Juventus v Genoa
Serie A Week 21 – Monday, 21st January – 19:45 GMT – Juventus Stadium
Juventus squeaked by against Cagliari and it was a rather awkward game, where the Bianconeri started off well but never really managed to get it going completely and also allowed the opponents to create a couple of excellent chances to score. The injury to Paulo Dybala contributed to casting a weird vibe to the second half. Luckily, Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi came to the rescue and gifted Juve three all-important points to continue to breathe down Napoli’s neck.
La Joya suffered a hamstring strain and, after being a little opaque at first, the club stated he is expected to miss 30/40 days, which means that he is targeting early February and the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 for a return. It is a bummer for the player, who was starting to get out of his slump, and obviously for Massimiliano Allegri, who is deprived of a star. Fortunately, some pretty good players joined in the summer window and, as we have seen also in other circumstances, Juventus are not really dependent on any single player. It certainly hurts to lose our no.10, but it is not as big as a tragedy as it would have been in previous years. Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi are now asked to step up and they have done well recently.
Claudio Marchisio also suffered a similar injury and will be on the shelf for a while. Il Principino looked good in pre-season, but never truly managed to return to ‘starter’ status and then resumed having one physical setback after another. There are rumours that he may be on his way out, maybe USA-bound, at the end of the season, but I think he can still contribute at a high level, he is only 32, but fully coming back from that ACL tear has proven to be tougher than expected.
The break has not been that beneficial from the injury standpoint, because Mattia De Sciglio is the only player who has been able to solve his problems, while Gianluigi Buffon and Juan Cuadrado are still respectively dealing with a pulled calf and a sore groin and will not participate in Juventus-Genoa. Benedikt Howedes’ status is murky.
Next up is the Genoa tilt in a rare Monday night game. No complaints here as it is always nice when Juventus square off at a different time than anybody else. The break was at a different time this year because Serie A finally decided to play during the holidays, let’s see whether this will have an effect.
With two offensive weapons out, 4-3-3 is a no-brainer, also to have at least one potentially game-changing player off the bench. It will be a battle between Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi to start at right winger, with the Brazilian as a slight favourite as of now. De Sciglio could be immediately inserted back into the starting XI, while the one between Alex Sandro and Kwadwo Asamoah is the usual doubt on the left. Medhi Benatia-Giorgio Chiellini is clearly the best CB combo and the trio in the midfield will be the usual one.
4-3-3: Szczesny; De Sciglio, Benatia, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic, Matuidi; Costa, Higuain, Mandzukic.
Buffon (calf), Cuadrado (groin), Marchisio (hamstring), Howedes (hamstring).
Genoa have surged with Davide Ballardini at the helm, even though his scheme and his principles are not that different from what they were doing under Milan Juric. He also looks a little more mellow than the previous coach, but he has the command of the locker room, so he has been to get his message across. The results are certainly on his side, as he has lost only once in eight matches, collecting four wins and three draws that propelled them out of the danger zone of the table. They have kept four straight clean sheets.
They are a very physical team that drags you through the mud and is always content with a nil-nil. Players such as Armando Izzo, Nicolas Spolli, Miguel Veloso, Diego Laxalt, Aleandro Rosi and Luca Rigoni are apt for that type of style. They do not have a lot of creativity, Adel Taarabt is pretty much the only inventive player they field constantly, but they are often able to grind it out thanks to good defending and opportunistic goals.
They also do not have a consistent scorer: they probably envisioned Gianluca Lapadula to be just that, but he has spent a lot of time on the shelf and he is just now returning to form. He is not that big, but he is very gritty and a nuisance for defenders. There is no doubt that he is extremely canny and has a nose for the goal. Goran Pandev and Andrej Galabinov have also chipped on that front and the fact that they rotate three strikers with such different skill-sets highlights how their offensive game plan is still a work in progress. They have also recently signed Giuseppe Rossi, who is the best of the bunch if healthy, but they have yet to integrate him.
Their games are usually low-scoring and they rely a lot on their outstanding goalkeeper Mattia Perin. They will be without Ervin Zukanovic, who is suspended. Luca Rossettini is the first in line to replace him, and he has gotten a lot of minutes so far, but he is a little banged up, so Santiago Gentiletti could end up starting and he has made some atrocious mistakes this season.
They attack down both flanks with a pair of very energetic players, who can do damage even though they are not that technically gifted. They also use the longball a lot. The only diversion from the standard low-table team script is, as already mentioned, Adel Taarabt, who is unpredictable and very dangerous on his best day. He is also pretty moody, so you do not know what you will get day in and day out. Two between him, Pandev and Lapadula will start upfront. They have two midfielders who need attention when attacking because they can score in Luca Rigoni and Andrea Bertolacci, who will flank Miguel Veloso, who is expected to start despite missing the last game.
In the first match-up, Juventus conceded two goals in the early going, but were able to come back, tie the game before the end of the first half, and eventually win 2-4. The Griffone have also lost four straight games in Turin, failing to score in each of them.
3-5-2: Perin; Izzo, Spolli, Rossettini; Rosi, Rigoni, Veloso, Bertolacci, Laxalt; Taarabt, Lapadula.