While the result versus one of the most high-flying sides in the league was fine per se, the emotional reaction to what is going on outside the pitch wasn’t that impressive. Romping Atalanta would have been a truly remarkable feat, but it mostly looked like just another rollercoaster of a game. The feeling of being in limbo, as the remaining matches probably won’t be that meaningful for the outcome, won’t go away until the dust settles in the courts of justice, which won’t happen for months.
There’s no alternative to soldiering on as if nothing’s happening, trying to pick up as many points as possible. The new sanctions, barring a legal miracle by the club’s lawyers, will be tailored on what the Bianconeri achieve, making Serie A matches quite moot and Coppa Italia and Europa League ones more consequential, as at least there’s a trophy, and potentially the qualification to continental cups, on the line there. That is if UEFA doesn’t intervene as well.
The Old Lady is already late in abandoning the Super League, as they could use any form of appeasement and reconciliation with the institutions they can get. The project, on top of being nonsensical and poorly conceived, is at a dead end anyway. They should let Andrea Agnelli fight for it on his own. His cousin and de facto owner John Elkann couldn’t have been more explicit in severing ties with the former chairman. It’s an inglorious conclusion given how much he won, but it’s inevitable, and he dug his own grave.
Circling back to the matches, the defense was probably due to regress after being airtight for such a long time. Still, the displays versus Napoli and Atalanta were way too poor and blunder-filled for the standard the center-backs and Wojciech Szczesny had set. Even against quality sides, those ten-minute blackouts when the team is the mercy of the opponents shouldn’t exist. Otherwise, the previous clean sheet-fueled winning streak was just fool’s gold, as many already suspect.
It shouldn’t occur only when they have been smacked in the face early, but it’s nice to see that Juventus and their coach are indeed capable of upping the tempo and going blow-to-blow with offensive-minded sides when they want to. Angel Di Maria being in top form is a massive help. They will soon have to start managing his minutes again since the schedule will resume being crowded, but at least the team is getting a little bang for their buck. He’s one of the few players in the squad capable of breaking the monotony of a very predictable strategy.
There were ample reports about Juventus switching to 4-3-3 in this one, but the gaffer dismissed them, and Federico Chiesa is out with muscle fatigue. While it wouldn’t be its best possible version, it’s still an option, and perhaps it should be the choice since Matias Soulé is the only real option for the right winger since Juan Cuadrado is hurt again, Weston McKennie is headed to Leeds United, and Mattia De Sciglio has missed a long time. Some suggest Danilo might start there, but the lineup would be too conservative. If that were the case, it’d be better to go with a four-man defense. Paul Pogba and Dusan Vlahovic are back, and hopefully, they will be able to contribute sooner rather than later after months on the shelf.
3-5-1-1: Szczesny; Danilo, Bremer, Alex Sandro; Soulé, Fagioli, Locatelli, Rabiot, Kostic; Di Maria; Milik.
Absences: Chiesa (muscle fatigue), Bonucci (thigh tendon injury), Cuadrado (sciatic nerve soreness), McKennie (transfer market), Kaio Jorge (patellar tendon tear).
It’s peculiar to face the same team twice in the span of a couple of weeks, but Monza will be much different compared to Coppa Italia, which still put up a good fight despite a formation riddled with backups and a weird scheme. Raffaele Palladino comes from the Gian Piero Gasperini school, and while they don’t have the same talent as Atalanta, the formation and strategy are pretty much the same.
Their brass was clever in trusting the young coach fresh off the Primavera when they sacked Giovanni Stroppa. Most sides would have gone with a safe and veteran option. An early winning streak and an ongoing series of positive results, plus the fact that there are sides that are just awful down low, will allow them to have a serene second half of the season. That was the expectation since they are way richer than your regular newly promoted team.
Their configuration recalls previous versions of Atalanta since they put more emphasis on the flank game. They have two of their best players there, Carlos Augusto, a train on the left and a menacing threat every time he gets close or inside the box, and Patrick Ciurria, who’s a creative attacker that adapted to the role and contributed to turning their season around with his assists and goals. Lately he has been starting in his true role, with the dynamic Samuele Birindelli filling in wide, because some of their other midfield and no.10 options are banged up, but he goes back to the wing when they want to turn up their aggression.
Gianluca Caprari had a subpar first half of the season considering what he had done at Verona last year, but he righted the ship lately. He’s a handful with his slipperiness and ability to shoot with swiftness and precision. Dany Mota Carvalho is bigger, but he’s a similar type of player. While Andrea Petagna is an old-school center-forward who scores little but is capable is interplaying with his teammates and opening up room with his large frame, the starlet moves around a lot, takes defenders on at will, and often gets past them, creating advantages. Caprari and Mota like to operate on the left, which often generates bamboozling triangles where Augusto ends up serving as center-forward. Ciurria is less heralded but equally dangerous. He’s more prone to teeing up teammates than finishing, but he’s no slouch when given the opportunity, as has been the case in recent tilts. He has a slick right-footed stroke too.
Nicolò Rovella and Stefano Sensi, who are both starters, missed time with injuries. They’ll get a boost when they are fully fit, even though José Machin and Filippo Ranocchia, and the other players that have filled in have been adequate. The two Juventus-owned midfielders took a further step forward in their development this season. The ex-Genoa one is ready at this point, and he probably would have done better than Leandro Paredes had the coaching staff trusted him. The former Vicenza one has unique skills among the Bianconeri-groomed prospects since he’s the only muscular and work-rate-oriented one. He’d likely hold his own in any situation.
Marlon gets playing time due to his caliber and because the teammates aren’t young, but their ideal configuration in the back comprises Armando Izzo, Luca Caldirola, and Pablo Mari. They wouldn’t be wrong in adding a prospect, but it’s rugged, as Di Maria already experienced first-hand, and technical rearguard since they can all treat the ball very well. The two braccetti participate in the offense quite a bit as La Dea does, although they are more restrained due to their physical limitations. Goalie Michele Di Gregorio has been solid for years in Serie B, but not many expected him to reach a stellar level in the top league, to the point that he starts over a proven option like Alessio Cragno.
Hopefully, Juventus will treasure the lessons of recent matches and the embarrassing loss a few months ago, which was a low point in the season. They will have to come out with the right amount of energy of determination, because Monza will surely bring it and won’t be afraid of the match-up, even more so thanks to the familiarity with the foes and the success they enjoyed.
3-4-2-1: Di Gregorio; Izzo, Pablo Mari, Caldirola; Birindelli, Pessina, Machin, Carlos Augusto; Ciurria, Caprari; Mota Carvalho.