Parma v Juventus
Serie A Week 1 – Saturday, 24th August – 17:00 GMT – Stadio Ennio Tardini
In an ideal scenario, the Juventus squad would have been finalized by now, or really from the beginning of August, in order to focus on the actual games and give Maurizio Sarri time to install his full system. Unfortunately, that is not the case and the fact that the future of one of the best players, Paulo Dybala, is still in jeopardy represents a major problem.
The reasons behind a potential sale are more economical than technical, and we are not privy to all the machinations that go into that, either way it should have not dragged this long. I know that at the Old Lady the executives conduct the transfer market and then the manager has to comply, but I would imagine that preparing the schemes with Dybala leading the attack is different from doing it for Mauro Icardi or Romelu Lukaku. Sorting such a key position out should have been done earlier in a summer that inherently had fewer certainties than the past ones due to the coaching change.
Things are set to be more entertaining under Sarri, whether they will be as successful remains to be seen. In my mind, Dybala as a false-nine would signify that the Bianconeri are indeed headed for technical revolution compared to what we have seen over the last few years, while bringing in a pure centre-forward would mean that, after all, there would only be some tweaks. The second path is the safest one, but hopefully the decision-makers will be ambitious.
It is by no means a slam-dunk move, as filling the box could be an issue and La Joya could struggle to find room between big defenders, but it would add a great amount of unpredictability. And then there is the Cristiano Ronaldo doubt, who could technically solve everything with his slashing and goal-poaching chops, but has always preferred to have a physical presence next to him. It is a multi-layered matter, but it could raise the ceiling of the team by a wide margin.
Thankfully, the rest of squad seems to be pretty much not only set, but also decently improved. Acquiring Matthijs De Ligt was a no-brainer and it will be interesting to figure out how long it will take him to be a regular starter, Merih Demiral had already showed to be a stud even in his limited time in Serie A, Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey add the playmaking, and hopefully scoring, we were lacking in the midfield. I think everybody would have preferred keeping Joao Cancelo and the pizazz he brought to the table, but unfortunately some sacrifices are necessary and he was not as impactful in the second half of the season and his defensive phase was still a big flaw.
One of the surprises of the pre-season has been the rise of Sami Khedira, who went from leaving for sure to presumptive starter, at least until Ramsey is completely fit after a troublesome summer. The German world champion’s health and motor will still be question marks, but his technique and presence in the box could come in handy, especially with Dybala up front.
On the transfer market front, Fabio Paratici will have to avoid the disaster of having to exclude some big-time players from the lists. Mario Mandzukic and Blaise Matuidi might not fit the bill in the new course, but their past, and the contribution of the Croatian striker over years, should not be forgotten and the solution must appease everybody. One midfielder has to go and it would preferably not be Emre Can, who has a lot of untapped potential and could play a major role in keeping the balance on the pitch with his unique physicality, but if they need to cash in on him in order to keep Dybala, so be it.
Other than Ramsey, who is available but not at 100 percent, the squad will begin the season in good shape health-wise, as only Mattia Perin and Marko Pjaca, who are no longer part of the project, are on the shelf.
It looks like the usual duels for now will be between Danilo and Mattia De Sciglio at right back and Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa as last member of the trident and whoever starts on the bench will be a weapon during the game.
4-3-3: Szczesny; Danilo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic, Rabiot; Costa, Dybala, Ronaldo.
Perin (shoulder), Pjaca (knee).
Parma had a decent summer after a weird season, where they got off to a blistering start but then plummeted uncontrollably in the second half and avoided relegation only in the final matches. They will be looking for more continuity and their squad is much deeper now, even though it is one or two pieces away from being complete. Bringing back Inglese was a massive achievement as having a reliable striker can go a long way in those districts of the table.
They struggled mightily last season when Gervinho and Inglese were absent due to injuries and the latter in particular has missed a lot of time, which was a major reason for their demise. Andreas Cornelius is not a great striker but he is a decent reserve, while Yann Karamoh is a bit of a gamble but he can both back up the Ivorian winger or play opposite to him, giving them a very pacey lineup which suits their style that is heavily reliant on the counter-attacking game.
The midfield is the most improved area as Gaston Brugman has been brilliant for a few years in Serie B and should be a significant improvement over Matteo Scozzarella as deep-lying playmaker. Hernani from Zenit is an intriguing piece even though he has yet to fully blossom in Europe, while Dejan Kulusevski, coming from Atalanta’s youth system, has been touted throughout the summer and can play in few positions. Alberto Grassi is back from a major injury, so they will have plenty to choose from here, considering that they retained last year’s best contributor Juraj Kucka.
The back-line lost Alessandro Bastoni and Federico Dimarco, who were on loan from Inter, while Massimo Gobbi retired, and they brought in only Vincent Laurini so far. Riccardo Gagliolo can feature both in the centre and on the flank, but it is clear that they are one left back and one centre-back short, but a solution should arrive shortly. Their whole infrastructure relies on sturdy defense so these are key choices.
Juventus had to eke out wins in the last few trips to Parma and the Ducali, due to their game plan, are certainly equipped to bother better teams, especially those that are not on point yet after the summer changes. Despite the various newcomers, the design is the same, and so they will not need much time to execute it well.
Kucka is their only player in danger of missing the game because of a sore calf, but they have the horses to replace him if need be. Deploying Kulusevski in the front-line over Karamoh could be a move to make them a little more conservative, while they do not have the manpower to pull off a proper 3-5-2 as of now, a scheme they might roll out in tough match-ups later on.
4-3-3: Sepe; Laurini, Iacoponi, Alves, Gagliolo; Hernani, Brugman, Barillà; Kulusevski, Inglese, Gervinho.
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