Juventus v Hellas Verona
Serie A Week 38 – Saturday, 19th May – 14:00 GMT – Juventus Stadium
Juventus got the job done last week in Rome, earning the point that mathematically secured the seventh Scudetto in a row. The game could not have been played at lower rhythms and was pretty much closed after Radja Nainggolan, one of the few who was giving a damn, got foolishly red carded. The squad, which was welcomed very warmly on their way back and already celebrated a lot, is now ready for the parade.
As expected, Gianluigi Buffon has announced that this will be his final appearance in Bianconero, but he has left the door open to play elsewhere. It would hurt to see him with another jersey, but he has obviously earned the rights to do what he prefers and he can still play at the highest levels, as he has shown recently. After all, the club is dictating his exit, as it has happened to other legends before.
In any case, when he does hang it up, he is set to become a pretty formidable coach or executive with that kind of charisma and intelligence, we will whether the Old Lady will be able to bring him back in that fashion or if he will spread his wings and join FIGC, UEFA or FIFA. He will be sorely missed, not only on the pitch but also for his presence of the locker room and the random reports about him reprimanding or supporting some players behind closed doors were some of the most interesting parts of the last few years to me. Giorgio Chiellini has been announced as the new captain: a neat choice.
With things already sealed, we can start to look ahead to next season and Massimiliano Allegri will very likely still be at the helm. Giuseppe Marotta has already confirmed that Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi will stay at Juventus: there were not any doubt about the former Fiorentina winger, who has shown some good flashes but has whose season has been ruined by a knee injury, but ruling out selling La Joya so early is pretty great. In my opinion, he, Miralem Pjanic and Douglas Costa are the most vital players we need to hold onto to continue to build for an even better future. The Brazilian will obviously stay, while some wealthy vultures are hovering above the Bosnian playmaker, but hopefully we can resist to the offers.
As for Saturday’s game, the coach has pretty much announced the line-up: Juan Cuadrado, Federico Bernardeschi, Sami Khedira, Giorgio Chiellini and Benedikt Howedes will not play due to injuries, Blaise Matuidi is likely to rest. Two between Miralem Pjanic, Stefano Sturaro and Rodrigo Bentancur will flank Claudio Marchisio in the midfield and the fact that he has been announced as a starter could be an indication about his future. Stephan Lichtsteiner, who is not going to Borussia Dortmund anymore, will play in the back-line alongside Daniele Rugani, Alex Sandro and Medhi Benatia, but Andrea Barzagli is still in the mix. Mario Mandzukic should be the odd man out on offence. Among the players ruled out by the coach, only Bernardeschi is actually out of the squad list.
Leonardo Spinazzola underwent surgery for a torn ACL and a torn meniscus, which means that he is out at least until late October and who knows when he will re-find the best shape. It is weird that it took Atalanta that long to find out that he was so seriously hurt because he has been on the shelf for over a month because of a knee sprain and it does not look like he re-injured himself. We know that the top brass was banking on his return to replace Kwadwo Asamoah as back-up left back, perhaps this will force them to reconsider the strategy or perhaps lock down Alex Sandro.
4-3-2-1: Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Benatia, Rugani, Alex Sandro; Sturaro, Bentancur, Marchisio; Dybala, Douglas Costa; Higuain.
Verona have had a very disappointing season, but also never looked fully prepared to go through the hardships of the top league. They had a lot of players on loan and others who lacked dedication to the cause. Fabio Pecchia is simply not a good coach and they should have thought about changing him after the promotion because last season, while still successful, was underwhelming. The fact that they have stuck with him so long is surprising, but probably they do not have a substantial budget to lure other managers.
There is not much to save from their year: Romulo has been of the few solid contributors and he is probably going to stay in Serie A also thanks to his versatility. Mo Fares has taken a big step forward in his development, he is a talented left back who is pretty good in the offensive phase and they will cash in this summer. The fact that some youngsters coming for their system like Simone Calvano, Andrea Danzi and Enrico Bearzotti have gotten some minutes has to be considered a positive.
The rest has pretty much been a disaster: the defence has been a colander and just not Serie A-level, while they have tried to many different combinations in the midfield and in the attack, but none too convincing. The fact that they got rid of Giampaolo Pazzini in January, and without giving him much run in the first half of the season, was ludicrous. Alessio Cerci has looked washed, Bruno Petkovic, Ryder Matos, Alessio Verde and Rolando Aarons are simply not ready to carry the burden of fighting against relegation without veteran guidance. Juventus’ loanee Moise Kean has looked decent, but he went down with a severe hamstring injury.
They will be without him, Calvano, Mattia Valoti, Matteo Bianchetti, Marco Zaccagni, Marcel Buchek, Jugos Vukovic and Thomas Hertaux, due to physical problems. They usually deploy a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2, depending on who is chosen upfront. They prefer to utilize a false-nine, usually Cerci, while Fares can also move up to play upfront. Lee is said to be a little banged up, otherwise he could be an option. Rolando Aarons could get a late start, while Danzi, Marco Fossati and Franco Zuculini are fighting for two spots in the midfield.
4-3-3: Nicolas; Bearzotti, Ferrari, Caracciolo, Souprayen; Romulo, Zuculini, Fossati; Verde, Cerci, Fares.
Bianchetti (hip), Zaccagni (knee), Valoti (hamstring), Calvano (knee), Buchel (knee), Kean (hamstring), Vukovic, Heurtaux.