Juventus v AS Roma

Serie A Week 21 –  Sunday, 24th January – 19:45 GMT – Juventus Stadium



Juventus’ ten-game winning streak will be put to test on Sunday night against what was once believed its main duellist for Scudetto: Roma. Juventus hold a seven-point lead over giallorossi while Napoli is two points above bianconeri. We are entering a crucial stretch of schedule: by the end of March, Juventus will host Roma, Inter and Napoli. We will definitely see some energy management in the least complicated matches.

Juventus come off a very good win in Coppa against Lazio: the results was a mere 1-0, but we had plenty of chances that were denied by outstanding saves by Etrit Berisha. More importantly biancocelesti barely posed any threat to Neto’s goal. A commanding performance, where Simone Zaza in particular shined with his movement and tenacity. Overall, everybody played pretty well.

As for the Sunday big game, there are not many doubts about the lineup. Andrea Barzagli has resumed practicing fully with the rest of the group and he is slated to start as right centre-back. If there is the smallest of hiccups in the next day or so, as I do not see the coach trusting Daniele Rugani in this situation, Martin Caceres would replace him in the lineup, even though he is in the midst of very intense transfer market rumours and he could end up leaving to join Roma itself. As we all know by this point, the Uruguayan defender has an expiring contract and an extension is unlikely, so he is set to depart anyway. The management would like to keep him and not make any move in January and we have not been linked to any centre-back besides the usual Andrea Ranocchia, but late in the window receiving actual money rather than losing him for nothing at the end of the season could be tempting.

Patrice Evra and Sami Khedira did not make the trip to Rome but it was just to rest and they will be out there on Sunday. Evra is favourite to start over Alex Sandro on the left, but I doubt we will see Juan Cuadrado on the right: after that period early in the season where either him or Paulo Dybala were used as super sub, the Colombian winger has now assumed that role on a permanent basis. It suits him because he can be disruptive, but I would like to see him start more often because he was excellent in the first part of the season. He is really the one who suffered the most with the switch back to 3-5-2: I am not sure if he is worth €22M, the rumoured redemption fee, if utilized once every three games.

Massimilano Allegri will go with the best attack available and that is composed by Dybala and Mario Mandzukic. Roberto Pereyra is almost back from his injury after an absence longer than anticipated: he might be called up. Going forward, we will see if his return could lead to some tactical chance, he is definitely an exciting change-of-pace option off the bench.

Probable lineup:

3-5-2: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichsteiner, Khedira, Marchisio, Pogba, Evra; Dybala, Mandzukic. 


Lemina (knee), Pereyra (hamstring). 






AS Roma

The issues of this year’s Roma are well-documented and they led to the firing of the (initially) beloved coach Rudi Garcia. The defence is only so-so and they have not found the right partner for Kostas Manolas; Edin Dzeko has not fit properly, he rarely scores and misses easy chances; some players, notably Daniele De Rossi, Leandro Castan (very understandably), Maicon and Gervinho have declined and two leaders like Seydou Keita and Francesco Totti have missed a large part of the season due to injuries. Most importantly they have psychologically frail: they are not able to come back if they go down in the score.

It is now up to Luciano Spalletti to solve these deep problems. The veteran coach is off to a poor start as they drew against the moribund Hellas Verona. Spalletti is a 4-2-3-1 lover and the peak version of Roma, with Rodrigo Tadderi and Amantino Mancini dancing on the wings, Francesco Totti dishing assists and scoring like crazy and Simone Perrotta impersonating the prince of dirty work and sneaky cuts was really pleasant to watch. It was prime time football, a critically acclaimed team.

The coach has made some experiments in his first match back at Olimpico to fit the squad in that tactic. Miralem Pjanic was moved in front of the defence: he is not a stranger to that position and he could thrive there and be more involved in the build-up of the play; since he is not really a slasher, he might not be the most adequate to be the advanced midfielder in this system and he certainly has the vision to distribute the ball in the right way. Radja Nainggolan was used in the “Perrotta” role: he scored, so the move had immediate results, but I do not like the long-term outlook should he be placed there constantly; when he first joined from Cagliari, Nainggolan had no offensive game other than a robust shoot: he can learn but he does not strike me as a player that can become a big time attacking option.

It is plausible that Spalletti was trying to make do with what he had at disposal and maybe once they complete the signing of a left winger, who will likely be Stephan El Shaarawy, Diego Perotti or both, Alessandro Florenzi will slide to the AM position and be awesome.

Since things were not going so well with 4-2-3-1, Spalletti switch to 3-5-2, the scheme he used in Udine, with Nainggolan still taking on offensive duties, so almost a 3-4-2-1. This should be the case on Sunday night as it would help them match better with Juventus’ formation.

There is only one doubt in terms of personnel: Daniele De Rossi was tried as centre-back, like with Italy few years ago. If it worked in practice, he could be deployed there, with Seydou Keita taking his spot in the midfield. If it did not, Vasilis Torosidis would play theere, because Castan is not ready to play and will probably be loaned to team where there is less pressure to perform at a high level. Antonio Rudiger will complete the defence: he is a trick or treat kind of player, you never know in advance whether he will have a good game or if he will give it away due to numerous blunders. He was held out of one practice because of a sore knee during the week, he should be ready to go also because they would really be out of alternatives without him.

With 3-5-2, Alessandro Florenzi and Lucas Digne would be the wing backs, with a tiny chance of Florenzi sliding to the middle (with Torosidis on the flank), if Keita, who has just returned from a calf injury, can not start. They will be without Maicon and Gervinho because of bruised knees (and transfer market rumours), Kevin Strootman who is completing his recovery after a heavy knee procedure and Salih Uçan who has a turf toe.

Probable lineup:

3-5-2: Szczesny; Manolas, De Rossi, Rudiger; Florenzi, Keita, Pjanic, Nainggolan, Digne; Salah, Dzeko.


Gervinho (knee), Maicon (knee), Strootman (knee), Uçan (toe).