Juventus v Hellas Verona

Serie A Week 18 –  Wednesday,  6th January – 14:00 GMT – Juventus Stadium



Serie A returns after the break and the schedule is kind with Juventus as they host Hellas Verona. The Old Lady was not particularly sharp against Carpi, conceding the lead in the first half and scoring an own goal late in the game, but the performance was good enough to bring home the three points: it was the seventh win in a row, which is quite an achievement. Thanks to the Inter stumble against Lazio, the deficit from the top has now been cut down to just three points. If bianconeri keep getting the job done against the low table teams, as they have been doing recently, they are well positioned to win Scudetto as most of the head-to-head matches against the other title contenders will be played at the Stadium.

There are a couple of doubts regarding the lineup: Andrea Barzagli and Mario Mandzukic are dealing with sore calfs, a very tricky muscle, so they will be rested in order to not to aggravate the injuries. Mandzukic could return by Sunday while Barzagli is a little more behind in the recovery. Massimiliamo Allegri admitted that he will choose between a finally healthy Martin Caceres and Daniele Rugani to replace Barzagli. It would probably be a good situation to put the Italian youngster into, as we host one of the worst teams in Serie A, even though they have foxy strikers. If Caceres started, that would mean that his departure is not so imminent and obvious as it was made to be. Stephen Lichtsteiner is set to be the right wing back, with Alex Sandro and Patrice Evra battling it out to start on the other flank. The midfield should be the best one available: Sami Khedira, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba. Roberto Pereyra and Mario Lemina have not been called up.

Alvaro Morata is the frontrunner to take Mandzukic’s spot, but I wonder if the coach (and the management) could decide to give Simone Zaza some playing time to convince him to stay put. Rumour has it that Juventus do not want to sell the striker, but the offers that arrived are pretty rich. However, as we have seen in the past, the club does not want to keep disgruntled players, so if Zaza demanded to leave because he wants to play, he would be let go. A similar maneuver was used with Kingsley Coman, but it was not enough to retain him after Bayern’s strong courtship.

As for the transfer market rumours, it looks like the officials are making a strong move for Ikay Gundongan, a very good player that would add a ton of quality and could become a cornerstone, especially should Paul Pogba leave in the summer. As it happened with Alex Sandro, the executives are willing to spend for young players that could have a long career in black & white. Borussia Dortmund are playing hardball, we will see how it goes and if the management will move for other targets in the event Gundogan does not arrive. It may not: the midfield has been injury ridden but it is stacked when fully healthy; a move to add a superb player always makes sense, spending just for the sake of spending rarely does. Honestly, I would be very happy with simply securing the deals for Rolando Mandragora and Stefano Sensi, who could become helluva players in a couple of years.

Probable lineup:

3-5-2: Buffon; Rugani, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Khedira, Marchisio, Pogba, Sandro; Morata, Dybala.


Mandzukic (calf), Barzagli (calf), Pereyra (hamstring), Lemina (knee). 





Hellas Verona

Hellas Verona are at the bottom of the table and they are still winless. They have sacked their longtime coach Andrea Mandorlini to hire Luigi Delneri. The situation has not improved by much after the coaching change: they have been able to pick up a point here and there, but obviously not being able to win games have hurt them immensely.

Certainly, injuries have played a big part in the demise of what was looking like an established Serie A side last season. I think that every of their players has missed time because of various ailments at some points during the season. The most impactful absence was Luca Toni’s, who was sidelined for two months by a knee ligament tear. The heir apparent Giampaolo Pazzini has been in and out of the lineup with ankle problems and has never been able to gain some momentum and scored only a goal so far.

Considering that main strengths were defending hard and countering fast with Toni finishing up the plays, it is easy to see why things went south so quickly: their defense is 17th in the League for goals allowed and has always looked shaky; they have no speedy wing players to lead the counter-attacks; Toni has missed most of the season. It is a recipe for disaster.

Delneri is a 4-4-2 aficionado but because of injuries and suspensions, he has used so far 4-2-3-1 with Artur Ionita as a tactical weapon in the advanced midfielder position. The results have not been great. Pazzini and Juanito Gomez are both healthy enough, so there is a chance they deploy 4-4-2 with a double pivot, Toni and Pazzini, a couple that might work wonders or not work at all.

They have been hit by a number of last-minute absences, so the lineup is pretty much up in the air. Jacopo Sala is disqualified and Eros Pisano has been ruled out, this means that they have no true right backs available other than Claudio Winck that they have refused to play all season. Matteo Bianchetti will probably slide on the flank, as he did for few minutes against Milan, and Filip Helander will start in the middle, as they have recently lost Rafa Marquez, who moved to Atlas, and they are yet to replace him. They are not particularly high on Samuel Souprayen either and they are looking for a new fullback, but they have no alternatives to fielding him in this one. It is safe to say that they will not have the stingiest defense on Sunday.

Federico Viviani has been dealing with sports hernia all year and will be sidelined in the weekend and Matuzalem is out too. These absences will probably lead them to use 4-4-2, with Leandro Greco or Ionita alongside Emil Hallfredsson in the middle and Luca Siligardi or the newcomer Urby Emanuelson on the left wing. Pawel Wszolek has been constantly picked over Bosko Jankovic in the recent games. Of course they could still use 4-2-3-1, but they are very shorthanded in the midfield and would have no replacements on the bench other than a couple of youngsters. The availability of Juanito Gomez and Pazzini makes a two-man attack more likely.

Rafael has been one of their cornerstone for a longtime, but they are reportedly looking for a new goalkpeer and he could even be on his way out, so it is possible that Pierluigi Gollini will take the starting job.

UPDATE: Luca Toni has been ruled out this morning due to a calf injury. At this point, Hellas are likely to field 4-2-3-1 or Juanito Gomez as second-striker, even though he has just returned from an injury and he probably can not play the full game.

Probable lineup:

4-2-3-1: Gollini; Bianchetti, Moras, Helander, Souprayen; Greco, Hallfredsson; Wszolek, Ionita, Siligardi; Pazzini. 


Viviani (groin), Albertazzi (calf), Romulo (groin), Matuzalem, Pisano.






[socialpoll id=”2321396″]