Parma v Juventus
Serie A Week 3 – Saturday, 1st September – 19:30 GMT – Stadio Ennio Tardini
Massimiliano Allegri corrected the course after the way too testing game against Chievo, where the defensive instability must have kept him awake at night, and understandably opted for a much stouter 4-3-3 when facing an elite offensive team like Lazio. It may have not been a particularly exciting performance, but it worked out because the opponents had only a pair of decent chances, but none too dangerous.
Juventus’ goals were a little random, particularly the great one from Miralem Pjanic when we finally managed to get past the Biancocelesti’s first line of pressure and put together a quick strike with a sweet combination on the right flank, which eventually led to that amazing half volley. The same chain, but with Douglas Costa this time, built the second score, where Cristiano Ronaldo did his best to avoid punching it in and Mario Mandzukic cleaned up the mess.
Ronaldo started on the left this time and my guess is that we will see that only with a three-man midfield supporting it, because he is not too concerned with the defensive phase, as rightly so, and we need Blaise Matuidi to balance things out.
Juventus had an uneven offensive output despite scoring twice, there were some raids here and there but not a constant stream of attacks, so it was hard to assess how his adaptation process is progressing.
It is certainly his best position for a number of reasons, first and foremost because he does not have too many defenders draped all over him and cutting back and uncorking a cannon shot is his single best skills. However, you likely need to sacrifice Paulo Dybala to have that and it is not easy because he is our best option to knit together the midfield and the attack. The 4-4-2 we saw in Verona is juicy, but you have to be willing to accept its defensive limitations. After all, Allegri gets paid the big bucks to make this kind of tough decision.
While Giorgio Chiellini had a vintage performance guarding Ciro Immobile, Joao Cancelo stood out for his offensive production. He has wonderful technique for a fullback and he is not a one-trick pony down the flank, he is pretty creative and he has some quality partners in front of him to combine with.
That wing can be a massive source of offence, especially when Alex Sandro has an off game and Ronaldo, who is more focused on finalizing rather than creating, is on other one.
Cancelo needs to clean up something in the back, but you can accept it when he provides that kind of contribution powering forward. Things will naturally improve once he will have perfected the movements with the centre-back and the right-side midfielders.
Allegri announced Ronaldo and Mandzukic as starters, Emre Can duelling with Sami Khedira in the midfield and Juan Cuadrado doing the same with Cancelo at right back. However, the choice between 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 has not been made yet. Miralem Pjanic is fine after an injury scare last week, Mattia De Sciglio is finally good to go. Federico Bernardeschi could be the choice on the right wing because his work rate could help sustain a more offensive XI, but thing would obviously change with Blaise Matuidi in for Paulo Dybala.
UPDATE: The latest reports say it will be last week’s line-up, perhaps with Cuadrado for Cancelo and Can for Khedira.
4-2-3-1: Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro; Can, Pjanic; Bernardeschi, Dybala, Mandzukic; Ronaldo.
Parma have to be commended for what they have done after they almost comically went bankrupt a few years ago. They redeemed themselves by conquering a record-breaking four promotions in as many seasons, no joke, even if you are backed by big groups and have a rich budget. The work they did in Serie B was particularly impressive, since they had a solid roster but not the strongest in my opinion, however they were gritty and outworked better opponents.
Their reinforcement campaign proceeded pretty slowly, but they ended up putting together a satisfying squad right at the buzzer. Roberto Inglese and Alberto Grassi were great additions as they are still young-ish and have already succeeded in this position, Bruno Alves and Luca Rigoni bring bags of experience and Leo Stulac and Federico Dimarco are very intriguing prospects, especially the former Venezia man, who they signed outright and could blossom quickly.
Then it would be a plus if they could get anything out of Gervinho and Jonathan Biabiany, who are way past their primes, but might still contribute to a team that will inevitably rely a lot on counter-attacks.
That being sad, they have to wait for a while before they have the full team ready to go because few key players are on the shelf. Gervinho is the only one who might recover since he is dealing with muscle fatigue, Amato Ciciretti, who buried a fantastic free kick at the Stadium with Benevento, is nursing a pulled hamstring, Alessandro Bastoni is recovering from a meniscus tear, Biabiany just suffered a hamstring strain, Jacopo Dezi has a back problem, Emanuele Calaiò is suspended until 2019 for match-fixing related allegations and the veterans Mattia Scozzarella and Gianni Munari are out with long-term injuries.
They are deep, but half of their roster is banged up. For the time being, they will have to go with some of their contributors from last season like Antonino Di Gaudio, Alessio Da Cruz and Antonino Barillà, who are decent players, but not at the same level of the sidelined ones.
It is almost completely a new starting XI, so it is too early to tell how competitive it will be, but I think they will be in good shape if they manage to survive the first few weeks. They wasted away a two-nil lead against Udinese, which is hurtful, where they showed they can do damage with sudden sorties, but are not yet equipped to manage the game properly. Then they had troubles cracking a more experienced and organized team like SPAL.
The biggest threat comes from Inglese’s foxiness in the box, where he can strike both on the ground and in the air, and from the energy of their wingers. Their box-to-box midfielders are capable cutters as well, then Stulac is a fantastic long-range shooter, also on set pieces. Their defence lacks mobility.
The biggest doubts concerning their XI are the duels on the defensive flanks, where they can go either with an experienced pair, Marcello Gazzola and Massimo Gobbi, or a younger one, Simone Iacoponi and Dimarco, in the midfield between Rigoni and Barillà and the conditions of Gervinho. If he could not go, one between Alessio Da Cruz and Yves Baraye would start in the trident, since all the other wingers are hurt. Considering the shortage of attackers, they might switch to 3-5-2 or maybe use Grassi up front.
4-3-3: Sepe; Iacoponi, Alves, Gagliolo, Gobbi; Grassi, Stulac, Barillà; Da Cruz, Inglese, Di Gaudio.
Biabiany (hamstring), Ciciretti (hamstring), Dezi (back), Bastoni (knee), Scozzarella (knee), Munari (knee).
Juventus Performance Statistics