Palermo v Juventus

Serie A Week 14 –  Sunday, 29th November- 19:45 GMT – Stadio Renzo Barbera



Four wins in a row are definitely a great confidence boost. What is most important is that the level of play is improving, even though it has not reached last year’s peak levels: the last two game were gut checks and Juventus passed both tests. As they say, winning helps winning and we should rejoices for advancing to the next Champions League stage, with a good chance to grab the first place too, and for getting back on track in Serie A too.

In the Manchester City clash, Massimiliano Allegri brought back an old friend: 3-5-2, which was used also in the second half of the Milan match. This underlines two facts: he believes that the team is more confident with that tactic, therefore it should be used in the tougher matches, which is true to some extent, even though we do not have many players left from the Conte era. Furthermore, he does not think that the squad can pull off 4-3-whatever without Hernanes or Roberto Pereyra in the hole, which is frustrating because I think he should find a way to integrate both Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado in the attack at the same time, maybe using both behind a striker.

Injuries continue to plague the roster: Hernanes, who got hurt in the last Serie A and will miss three weeks, and Kwadwo Asamoah, who is dealing with some knee soreness, and Roberto Pereyra are definitely out. The status of Sami Khedira is unclear: he did not suffer a new hamstring injury, but an old scar flared up and he will probably be preserved for one more week. This leaves the coach with only two choices in the midfield, alongside the centrepieces Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba: Stefano Sturaro and Mario Lemina. Sturaro is clearly ahead of the Frenchman in the pecking order, but Allegri has often spoken about the difficulties of playing three games in a week for the youngster who are not used to do it. Therefore, Lemina has a solid chance to start.

The same argument is valid for Dybala too, but it would be very unfortunate to spoil his grand comeback party in Palermo by benching him. Mario Mandzukic has left the midweek game with a muscular ailment but he should be good to go, however, Alvaro Morata is favoured to start after being benched for two games in a row, inevitably sparking silly buy-back clause rumours. With the BBC poised to start in the back, the real doubt is on the flanks: the coach will probably look to field a balanced lineup, with only one of the two offensive-minded fullbacks, therefore it will be probably either the Juan Cuadrado-Patrice Evra duo or Stephen Lichsteiner and Alex Sandro. Since the Colombian international has barely featured in the last two games, the first combination is most likely.

The real alternative to 3-5-2 is 4-3-3 with Morata and Cuadrado wide and either Mandzukic or Simone Zaza as it remains to be confirmed whether Allegri sees Dybala as a viable option as lone centre-forward.

UPDATE: Khedira has not been called up, while Mario Lemina is the latest addition to the injury list with a sore knee, therefore Sturaro will start. It looks like Mandzukic, after the high praise from Allegri in the pre-game presser, is the favourite to start.

Probable lineup:

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


Khedira (hamstring), Pereyra (hamstring), Asamoah (knee), Hernanes (hamstring), Caceres (hamstring), Lemina (hamstring).






Palermo have been lethargic this season but they do come off two positive results in a row. First, a lucky win against Chievo Verona at home that was not enough to save Giuseppe Iachini’s job, who received the boot after that Maurizio Zamparini had been voicing his disappointment for the team’s performances for weeks. Then an impressive showing at Olimpico against Lazio that earned them the first point with Davide Ballardini at the helm.

Ballardini had already coached Palermo in 2008, taking the reins after two games and leading his side to an almost historic eight place. His first version of Rosanero was well-known for up-tempo football and for being very stout at home. Their score at Barbera so far is two wins, two ties and three losses.

Ballardini is a fan of the diamond lineup, which he deployed in every stint. However, they do not really have two pure strikers: since Uros Djurdjevic broke his ankle few weeks ago, Alberto Gilardino and his bag of old man tricks is the only centre-forward available. They do have a bunch of second-strikers/no.10s, some of them are newcomers, and the coach is trying to figuring out who, among Robin Quaison, Gaston Brugman, Aleksandar Trajkovski and Matheus Cassini is more suitable for his idea of football. Luckily for them, they only need one to pan out because they have arguably the best no.10 in Italy in Franco Vazquez. Brugman started last week, Trajkovski was subbed in and played pretty well. Brugman is more of an advanced midfield, which allows them to advance Vazquez in the forwards’ duo, as he did last season when Dybala was there.

The first thing Ballardini changed was the defence, opting for the four-man formation and inserting Edoardo Goldaninga, who was briefly co-owned by Juventus before being included in the Dybala package, in the starting lineup, alongside the cornerstones Pipo Gonzalez and Achraf Lazaar. Aljaz Struna was fielded as right-back, even though Andrea Rispoli should see some playing time in matches where they are not expected to be primarily focused on the defensive phase like in the upcoming and in the last one. Compared to the XI used against Lazio, the only sure change is the return of Luca Rigoni replacing Ivaylo Chochev, who played well last season but has disappeared in this one, overshadowed by the Swedish starlet Oscar Hiljemark.

Palermo have always been a tough opponent at home in the last few years, but they have not fared particularly well this season. The coaching chance is always an injection of new energy and motivation as the players, especially the ones who had been overlooked, are trying to impress the new boss. However, Ballardini has not been in charge for much and probably it will take some time for him to forge something close to the excellent Palermo which accomplished a lot in 2008.

Probable lineup:

4-3-1-2: Sorrentino; Struna, Goldaniga, Gonzalez, Lazaar; Hiljemark, Jajalo, Rigoni; Brugman; Vazquez, Gilardino.


Djurdjevic (ankle), Vitiello (hamstring).






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