The approach versus Lazio was as good as the one in the Monza game was poor. Apparently, the team isn’t at the point where it can have two strong showings in a row with a short turnaround yet. It’s the right move to prioritize the cups, but last weekend’s lackluster showing wasn’t just a product of the rotation. The squad often seems unprepared when opponents, especially at the Stadium, don’t bow down and let them have the ball but actually put up a fight. Instead, the Biancocelesti were content playing on the counter, and the Old Lady was much more comfortable in that fixture.
Winning is always the best medicine, and hopefully, the first victory after the point deduction is a step toward overcoming the aftershock and normalcy in general. It’s clearly an unprecedented and tense situation for its uncertainty. It’s unknown when the second shoe will drop, whether it will affect players via suspensions, or if the lawyers will be to limit the damage and perhaps get the recent sanction thrown over technicalities. The longer the process takes, the higher the risk of massive punishments. It’s easier to hand those out during the break between seasons. It’s in the club’s best interest to battle it out as the ball is still rolling, even though it’s a menacing cloud looming over everything.
It shouldn’t, but it’s inevitable for the mess to affect the performances and the players’ mentality because it’s easier to slip up when you aren’t competing for the most prestigious objectives. On the other hand, the coach should make it clear that results are as meaningful as if the team was battling for the Scudetto. There might not be enough time to remedy later in the campaign when the picture is clearer. To his credit, he’s trying in every presser, and we’ll see whether his message will come across. Dropping points in feasible games could be an unforgettable sin when it’s all said and done.
Juventus can’t catch a break with injuries this season, as Arkadiusz Milik will miss weeks due to a thigh strain. The timing could have been worse, as Dusan Vlahovic is available now, but it removes the option of fielding the best frontline just when it was back on the table. Hopefully, the Serb will soon be able to handle consecutive matches, and the high usage won’t put him back on the shelf. His problem was very tricky, and he might not be completely healthy until he has surgery.
He gets a pass for his early so-so showing, given the time he missed, but the problems of feeding him properly and him getting frustrated, stubborn, or overzealous are just around the corner. The hope is that the connection with Filip Kostic, the fact that both Angel Di Maria and Federico Chiesa are both fit, and the midfield being more inventive than in previous months will help him. The trident should start getting some run since a two-man heavyweight attack isn’t a great asset without the Pole. The gaffer reportedly tested 3-4-3 this week, but he might simply change the two men up front compared to Thursday to keep everybody fresh, especially after professing his love for Moise Kean in the pre-game presser for some reason.
Juventus XI: 3-5-1-1 Szczesny; Danilo, Bremer, Alex Sandro; De Sciglio, Miretti, Locatelli, Rabiot, Kostic; Di Maria; Vlahovic.
Absences: Bonucci (flu), Pogba (thigh soreness), Paredes (thigh soreness), Kaio Jorge (patellar tendon tear).
Salernitana had to resort to extreme measures to find a jolt, but they finally got what they were searched for versus Lecce, as they returned to winning ways after seven matches. The management actually fired Davide Nicola after the embarrassing 2-8 loss to Atalanta, and there were sound reasons behind it. However, they walked back their decision afterward, likely because they didn’t find a gaffer of higher caliber.
They looked more like themselves in the first game after the whole ordeal, keeping things reasonably close versus Napoli, and then they had a solid all-around showing against the Salentini. Given their cushion, they are relatively safe since the bottom three teams are proceeding at a snail-like pace, but they are apparently more ambitious than settling with avoiding relegation. That’s legitimate since they are one of the few Serie A teams that spend money on the transfer market, but it’ll take multiple campaigns to establish themselves in a higher tier.
The main challenge to achieve that will be to hold onto players that could easily star for bigger sides, starting with Boulaye Dia, who has been tremendous since they snatched him from Villarreal, and Pasquale Mazzocchi, who’s currently out with an injury. They combined youth and experience in the summer, trying to unearth some gems, while they leaned more on the second element in January to steady the ship.
Guillermo Ochoa was a great get given the circumstances, and he retained the starting job after Luigi Sepe recovered since he’s been brilliant. They have a few young defenders, but they have all been up and down, and nobody has risen above the others. The true leader remains Federico Fazio, who’s on the mend right now. William Troost-Ekong is a steady hand and will be very useful until Flavius Daniliuc, Matteo Lovato, and Lorenzo Pirola fully figure it out. Domen Crnigoj is a proven commodity, and they were missing an energetic midfielder off the bench.
They brought in a youngster, Hans Nicolussi Caviglia from Juventus, who was thriving at SudTirol and didn’t suffer from the transition to Serie A. He was a touted prospect a couple of years ago, but an ACL tear derailed him. He’s another starlet the Bianconeri would be wise to keep as they build their future midfield. He’s slightly bigger but fairly similar to Nicolò Rovella, as they can both play as deep-lying midfielders or technical box-to-box. His arrival has been particularly precious since Emil Bohinen, who was excellent last season, hasn’t been able to recapture his previous form following a knee injury, so they needed a distributor.
Nicola tweaked his scheme after the dismissal without changing many pieces of the formation. He has used a four-man rearguard in the last couple of matches, freeing up Antonio Candreva from having to cover the whole flank and moving Dia to the left wing, but he still cuts back at will and has a lot of freedom in the offense. Tonny Vilhena doesn’t mind operating in a wider role, and he’s turning it around after being pretty underwhelming for a few months. He’s not the quickest cat, but he has good touch and is a strong shooter. Daniliuc served as a defensive-minded right-back against Napoli, while Junior Sambia was a more traditional choice against Lecce, and he had a fine and dynamic display.
They could have used a go-to striker, as Krzysztof Piatek and Federico Bonazzoli are only so-so, and they don’t have the skill set to do what the coach asks them to, but they didn’t find one. They would need a muscular forward that could serve as a reference point, a big presence in the box, combine well with his teammates, and convert chances at a decent rate. Their two options are okay in a couple of those areas, but it’s hard to find an all-around player without spending a lot. In the meantime, they get above-average scoring from Dia and their midfielders. Candreva remains an exquisite playmaker and crosser even though he’s getting up there in age. The recent tactical development is a boon for him, and their right chain will be fearsome once Mazzocchi is back.
Their main thing was to rediscover the fighting spirit they had lost along the way. Their fans never fail to be loud, and it’ll be a heated environment, especially for their twinning with Napoli and the crazy finish of the first game between the two sides. Juventus will have to come out with the right amount of energy, which has been a problem in recent bouts.
Salernitana XI: 4-3-3 Sepe; Sambia, Bronn, Troost-Ekong, Bradaric; Coulibaly, Nicolussi Caviglia, Vilhena; Candreva, Piatek, Dia.
Absences: Fazio (calf strain), Maggiore (thigh strain), Mazzocchi (MCL tear).