Roma v Juventus
Serie A Week 35 – Friday, 3rd May – 19:30 GMT – Juventus Stadium
It took an endless list of injuries and quasi-pointless game, but in the Derby della Mole Juventus fielded one of the more offensive XI available and the returns were fine: the performance was pretty convincing and could have easily led to a W, if it was not for a horrible blunder in the early going and glaring imprecision when crossing. Unsurprisingly, the equalizer arrived on one of the few accurate deliveries. Cristiano Ronaldo added one more goal to his tally, but Fabio Quagliarella is keeping pedal to the metal and a comeback seems improbable.
Having four creative outlets on the flanks worked well and the problem of it getting stale could be easily solved with a more inventive second-striker and Miralem Pjanic getting more touches, but last Friday he disappeared after the early mistake.
It could also be way more explosive with Douglas Costa over Juan Cuadrado, just to stay with in-house players. However, the lineups at this point are likely more a just product of who is available rather than concerted efforts to look for new viable solutions ahead of next season.
Clearly, every tactical musing becomes moot if the management opts to move on from Massimiliano Allegri, like it has been heavily rumoured in the last four days. I am not exactly sure what went down between the Ajax game and now for such a big change of heart, but there would be fair reasons to do it.
Unfortunately, but also logically, the brass has activated the ultimate win-now mode with the addition of Cristiano Ronaldo, which does not give them much room to maneuver when it comes to hires: they have to go with a top manager, because a second-tier guy would be seen as a stepdown, even though there would be some up-and-coming coaches that, in different circumstances, would be deserving.
This reduces the list to a handful of names, all pretty difficult to get, so we will see how Andrea Angelli and company will find a way out of this situation. Keeping Allegri only due to lack of alternatives would be ludicrous.
Returning to more mundane and current topics, we will certainly not see the men trotting out in the Roma clash at the Olimpico stadium, because Federico Bernardeschi is suspended, but there will be some returns from the injury list as Paulo Dybala, Emre Can, Alex Sandro and Rodrigo Bentancur have shaken off their physical problems. Moise Kean is sick, so La Joya could get the nod right away as the options up front remain limited. Can and Bentancur being available could signify a move back to a 4-4-2 with Blaise Matuidi wide, which has been utilized recently, otherwise one of the fullback could have its position to have something close to two wingers. Leonardo Bonucci is out with an ankle bruise.
4-4-2: Szczesny; Cancelo, Barzagli, Chiellini, Sandro; Cuadrado, Can, Pjanic, Matuidi; Dybala, Ronaldo.
Khedira (knee), Perin (shoulder), Mandzukic (knee), Costa (calf), Rugani (thigh), Kean (flu), Bonucci (ankle).
Roma are quite different since the last time Juventus saw them, a one-zero win at the Stadium with a typical Mario Mandzukic goal, as they have dismissed both the coach Eusebio Di Francesco and the sporting director Monchi after the Champions League elimination against Porto and a drubbing in the Derby.
The coach was not necessarily at fault for everything and seemed on track to turn things around and get them to one of the top-four places, where they surely belong for the quality of their roster, before the two haymakers. As it always happen though, he is the first one to get the short end of the stick when things go awry and in this case he was joined by the ballyhooed executive. A sense of malaise had indeed set in to be fair.
They brought back Claudio Ranieri as a caretaker manager: they were not successful in four of the first five games with him at the helm, but then he remained undefeated for six rounds in a row, and counting, prevailing in half of them. They are tied with Milan three points behind Atalanta. The turnaround has not necessarily been abrupt and steady, but they are in contention to get where they want to be, even though the Bergamaschi are hotter than everybody else. It will be a compelling race down the stretch and the Bianconeri will play a part in it.
The tactic has not changed as 4-2-3-1 was often the pick also under Di Francesco, but some players, starting with their offensive linchpins Edin Dzeko and Stephan El Shaarawy, have produced more constantly.
Nicolò Zaniolo has taken a slight hit after the coaching chance as he has fielded as right winger and did not retain his prominent role. He is way better centrally, either as box-to-box or as trequartista, but in this way they can accommodate also Lorenzo Pellegrini, another premiere talent. They would unlock their full potential with the two Italians as box-to-box midfielders flanking a pivot, Daniele De Rossi or Steven N’Zonzi, and either Justin Kluivert or Cengiz Under on the flank, but Ranieri seems to prefer having two physical players in that area. Therefore, Bryan Cristante gets a lot of minutes and the younger and more malleable footballer ends up biting the bullet, even though he is the brightest prospect.
They also continue to be one of top teams in goals from defenders, either with Aleksandar Kolarov’s incursions, long-range efforts and set pieces or on headers, primarily with Federico Fazio, who has already scored five, while the Serbian fullback eight. They are menacing in the air.
While last year they were one of the best defensive clubs in the League, both statistically and eye test-wise, this year they have been subpar, despite the back-line being untouched in the summer window. The drop-off between Alisson and Robin Olsen turned out to be ginormous and the Swedish goalie has even been demoted, but that still would not explain conceding 20 more goals. There are some systemic issues that they have been unable to fix for a while, even though things got a little better in the last month.
We will see what will happen in the remaining fixtures and if they will be able to salvage their season, otherwise they would have to look at the inconsistencies at both ends, a litany of injuries and a frail mentality that led to some baffling performances as the reasons for their downfall.
Daniele De Rossi and Davide Santon are back from injuries and the captain is pushing Steven N’Zonzi for the starting job and will get it if healthy enough. Other possible lineup changes include Kluivert or Alessandro Florenzi over Zaniolo on the right wing, and the latter used there would give them a more defensive posture, and Javier Pastore as no.10 and he looked good in his last appearances, but the chances are slimmer in this case.
4-2-3-1: Mirante; Florenzi, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov; De Rossi, Cristante; Zaniolo, Pellegrini, El Shaarawy; Dzeko.