Juventus v Roma
Coppa Italia – Wednesday, 22nd January – 19:45 GMT – Juventus Stadium
The final portion of the Parma game was unnecessarily tense as the squad missed their window, squandering few chances, to ice it earlier. The rhythm was a little too slow for the whole 90 minutes, but also some of the credit goes to the opposition, who are one of the best in Italy in gumming opposition offences. In the end, only the result will matter and it was a must-win situation, even more than usual, because Inter had slipped up earlier. The little cushion helps, but just a tiny bit, and hopefully there will be better performances in the next few games.
The focus switches back to Coppa Italia and the warm-ups are over since the next game will be against one of the main contenders: Roma. Facing the same opponent twice and not in a two-legged contest like the Champions League ones is surely a rare challenge and the recent bout at Olimpico, despite the hellish start, surely did not scare La Lupa away from believing they can come out on top in this match-up, even if they are on the road now.
The lineup choices will be pretty telling with another crunch fixture coming up in the weekend in Naples. The coach has preferred to have continuity in meaningful games, but the risk of overloading somebody is always around the corner. Adrien Rabiot and Matthijs De Ligt have looked very well with consistent playing time, Aaron Ramsey is trending positively too, but he is one that needs to be managed carefully. The presence (or not) of Leonardo Bonucci, Miralem Pjanic and Cristiano Ronaldo, who rested against Udinese, will tip whether the domestic cup is held in a similar regard as Serie A when facing a top club.
This does not feel like a bout where the star-studded trident should be deployed for tactical reasons, but Maurizio Sarri has surprised us before and might do it anyway to set the tone. If one member of the trio is kept on the bench, it would likely be Douglas Costa or Federico Bernardeschi getting the nod. The latter is also an option in the midfield, but probably only if Pjanic is not there, with Rodrigo Bentancur, who is expected to relieve one of the Frenchmen anyway, filling it at pivot if that was the case.
Alex Sandro and Mattia De Sciglio are both day-to-day and so Danilo is the frontrunner to play on the left, but it would not be surprising to see Juan Cuadrado spared if one of the two recovered. One of the few certainties at the moment is that Gianluigi Buffon will be on goal.
As for the Giallorossi, Paulo Fonseca will not be able to field Edin Dzeko due to a two-game suspension he picked up last year. The alternative is Nikola Kalinic, who is a different kind of striker and has not been particularly good in a back-up role. He is a more typical striker as he tries to sprint past the offside trap, and he is not as good as the big Bosnian in interplaying and feeding the others. However, they have recovered Bryan Cristante and Justin Kluivert and Cengiz Under will replace Nicolò Zaniolo, so it will be a pacier side compared to the last encounter and it will be key to avoid letting them gain steam offensively or leave too much room. Cristante might take Jordan Veretout’s spot in the midfield. Federico Fazio is iffy while Aleksandar Kolarov and Alessandro Florenzi were suspended for the last Serie A game, so their back-line is likely to be the standard one. They do tend to have a gaffe or two in any tilt, so the Bianconeri will have to be able to pounce on those as they did masterfully in Rome.
Juventus Probable lineup
4-3-3: Buffon; Cuadrado, De Ligt, Bonucci, Danilo; Bentancur Pjanic, Matuidi; Dybala, Ronaldo, Costa.
Chiellini (knee), Khedira (knee), Merih Demiral (knee)
4-2-3-1: Lopez; Florenzi, Mancini, Smalling, Kolarov; Diawara. Cristante; Under, Pellegrini, Kluivert; Dzeko.
Mkhitaryan (hamstring), Zaniolo (knee), Pastore (hip), Zappacosta (knee).