Sampdoria v Juventus
Serie A Week 13 – Sunday, 5th November – 14:00 GMT – Juventus Stadium
The chase resumes after the international break, which saw Italy catastrophically miss the qualification to the World Cup. Other than the national tragedy, it was a serene pause for Juventus: all injured players recovered and there are no major new ailments, other than some muscle fatigue for Juan Cuadrado. Now that five centre-backs, three right backs and five central midfielders are available for the first time this season, it will be up to the coach to establish the pecking orders and to handle the deep rotation.
Two weeks ago, Juventus had a big scare against Benevento who scored the first goal at Allianz Stadium thanks to a stunning free kick by Amato Ciciretti. However, the lads worked around the opponents with a lot of patience, never got too antsy and eventually came back thanks to Gonzalo Higuain and Cuadrado. Not a perfect performance by any stretch of the imagination, but it allowed us to leapfrog Inter and cut Napoli’s lead to just one point.
Pjanic was the most notable injured player before the break and he is now available. Marko Pjaca is getting a run with the U-20 team. Two elements will factor in the lineup choices: Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini played two full, demanding games with the national team and the Barcelona tilt is just around the corner. The hopes to grab the first place obviously took a big hit with the three-nil loss at Camp Nou, but you never know and also we need points to fend off Sporting.
Buffon and Barzagli will rest, opening the door for Wojciech Szczesny and one between Daniele Rugani and Medhi Benatia to start. They might end up playing both, depending on what the coach decides to do with Chiellini. Cuadrado and Pjanic will be available, whether they will start is another matter. Paulo Dybala could be benched as well after a lengthy flight back, with Federico Bernardeschi taking his place. This would qualify as a mild surprise, because Allegri previously stated that he does not like to field him as no.10; however, he has experience in a central position from his time at Fiorentina. Dybala has rested in more difficult situations than this after the Argentina matches, so it would not be a shock at all. Douglas Costa is the slight favourite to cover the right flank from the get-go.
Pjanic’s replacement would likely be Claudio Marchisio, with Sami Khedira as his partner. In this area, everyone has played pretty well so far, hopefully Rodrigo Bentancur will not fall out of favour now that everybody else his back. 4-3-3 is now a very viable option, especially when we need to defend more. Mattia De Sciglio is challenging Stephan Lichtsteiner, but the Swiss train is always the favourite in Serie A games. In the pre-game presser, Allegri said that everybody is in good form, so there are doubts all over the formation.
4-2-3-1: Szczesny; Lichsteiner, Rugani, Chiellini, Asamoah; Marchisio, Khedira; Douglas Costa, Bernardeschi, Mandzukic; Higuain.
Pjaca (knee), Bentancur.
Sampdoria have been excellent so far, other than an unjustifiable dud against Udinese on the road. They have won every home game so far, scoring 16 goals and conceding only three, and lost only twice in general, the other one to Inter. They are in sixth position, with a decent lead on other teams competing for a European spot, such as Milan and Fiorentina.
They have lost a ton of talent this summer, as they seem to do in every transfer window: Luis Muriel, Patrick Schick, Milan Skriniar and Bruno Fernandes, four of their centrepieces, all left. They have been replaced smartly: Duvan Zapata, Gaston Ramirez, Gianluca Caprari and Gianmarco Ferrari have had a good impact. Maybe their ceiling is not as high as they ones who were sold, but they have all been good contributors.
Marco Giampaolo is a fine coach and his scheme gets better and better over time as the mechanisms become well-oiled. The roster is now tailor-made to his requests, so it is not that stunning that they are having so much success. The midfield is always the heartbeat of his teams: Dennis Praet has looked comfortable while being constantly played as box-to-box midfield, Lucas Torreira is a star and Karol Linetty and Edgar Barreto bring the muscles and energy. Ramirez had a torrid start as their no.10, then fell off a little and has been pushed for playing time by Gianluca Caprari. The former Pescara forward was included in the Skriniar deal and it was an excellent move: he can do damage is multiple positions and he is very effective off the bench.
They have the whole squad at their disposal. The main doubts are at right back, where they have alternated Bartosz Bereszynski and Jacopo Sala, who are pretty similar players, and in the midfield, with the grittier Barreto battling the more dynamic Linetty. Ferrari seems to have definitely beaten out Vasco Regini as starting centre-back, something they envisioned when they signed him from Sassuolo this summer. Duvan Zapata returned late from South America, but he should start.
They have a proactive style, they want to control the pace and the ball and they do not play scared, especially at Marassi, so Juventus will have to bring their A-game in this one. They attack a lot down the flanks and Zapata is a beast and his chemistry with the teammates has been instant: he has set up several goals with his physicality. They play on emotions and come in waves, which has helped them since they have been so good at home.
4-3-1-2: Viviano; Sala, Silvestre, Ferrari, Strinic; Barreto, Torreira, Praet; Ramirez; Zapata, Quagliarella.