game against Fiorentina at home. The medical staff issued an update on Mattia De Sciglio, but the timetable for his return remains murky. Massimiliano Allegri announced that it will take him up to 40 days to heal the tibia-fibula joint and that would be if he avoided any ankle micro-fracture. On the other hand, Benedikt Howedes resumed practicing with the group, therefore he and Stephan Lichtsteiner will share the duties on the right flank in the upcoming stretch, with Stefano Sturaro and Andrea Barzagli as the remaining options.
The Turin derby is coming up on Sunday, so the next two games are both pretty important, but there will still be some rotation. Juventus have quality depth all over the squad, except in the midfield because of the injures to Sami Khedira and Claudio Marchisio. Blaise Matuidi has been excellent since joining and the pairing with Miralem Pjanic might end up being the best we have to offer. It would make sense for Rodrigo Bentancur to start one of the next two fixture to give Pjanic some rest.
The reports go back-and-forth on Gonzalo Higuain starting or resting. El Pipita is in the eye of the storm because of his ever-unsatisfying physical condition and his lack of scoring. The Argentinian striker is not playing particularly well and at times he is getting too stubborn in the box, but I would not worry about him. His biggest problem is a sweet one for the team: Dybala is on fire and he is snatching some scoring chances away from him. The best medicine is just to keep playing as he is, and the goals will come. After that the reports went back and forth for a couple of days, it looks like Higuain and Mario Mandzukic will both start. Starting Federico Bernardeschi is a tantalizing idea, but it appears he will have to wait a little longer as the Douglas Costa, Juan Cuadrado and him are locked in a three-way battle to be the right winger and he is not the favourite.
Gianluigi Buffon will be spared, with Wojciech Szczeny taking his place: I doubt Gigi will play thrice in a week very often this year. The same will probably happen with Giorgio Chiellini: Medhi Benatia is the frontrunner to take his spot, forming a couple with Daniele Rugani, but Barzagli still has a chance to play, either on the right or in the middle of the defence.
4-2-3-1: Szczesny; Lichtsteiner, Benatia, Rugani, Asamoah; Pjanic, Matuidi; Costa, Dybala, Mandzukic; Higuain.
Marchisio (knee), Khedira (knee), De Sciglio (ankle), Pjaca (knee).
Fiorentina had a lot of turnover this summer and they paid the price in the first two matches of the season, where they lost badly to Inter and to Sampdoria, but then started to get comfortable and to play better. Losing Bernardeschi, Nikola Kalinic, Borja Valero, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Matias Vecino, Ciprian Tatarusanu and Josip Ilicic in one window is no joke and only time will tell whether they have replaced them properly. The first games showed that they do have some very interesting newcomers and, after all, they are not diverting much from their usual playing style, even though Stefano Pioli replaced Paulo Sousa at the helm.
Federico Chiesa is thrusted into a bigger role this season and he is set for a big payday after the management wisely decided to hold onto him this summer. He is their best player this season now. Giovanni Simeone proved he can score at Genoa and it would be a shock if he did not do better in a bigger team. Jordan Veretout and German Pezzella already look like staples. Cyril Thereau is pretty old, but still useful and fills a need while Riccardo Saponara recovers from a nagging ankle injury.
They completely revamped the defensive flanks, adding Bruno Gaspar, Vincent Laurini and Cristiano Biraghi. Gaspar is an offense-first fullback that could be a force in some match-ups. The other two were solid, but never spectacular in the previous stints in Serie A. Biraghi probably still has some upside and has always had an interesting left foot. In the heart of the defence, Vitor Hugo struggled in the first two tough games and Nikola Milenkovic has yet to day view, but Pezzella is a day-one starter and already earned a call-up by Argentina.
Gil Dias and Valentin Eysseric add some zing to their offense. So far they have used the final newcomer, Marco Benassi, as a tactical winger or no.10, but I am unconvinced about his effectivity there. Sinisa Mihajlovic had trouble fitting him into his 4-2-3-1 and Pioli could have the same problem as well: he will have to adapt to the holding position, despite being a dynamic player, because having an attacker on the trequartisti line is much more appealing. Dias and Eysseric are battling with Thereau and Benassi to get into the XI: the Portuguese winger has more chances, but Pioli might end up sticking with the guys who perfomed well in the last two games.
Compared to the first XIs of the season, the reports say Laurini could supplant Gaspar and Veretout could be rested, with Carlos Sanchez taking his place, but I see very little reason for that considering how much they care about this game and that the former Aston Villa has been brilliant. He is a terrific shooter and a great organizer in the middle of the pitch and the couple with Milan Badelj is well assorted.
They had little success in Turin in the last few trips and hopefully we will keep it that way. They have an aggressive scheme, with four attackers: they will try to be proactive and control the ball and the pace, but that will be difficult at Allianz Stadium. If they are not able to do that, they will rely on a potentially devastating counter-attack, featuring the speedy Chiesa and Simeone, and Juventus will have to avoid exposing the defence.
4-2-3-1: Sportiello; Laurini, Pezzella, Astori, Biraghi; Badelj, Veretout; Benassi, Thereau, Chiesa; Simeone.