Juventus V Sassuolo

Serie A – Week 26 [Monday, 9th March – 19:45 GMT] – Juventus Stadium



Juventus will hope to return to winning ways as they welcome Max Allegri’s former side Sassuolo to Turin for round 26 of the Serie A calendar.

All told, it’s been a disappointing 7 days for the Bianconeri, starting with the frustrating draw against 10-man Roma last Monday and ending with Juve’s first home defeat in 2 years on Thursday night at the hands of rivals, Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia.

Juventus have drawn 3 of their last 5 league matches, missing out on the chance to extend their lead at the top of the table but Allegri insisted he isn’t worried by Juve’s recent form.  “The goals we conceded are mistakes that must be analysed, identified and avoided.” he told reporters in his Press conference this morning.

“We analysed the game with Fiorentina. I would make all my decisions again, given the chance. We had four or five chances to score and Fiorentina barely came out of their own half until the last five minutes. The performance is not to be written off completely. We should avoid these mistakes on set plays and counter-attacks.”

Allegri went on to praise his players while slamming the negativity that has built up in recent weeks.

“I want to point out this squad won the Scudetto three times in a row. People are taking a fourth for granted, but so few teams have achieved that. I feel the enthusiasm has been lost around us.

“It was unthinkable for us to already secure the title in February. These things take time and people should see the positives as well as the negatives.

“On Monday we have a difficult game against Sassuolo. Will there be a trial by media if we don’t win? I keep my feet on the ground.”

Despite experimenting with 4-3-3 against Fiorentina and reverting to 3-5-2 against Roma, its expected Allegri will return to his tried-and-tested 4-3-1-2 against Sassuolo.

Gigi Buffon will start in goal while Stephan Lichtsteiner and Patrice Evra are likely to replace Martin Caceres and Simone Padoin in the full-back positions with Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci playing in the centre of defence.

Claudio Marchisio looked tired and off the pace against Fiorentina but he’s the only real option Juve have to play in place of the injured Andrea Pirlo. Arturo Vidal is gradually returning to his best and seems to have benefited from playing in the 3 man midfield rather than as a makeshift trequartista. Paul Pogba will likely sit-in on the left while Roberto Pereyra looks at his best behind a front two of Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata.

UPDATE : Gigi Buffon is out of the squad due to a bout of flu. Storari will start in his place in goal.

Predicted Lineup

4-3-1-2: Storari; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Vidal, Marchisio, Pogba; Pereyra; Tevez, Morata


Asamoah and Romulo (Recovering from surgery), Pirlo (ankle), Cacares (ankle)








Sassuolo are slumping: they have lost the last three games in a pretty discouraging fashion, even if they were facing superior competitors (Fiorentina, Napoli and Lazio) and they have won only one match in their last five (against Inter).

There are essentially two reasons for this skid: defending has never been their forte and the defense works decently well only when composed by all four starters. Sime Vrsaljko and Federico Peluso have missed the last few matches and the captain Paolo Cannavaro picked up an injury two games ago. Therefore, they ended up with Francesco Acerbi cornering a patched defensive line, formed by either a washed up veteran (Paolo Bianco), fullbacks-turned-centre-backs (Alessandro Longhi) or midfielders-turned-fullbacks (Davide Biondini and Matteo Brighi). Not ideal when you have to deal with Mo Salah, Felipe Anderson and others quality attackers.

Luckily for them, the two starting fullbacks seems ready to make their return on Monday. With Cannavaro still sidelined, Eusebio Di Francesco could field Peluso as centre-back with Longhi on the left or Bianco in the middle of the defense. Both aren’t good options, but it’s still an improvement. The second reason for their downturn that they are in no man’s land in the table as we approach the final stretch. They are nine points clear from the relegation zone (and there are five teams between them and Cagliari) and ten points away from the 6th seed (but there are five teams between them and Sampdoria, including Inter and Milan). It’s not easy to motivate players when you are basically fighting for nothing.

There should be no changes in the rest of the lineup, the only doubt is in the midfield since Saphir Taider doesn’t look in the best possible shape after partaking to AFCON: Brighi or Biondini could take him spot. At this point, their traits are well-known: explosive counters, aggressive offside trap, quick and proactive team play and movement, several playmakers that can create a chance out of the blue, some good long-distance shooters. It’s really a provincial version of Fiorentina.

The biggest threat, of course, comes from the magic trio up front: Domenico Berardi, Simone Zaza and Nicola Sansone. However, with Zaza coming to Juventus or leaving for another big club, Sansone wanting to play in European cup next season (Bundesliga is calling…), Berardi ready to make the leap and also Di Francesco slated to jump ship, I do question how really interested and committed they are in this (meaningless) final part of the season. Of course although, as we know very well, the Juventus game always brings extra motivations.

I don’t mean to bash them, because, all things considered, this season proved that the gamble paid off: Di Francesco managed to bring team a squad that narrowly avoided relegation last season to a very comfortable position and did that by sticking to his beliefs, ditching catenaccio, playing exciting football and relying on his young and Italian guns. Even if a lot could change in the summer, the Sassuolo experiment has been a successful one and I hope that the “the good football way” will continue to trend: Empoli and Palermo have jumped onto the bandwagon and it should end well for them…

Predicted Lineup

4-3-3: Consigli; Vrsaljko, Bianco, Acerbi, Peluso; Taider, Magnanelli, Missiroli; Berardi, Zaza, Sansone


Pegolo (tibia), Terranova (knee), Antei (knee), Cannavaro (thigh)