Juventus just cannot win a big one this season, even though the performance in the Atalanta game was better and more commanding than in other key clashes. The focus was apt and they had a few chances to take the lead in the first half. On the other hand, the intensity wilted as time progressed. Maybe the Bianconeri are not as accustomed to playing an entire game at that frantic pace as La Dea is, to the point that they almost lost. The trend does not lend much hope for the Champions League.
While it was nice to see that the spirit of the team is very present, it was a highly disappointing result. The opponents fared much better than their previous matches, but such is the nature of head-to-head bouts. The extra level of attention, and a pair of well-conceived adjustments can fix a lot of stuff. The aspirations of going after bigger objectives evaporated quickly. Juventus will have to pay attention to Atalanta the rest of the way since they did not take them down.
The acquisition of Dusan Vlahovic re-established the fear factor that had been missing this season. Scoring no longer requires convoluted actions that free up players in the right spots. He just needs a sliver of room or a decent ball in the box, and he will manage to challenge the goalkeeper. Unfortunately, Marco Sportiello answered the bell brilliantly on Sunday, but that is just what the doctor ordered for the Bianconeri. The chemistry with Alvaro Morata has been instant, there is a little more work to do with Paulo Dybala, but it is just a matter of time. The trio has been operating right away.
The problems in other areas remain though. Even though Matthijs De Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci generally play well, the backline appears vulnerable and on skates when Giorgio Chiellini is not there. That is particularly worrying for the future. The management just has to hope the Dutchman takes the next step from a leadership and intimidation standpoint.
A more pressing matter is that the midfield does not function properly with only Manuel Locatelli trying to pull the strings. Weston McKennie and Adrien Rabiot, and also Rodrigo Bentancur beforehand, are fine complementary players since they bust their tail on defense and occasionally cut in the box with the right timing. On the other hand, they are in over their heads when they have to make slightly difficult or inventive passes. That leaves too big of a burden on the ex-Sassuolo man. One between Denis Zakaria and Arthur, despite his ups and downs and the fact that he is a liability in certain situations, should always be out there to help him. The dualism between the Italian and the Brazilian international is quite silly.
Leonardo Bonucci is out with a minor injury. Juan Cuadrado has been announced as the starting fullback, putting the rumours about Paulo Dybala resting to bed since there are no alternatives, as Federico Bernardeschi remains sidelined. The coach was candid on the doubts, as Denis Zakaria, Weston McKennie, Alvaro Morata and Moise Kean are in contention. Alex Sandro is the favourite over Mattia De Sciglio and Luca Pellegrini to play at left-back for this one.
Juventus (4-3-3): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Rugani, De Ligt, Alex Sandro; Zakaria, Locatelli, Rabiot; Dybala, Vlahovic, Morata.
Absences: Chiesa (ACL tear), Chiellini (calf strain), Bonucci (calf muscle fatigue), Bernardeschi (thigh injury), Danilo (suspension).
As suspected earlier in the season, Torino have comfortably stayed out of trouble but are not good enough to have a real shot at a top eight finish. It was a stretch to strive to do that this season, considering how much they risked relegation in 2020/2021. This campaign has been a convincing stepping stone towards a more serene future. However, the doubt remains about whether their owner is really willing to do what it takes to take the next step.
Surely their coach Ivan Juric does not lack ambition, but you need investments to crack the most coveted positions. The decision of the options to redeem multiple players currently on loan will be very telling. Most of them deserve to be bought out.
Not a whole lot has changed since the first meeting between the two sides, which ended in a narrow victory for Juventus. The Granata have honed in on their 3-4-2-1, which is arguably one of the most effective schemes around. It is the third straight game against it, and they all derive from the school of Gian Piero Gasperini.
Torino have been excellent at home and deficient on the road. They are coming off two straight tough losses, which had not happened in months. They threw it away in the stoppage time versus Udinese, while they pulled the plug too early against Venezia after dominating in the first half an hour.
The model is the same: stifling and muscular defense, great emphasis on the flank game, and pace and unpredictability in the final third. Bremer has become a star center-back and has blanketed the best of them. He is poised to be in high demand next summer, and he did his team a solid, adding a year to his contract to drive up his price tag.
Their other key players in recent months have been Sasa Lukic, who has turned into an impressive all-around midfielder, Josip Brekalo, who has been the key cog of their frontline, and the two wing-backs Wilfried Singo and Mergim Vojvoda. The former is fulfilling his potential on offense, putting his supreme physicality to good use to conclude actions. The latter has proven to be quite the crosser.
They just lost Dennis Praet, probably for the season, and that is a significant blow. While he is not as flashy and productive as Brekalo, he is extremely valuable as a connector and in pressuring the opponents’ initial distributors. They have a few options to replace him, but not with the same quality.
Karol Linetty would be the more defensive one, as he is a box-to-box midfielder and not as good of a passer. They deployed Marko Pjaca there last week, and that raises their level of dangerousness, but he is mercurial, and they lose a lot in the passive phase. There is also some talk about adapting Tommaso Pobega to the role, which would be interesting given his muscularity and presence in the box. Still, he might be too big to float between the lines.
On the negative side, they could use better production from their strikers. Antonio Sanabria has been okay and is also technical, but he has bagged only five goals. They create at a decent clip, so it would be fair to expect better numbers. They have sorely missed Andrea Belotti, who has just returned from the second serious injury of the season. He might get the start in this one, which would be a boost from the charisma standpoint.
While Bremer is rock-solid, the two other members of the defense, generally Koffi Djidji and Ricardo Rodriguez, but they have other options, are less reliable. Morata and Dybala might have more opportunities than Vlahovic to go to work. Vanja Milinkovic-Savic has been shaky on goal in the last few matches after a surprisingly impressive first part of the season.
Torino might be affected by the lack of motivation in the remaining games, but that will not be an issue for the Derby. They tend to start strong and wane as the match progresses. Juventus will have to be extra careful right off the bat and be ready to rev up in the second half.
Torino (3-4-2-1): Milinkovic-Savic; Djidji, Bremer, Buongiorno; Singo, Lukic, Mandragora, Vojvoda; Pobega, Brekalo; Belotti.
Absences: Praet (foot fracture), Fares (ACL tear).