Sassuolo v Juventus
Serie A Week 10 – Wednesday, 28th October- 19:45 GMT – Stadio Città del Tricolore
After a job well done against Atalanta, Juventus take on their little brother Sassuolo on the road. The Sunday performance was certainly one of the two best of the year, second only to the Sevilla game, because of the different pedigree of the opponent. Everything worked for the Old Lady that did not concede for the third game in a row, a sigh of relief after the early, and inexplicable, defensive woes. It is probably not a coincidence that Juventus get stouter with both Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira on the pitch: not only they are great defensive stopper, but they are also smart veterans that make the right play at the right time and are able to control the pace of the game.
Paulo Dybala and his management by Massimiliano Allegri were the topics of the week and the Argentinian starlet responded with a statement game: a goal, an assist and a penalty. A Carlos Tevez-like performance that hopefully he will repeat several times. Much has been said and written about this matter: the coach defended himself saying that Dybala played the most minutes among the strikers, which is true but the former Palermo has always been available, differently from Alvaro Morata and Mario Mandzukic, so he is also the “most benched” one. On the other hand, Allegri is right when he says that the price tag does not dictate how much a player should feature and also when he points out that Dybala’s destiny is not to be a “small” centre-forward à la Kun Aguero, which he was in Sicily, but a more traditional second striker. He likes to roam, he can take defenders on, he has great speed and great technique and he is a willing passer: we have rarely seen a player like that be the main cog in an attack in Italy. The adjustment to his new role should be natural and is the best move for the Juve roster, which is filled with physical striker.
Unfortunately, the injury bug continues to spread in the locker room: Roberto Pereyra and Kwadwo Asamoah suffered hamstring injuries and will miss time, they could be available after the November international break. It was interesting to see Paul Pogba moved to the no.10 position for a big chunk of the game when there was not a state of emergency: Hernanes and Juan Cuadrado were on the bench. It probably says something about the Brazilian playmaker who is starting to be buried, factoring in also Giuseppe Marotta’s recent words.
Allegri has announced the return of Andrea Barzagli in the starting lineup after a much deserved day off: he should be used as right centre-back/right back in the fluid 3-5-2/4-3-3 formation, but it is possible that Giorgio Chiellini is rested, so at that point Simone Padoin or Stefano Sturaro would play at RB. Cuadrado is poised to start and so is Alex Sandro. The midfield is likely to stay intact. The main doubts are in the attack: the latest reports indicate that Zaza will make an appearance in his old stadium with Dybala confirmed in the XI, but I would not rule out Morata, who was rested in the last game. Let’s not forget that the Turin derby is in four days, so some top players could be spared.
3-5-2: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Cuadrado, Khedira, Marchisio, Pogba, Alex Sandro; Dybala, Zaza.
Lichtsteiner (heart condition), Pereyra (hamstring), Asamoah (hamstring).
Sassuolo are having a pretty good season: they have matured and, after two years, they have become a legitimate Serie A team. They seem to have escaped the dangerous zones of the table with a fast start and they can aim at having a very fun and relaxed year. I do not expect them to be able to maintain their current six position as there are a couple of bigger teams behind them, but they are playing good football, as they have always done, and they do not look as vulnerable defensively as in the past.
Thanks to the summer additions of Gregoire Defrel, Alfred Duncan, Matteo Politano, Diego Falcinelli and Karim Laribi, the last two where loaned out in Serie B last season, they have depth and quality alternatives in every position. As a matter of fact, they have been able to cope pretty will with Domenico Berardi either missing time or playing below his standards because of poor conditioning for six games.
They are still undefeated at Mapei Stadium: they have defeated Napoli early in the season and Lazio two games ago and they have drawn with Atalanta and Chievo Verona. They tend to play better against proactive opponents because their main weapons are the counterattacking game and the multiple playmakers they have at disposal that can explode in the open field. The coach has pulled out a couple of times a midfield composed by two offensive-minded players, Laribi and Simone Missiroli, which is very interesting and maybe a midgame solution. However, Duncan is primed to start alongside the always reliable Francesco Magnanelli and Missiroli for a more defensive look.
Eusebio Di Francesco has rotated in and out all his forwards. In this one, the combination should be Berardi-Defrel-Antonio Floro Flores, even though the giant killer Nicola Sansone has a chance to start. Defrel, who was brought in as the de facto Zaza replacement even though he is a much different player, adds a nice little element to their offensive. Zaza is in no way a slow player, but the Frenchman is a speedster and so they use more and more deep central passes where he tries eitehr to slip behind the defensive line or to glide past the centre-back thanks to his dribbling skills. Floro Flores is a gutsy, borderline arrogant, striker who is not afraid to take responsibilities.
The defense has often been their Achilles heel and they had some blunders this year too, especially against lesser teams where they are probably not completely locked in, but overall it has been acceptable and has not hold them back. Having the same players, Sime Vrsaljko-Paolo Cannavaro-Francesco Acerbi-Federico Peluso, for basically the whole season definitely helped creating some chemistry.
We can expect a side that is accustomed to assault the opponent and that does not like to sit back and wait, but want to win the ball and run. They have often played up to the level of the competition.
4-3-3: Pegolo; Vrsaljko, Cannavaro, Acerbi, Peluso; Duncan, Magnanelli, Missiroli; Berardi, Defrel, Floro Flores.
Stats and Facts
Infographics from www.sporticos.com