AS Roma v Juventus
Serie A Week 2 – Sunday, 30th August – 17:00 GMT – Stadio Olimpico
After last week’s stinker, Juventus will have a chance to bounce back big time on Sunday afternoon against Roma, which once again is the most credible threat in the Scudetto race. Against Udinese, Juventus have looked fairly good for about seventy minutes, mostly dominant but never asphyxiating, unable to create clear-cut chances at will. Then things went south after the unexpected Cyril Thereau goal and the reaction was disjointed, also because of some questionable subs.
Although it was the first time that Juventus lost the opening match at home in their history, the aftermath has not been too much gloomy, overshadowed by the storylines of the ongoing transfer market window. It is clear that the team has growing pains and needs to find new reference points and maybe tweak its playing style a little bit: it will not happen overnight and maybe not even in a month. Moreover, the absences of Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira in a moment when you need experience and leadership should not be underestimated.
A couple of good news during the week for Juventus. Alvaro Morata has resumed training and is ready to make an appearance: it certainly helps to have back a player that is fully familiar with the system and one more quality option. One thing has to be said: players dropped like flies during the pre-season due to muscular injuries, but their recoveries have been quick and, hopefully, complete. Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini have not struggled at all and looked at top condition right after healing up.
Juan Cuadrado has joined the team on a season-long loan from Chelsea: there is no option to buy but I think that it will not be a problem to negotiate a fee if we want to make the move permanent. It will be interesting to see how Massimiliano Allegri will use him: the roster certainly lacked a pure right winger, but we rarely use 4-3-3 and we never move away from a three-man midfield, which drastically reduces the options. At Fiorentina, he was used also as second-striker, left winger, right wing back and right back.
It looks like 3-5-2 will be choice this weekend too as there are still few midfielders available. However, the “Simone Padoin as deep-lying playmaker” experience will continue, hopefully Paul Pogba will be able to add creativity and move the move effectively. Stefano Sturaro and Roberto Pereyra will battle for the final spot in the midfield, with the Italian youngster as the favorite because a more defensive approach is more logical in this one. Patrice Evra is slated to start, Alex Sandro will debut after the break. In the attack, Allegri has announced that Dybala will start: Mario Mandzukic will likely play alongside him, with the returning Morata initially on the bench. Kingsley Coman is off to Bayern Munich: a surprising move after he was deemed part of the new nucleus, but I can not blame the management for accepting such a big fee. Mauricio Isla will not be called up as he is up for sale.
In the last ten games played at the Olimpico, Juventus have a record of six wins, three draws and one loss. In the last two year, when Roma have emerged as a serious contender, Juventus have tallied three wins and a draw against the archrivals.
3-5-2: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Sturaro, Padoin, Pogba, Evra; Dybala, Mandzukic.
Khedira (thigh), Marchisio (thigh), Asamoah (knee)
Roma did not have a good start of their Serie A campaign either, but managed to salvage at point in Verona. During the summer, Walter Sabatini has revamped the defense with the acquisitions of Lucas Digne, Antonio Rudiger and Norbert Gyomber and overhauled the attack, which was really their Achilles heel last season, thanks to the arrivals of Edin Dzeko, Mohamed Salah and Iago Falque.
Against Hellas Verona, they have looked good for long phases of the game, posing a constant menace, however they struggled to feed the strikers properly. Despite the many technical players on the pitch, nobody stepped up and took control of the pace of game. At times, they seemed unglued, with every player trying to win the match on his own. The addition of Dzeko is excellent and the team will learn how to use such a talented player as reference point on the long run. However, if your centre-forward spends more time trying to pass the ball around to get things going because nobody else is doing that rather than establishing position in the box, you have a problem.
Rudi Garcia, who was heavily criticized after a draw that looked a lot like the many ties that shattered their title hope last season, is preparing two option to solve the creativity problem. One is a familiar face: the 38-year-old Francesco Totti used in the hole in a diamond formation, ready to dish assists to Dzeko and his offensive partner. The other one is advancing Miralem Pjanic and use 4-2-3-1, as the Bosnian midfielder simply looks better when he does not have to defend that much. However, at this stage, their usual 4-3-3 and no Totti is the most likely scheme.
Some changes compared to the lineup in the Hellas Verona game could come in the defense. Maicon has recovered from a thigh injury and could replace Alessandro Florenzi at right back. If that happen, Florenzi could be used upfront. Leandro Castan has looked understandably tentative against Hellas Verona and may sit, but the replacements are scarce: Rudiger is out with a knee injury and Norbert Gyomber is raw. Inserting Daniele De Rossi in the defense and Seydou Keita, who anyway is more functional to their game than “Captain Future”, could be the best option, therefore the Brazilian defender is still the frontrunner to start, despite the doubts. Vasilis Torosidis should retain his spot at LB even if he is banged up, as Lucas Digne need a little more time to adapt. Because of the possible tactical variations, the attack is up in the air: Dzeko is the only lock, while Florenzi, Salah, Gervinho, Falque and Victor Ibarbo all have a chance to start. On the other hand, Juan Iturbe and Adam Ljajic look on their way out, so they will probably be spared.
4-3-3: Szczesny; Maicon, Manolas, Castan, Torosidis; Nainggolan, De Rossi, Pjanic; Florenzi, Dzeko, Salah.
Strootman (knee), Rudiger (knee)