The absences played a part, but it is quite a sad state of affairs for Juventus if Sassuolo can field a significantly more intriguing and perhaps even outright better line-up and pull the strings for the majority of the game, with the Bianconeri reduced to playing the counter-attacking game. Yet, the experience came through, leading to an all-important and somewhat unexpected win at that point, which locks up the Champions League with four matchdays to go.
It is a relief considering how things have gone, but it should not be forgotten that it is just the minimal objective for the club. At least this tipsy-turvy season feels more like a stepping stone to an actual rebuild than the previous two, but it is unfortunate that it took half of it to get into high gear because the Scudetto contenders are less than formidable.
On one side, the Old Lady will easily be back in the swing of things in 2022-2023 if they keep up the consistency achieved in recent months. On the other hand, its style and level are miles away from what we are seeing in the Champions League semi-finals. If the top of the domestic mountain is within reach with a decent summer, the last three seasons have set the club a decade back on the international landscape.
It was nice to see Moise Kean make a good play and bag a pivotal goal. He could have a decent role in a squad that is humming and can produce chances with regularity. He has a lot of holes in his game, but he has always been money in the box. Instead, he has fallen to the wayside because the Juventus strikers have to work extra hard, both to help the team in other areas and to get in dangerous positions.
It is uncertain whether Paulo Dybala is dealing with an injury and can not log full minutes or if the coach is preparing for life after him, but subbing him off early when the team needs to score is befuddling. The squad is already quite lackadaisical with him on the pitch, but at least it has a clear reference point. Since there is a proper replacement, nor many creators, the offense is almost shot when he is out and limited to long-balls and solo scampers on the wings.
All things considered, the game-winning goal on Monday was quite miraculous, as Massimiliano Allegri had decided to settle for the draw by switching to an almost pure five-man defence. And it was out of necessity too, because the rear-guard was on the ropes. Giorgio Chiellini finally produced a vintage performance for a few minutes at the end of a rough season for him, which was pleasant.
One in and one out from the infirmary as Arthur is available, while Mattia De Sciglio is on the mend with muscle fatigue, joining Juan Cuadrado in that regard. Danilo will likely gut it out, while Matthijs De Ligt will be back after dealing with a stomach bug. Some reports suggest that Fabio Miretti has better chances to play over an attacker or Adrien Rabiot than the returning Arthur, which would be quite the development. Kean could get a shot over Alvaro Morata.
Juventus (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Danilo, De Ligt, Bonucci, Alex Sandro; Zakaria, Rabiot; Bernardeschi, Dybala, Kean; Morata.
Absences: Locatelli (MCL sprain), Chiesa (ACL tear), McKennie (foot fracture), Kaio Jorge (patellar tendon tear), De Sciglio, Cuadrado (muscle fatigue).
Venezia do not have a bad collection of players, and their roster is arguably better or at least more intriguing than some of the sides above them, but their spirit has just looked broken in recent months. Their gap with the 17th place does not doom yet, and they have a game in hand versus Salernitana, but they have been the worst club out of all relegation strugglers in the past few rounds.
Perhaps their main issue is that they have a technical squad, but they are missing the experience and grittiness usually brought by Italian veterans. While they abound in prospects, and they might be able to make a fortune in the summer, they have just one or two of those. They are not sexy additions, and their contribution is often obscure, but they tend to make a difference.
Earlier in the week, they attempted the desperate move of a late coaching change, sacking Paolo Zanetti and elevating Andrea Soncin from the Primavera team. There was not much more they could try at this point, and probably it was tough to recruit a manager for just five matches without committing to him for the future. Zanetti is a brilliant technician and groomer of youngsters, but he does not appear to be that rah-rah guy that is able to turn things around when they begin to spiral and pivot when his plans do not work out. Since the management stuck with him for so long, they seemed ready to go down with the ship and its captain. It is unclear what changed, as the firing did not come right away after the previous game. But they probably should have done it sooner if they were leaning in this direction when the situation was more salvageable.
They are coming off eight straight losses, some ugly ones, against Verona, Sassuolo and Atalanta, and some tighter and more unfortunate, versus Lazio, Sampdoria, Spezia, Fiorentina and Udinese, and the last two were particularly dispiriting.
They have a bunch of interesting pieces on the roster, starting with Gianluca Busio, who has been a revelation and is an extremely well-rounded midfielder considering he is extra young. In the same role, Ethan Ampadu has been their most consistent contributor, and he is a powerhouse in the defensive phase. Instead, they probably expected something more from Mickael Cuisance, who has not taken a while to adapt after joining from Bayern Munich and has not been a difference-maker.
Mattia Aramu was one of the most brilliant playmakers in the league in the first half of the season, but then he tailed off as their offense began to short-circuit. He remains their most prominent creator, and perhaps he has to do too much in that sense, and opposing defences figured out that the Lagunari do not have other equally productive outlets if they stymie him.
Their other two top attackers David Okereke and Thomas Henry compose nice tandem because they are well-assorted. The former is a speedster, while the latter is an old-school striker. Still, they have combined for 13 goals, which is paltry, and need somebody to set them up. Dennis Johnsen was a fantastic weapon in the previous campaign, as he is blazing fast, but multiple injuries and questionable decision-making in the box have hindered him after the promotion. He sometimes gets the nod over one of their regular forwards.
Venezia like to use a proactive style, but they have not been able to run it properly, as their attack has not produced enough, and their defence has been shoddy. Zanetti generally used 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2 since Aramu has plenty of liberty. Soncin will probably confirm it, although there are some rumours he might switch to a three-man defence, either moving Ampadu, who can play in basically any position, or starting all three of their healthy centre-backs. It probably would not be a seismic shift, as Pietro Ceccaroni is their only reliable guy in the back, while Mattia Caldara and Michael Svoboda are rather blunder-prone. Ampadu might move to right-back in this one with Antonio Vacca being in better shape.
They attack a lot on the flanks, even though they will not have their best fullback Tyronne Ebuehi, trying to feed Henry, who is a big presence in the box, with crosses. Otherwise, they rely on Okereke’s agility and Aramu’s inventiveness, but, given the circumstances, their mood, and their lack of resilience, they might go down in a heap if hit early.
Venezia (4-3-3) Maenpaa; Mateju, Caldara, Ceccaroni, Haps; Ampadu, Busio, Cuisance; Aramu, Henry, Okereke.
Absences: Ebuehi (thigh strain), Romero (knee surgery), Lezzerini (thigh tendon tear).