Juventus v Frosinone
Serie A Week 24 – Saturday, 15th February – 19:30 GMT – Juventus Stadium
After 15 minutes where ghosts from previous games reared their ugly heads and Wojciech Szczesny kept things from going sideways, Juventus put together the bounce-back performance they were supposed to have against Sassuolo. When Cristiano Ronaldo decides to puts the team on his back like in that match, the rest of the squad simply have to keep feeding him and avoid screwing up. After some had started to sound off the panic button, the lead went back to 11 points. Unless the Bianconeri commit seppuku, they should not sweat out the domestic title, although the late schedule is not great and it would be better to secure things earlier.
As the Atletico Madrid bout is finally here, Massiliano Allegri is presented with the great dilemma about who to rest and for how long and has to juggle between that and the fact that some could benefit more from playing, especially those returning from injuries, rather than from staying on the sidelines.
The League, as it has become a welcomed habit in these circumstances, provided an assist by putting the game on Friday, so the six-day turnaround simplify some decisions. Cristiano Ronaldo will not be rested even though this could have been a good spot to do it, while Miralem Pjanic might even though it always a struggle with somebody else running the show.
Dybala could not possibly be benched for three games in a row and the show of solidarity by his teammates was a nice thing to see, even though I am not exactly sure against whom it was aimed at. After all, La Joya put himself in a pickle on his own and should not take being left out here and there so harshly. The coach and Fabio Paratici have always held him in the highest regard and hopefully he will resume scoring so we can leave all this unnecessary stuff behind.
After being slowed down by physical problems for a couple of months, Federico Bernardeschi is starting to return to the elite levels and he will be a key man down the stretch, especially short-term with Douglas Costa and Juan Cuadrado both on the mend. The way he interpreted the third-wheel role in the attack last week was pretty peculiar but very effective as he played a lot more centrally that Paulo Dybala usually does, which sounds counter-intuitive for the traits of both players. but that is probably just a match-up thing.
Alex Sandro is conveniently suspended, so Leonardo Spinazzola could get the call at left back, even though Mattia De Sciglio is also an option. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini have both been called: Bonucci is unlikely to suffer a relapse of that kind of injury and will start, Chiellini is more at risk but he could use putting some minutes in his legs.
Joao Cancelo is likely to return to the XI for similar reasons as he has not been 100 percent right after returning quickly from a knee injury. Daniele Rugani has a thigh ailment and so Martin Caceres might start
Most will not be pleased, but it seems that Sami Khedira is poised to start against Atletico Madrid and therefore he could get a day off here. Even though he is not as impactful as his teammates in other areas, he does show up in the box a lot more and goals will be pivotal in Champions League. He is also way more experienced and that matters too. Blaise Matuidi is likely to be spared.
UPDATE: After the final practice, De Sciglio is gaining ground on Spinazzola on the left, Can might play over Pjanic, with Khedira in the XI, and Chiellini might draw the start.
4-3-3: Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Caceres, Spinazzola; Bentancur, Pjanic, Can; Dybala, Mandzukic, Ronaldo.
Costa (quad), Cuadrado (knee).
You would think that a game against the second-to-last team could be some sort of a formality, but unfortunately there is no such thing in Serie A and Juventus will need to be alert against Frosinone. In a highly uncommon trend, they have won their only three games of the season on the road, including the last consecutive two against Bologna and Sampdoria, where they have had some lucky breaks but also have been able to catch by surprise opponents, while they have been dismal at home. With these six points, they have now a puncher’s chance to avoid relegation, while they looked toast just a month ago.
The coaching change from Moreno Longo to Marco Baroni has not brought visible tactical changes and neither has the transfer market window, but few things started to click for them and that was enough to gain some ground in the dog fight that is this year’s race to avoid relegation.
They employ good ol’ 3-5-2, but the defensive phase has been a problem all year long for them, as they have allowed 43 total goals, which is third worst in the League. They can clog up the lanes with so many defenders, but the presumptive starters, Edoardo Goldaniga, Bartosz Salamon and Marco Capuano are replacement level at best.
Their make-up is pretty prototypical as they feature one pure and physical centre-forward, either Andrea Pinamonti or Daniel Ciofani, alongside a mobile second-striker with a velvety left foot, Camillo Ciano, who is a menace on set pieces and their nexus. In the midfield, one box-to-box is more focused on running after opponents, Raman Chibsah, the other, either Francesco Cassata or Luca Valzania, is more devoted to support the offensive forays. Either Raffaele Maiello or Federico Viviani will play as deep-lying playmaker: the latter just joined from SPAL and is a little more intriguing also for his prowess on set pieces, while Maiello is more sturdy. Maiello and Chibsah are one yellow-card away from disqualification and that might affect their decisions.
Their wing game is their main motor, as Francesco Cassano and Andrea Beghetto are both very energetic and capable crossers and most of their actions generate from here, so stymieing them will have to be the first order of business for the Bianconeri.
Close to that will have to be denying Ciano too much room to operate, especially on open spaces because obviously they rely on counter-attacks a lot, like everybody else in this zone of the standings.
They are likely to be without Paolo Ghiglione, Stefan Simic and Lorenzo Ariaudo, but among them only Ariaudo, who has been out for a while with an ankle sprain, was a starter before getting hurt.
3-5-2: Sportiello; Goldaniga, Salamon, Capuano; Zampano, Chibsah, Viviani, Cassata, Beghetto; Ciofani, Ciano.
Simic (thigh), Ghiglione (thigh), Ariaudo (ankle).
Juventus Performance Statistics