Finally, a signature win for Juventus, as Inter played right into their hands, the defense held the opponents in check, and Filip Kostic broke the game wide open with his runs. For once, the Bianconeri managed to flip the script in a game where they went in as the underdogs, differently from what happened in the Champions League, thanks to the fact that the opponents didn’t exploit their early changes and proved to be more mentally frail than them.
The victory might have more to do with the issues of the Nerazzurri than with the credits of the Old Lady, but that doesn’t change the result. Corralling three more points in a tough spot pushes the squad much closer to the top four. With other sides abating, qualifying for the Champions League might not be super challenging in the second half of the season, when things will hopefully improve on the injury front. The landscape has changed quite dramatically in a month.
Four consecutive wins don’t happen by happenstance, even if just one was comfortable. There’s no denying Massimiliano Allegri can devise a proper defensive game plan when he has the horses to pull it off. Gleison Bremer looked like the star he was at Torino as the anchor of the rearguard, which might lead to some reflections about how he and Leonardo Bonucci should be used. The doubts creep in when Juventus has to take command and do something more offensively to bend teams that park the bus or go toe-to-toe with high-wattage frontlines that can’t be held in check.
As suspected, being forced to use the same scheme consistently and field the youngsters proved serendipitous because Nicolò Fagioli and Fabio Miretti bring something more and different to the table than the other midfielders. The jury is still out about which role they should hone in for the prosecution of their careers. In the meantime, they need to play, and the former better be given the freedom to attack since he’s hot in the final third. The latter has gotten opportunities in dynamic roles, but since he’s been a little wasteful, the right position for him might be the one he had last season. He’s a good vertical passer, but he hasn’t been quite able to make a play in the box when he had the opportunity to. But that’s nitpicking, and being available and energetic is already a bigger contribution compared to other possible options.
The infirmary is starting to empty out as Leandro Paredes and Moise Kean are good to go Angel Di Maria is unlikely to start, although he was reportedly tested among the starters midweek, while Federico Chiesa will be managed in this one, and Dusan Vlahovic remains out. Needless to say, the Bianconeri needn’t mess around in this one against a reeling opponent, and topping Lazio too before the break would be the cherry the top. The coach has already earned himself to eat the panettone, as they say in Italy about gaffers on the hot seat that avoid the sack in the first half of the season. The patience, or perhaps simple hesitancy in light of the financial ramifications, has borne fruits. Whether that’s good news for the future, it remains to be seen.
Leonardo Bonucci will be back in the XI in this one, with either Alex Sandro or Danilo getting a day off. Daniele Rugani also has a shot to be in the XI. The midfield and the attack could easily be the same as the last two matches, but that will hinge on whether Kean, Di Maria, or Paredes can start or not. The striker reportedly has the most chances.
3-5-2: Perin; Danilo, Bonucci, Bremer; Cuadrado, Fagioli, Locatelli, Rabiot, Kostic; Kean, Milik.
Vlahovic (sports hernia), Chiesa (knee soreness), McKennie (thigh pull), Pogba (meniscus tear), De Sciglio (thigh strain), Iling-Junior (ankle sprain), Kaio Jorge (patellar tendon tear), Aké (malleolus fracture).
Verona have been a mess on multiple levels so far, and they are quite deservedly near the bottom of the standings. After it worked out in previous summers, the strategy of cashing in on multiple centerpieces and replacing them with gambles didn’t pan out, at least so far. The confusion on the bench hasn’t helped, plus they have had to deal with a host of injuries every week. They lost coach Igor Tudor and long-time sporting director Tony D’Amico, which has apparently been too much to overcome. Gabriele Cioffi had done well in his short time at Udinese, and they thought they had hit the jackpot by luring him away from the Friulani. The early firing was a little underserving, but that’s the standard move while spiraling.
On the other hand, there was no new coach’s bump, so they are on an eight-game losing streak. With Salvatore Bocchetti, who was Tudor’s deputy and part of the squad in previous seasons, they returned to their bread and butter: a highly intense style with man-to-man duels all across the pitch, in the same vein as Gian Piero Gasperini and Ivan Juric, as they lived off his legacy last season. But the squad might be too different at this point to continue to work.
The rookie gaffer restored some pace and vitality, and they have been unlucky with physical problems and early red cards since he took over. There’ll be a lot at stake for him in the next two matches because the next move would inevitably be a clear change of direction with a veteran manager. If they wanted continuity, it would have been more understandable to go with Bocchetti in the summer, giving him time to prepare rather than hire a still largely unproven outsider.
They sold Giovanni Simeone, Antonin Barak, Gianluca Caprari, and Nicolò Casale, and they haven’t recovered. That’s a lot of firepower out of the window. Thomas Henry got off to a decent start but sputtered afterward. He’s a completely different striker, and he needs the offense to be humming as a whole to produce. There were some glimpses of a Kevin Lasagna renaissance early on, and he’s more similar to El Cholito, but he fell into a slump and got hurt as well. Simone Verdi could have potentially replaced Caprari considering how well he did at Salernitana, but he spent the summer practicing on his own, and he’s not in acceptable conditions yet.
In addition, Ivan Ilic, Darko Lazovic, Marco Davide Faraoni, and multiple center-backs, including the brilliant up-and-comer Diego Coppola, have all missed time, and they wouldn’t be able to compensate for the absences under normal circumstances, let alone right after gutting the team and with a manager that has a lot of things to figure out.
They have hit on two additions, Josh Doig and Isak Hien, but that’s not enough to replenish their talent level. The former is a tremendous wingback with a nose for scoring, while the latter is a physical defender who adapted very quickly and helped them navigate a few problems early on. He has had some issues with the recent stylistic change, so they could go with the veterans that are more used to it, even though they have lower upside.
Faraoni is out again, while Lazovic is questionable. Both being out would hurt their flank game, on which they lean a lot. Doig is still rounding back into shape after an injury. Fabio Depaoli has been their jack of all trades, but the second part of the saying is true for him. He’s more ordinary than their starters, especially the Serb international, who’s a true playmaker. Ilic has been MIA for weeks, which took away a ton of zest from their midfield, even though Miguel Veloso is still going fairly strong. But the wear and tear has been evident, and that could be a problem in a busy week. The starlet is back for this one, although probably just for a small cameo given the extended absence.
The lineup will be heavily dictated by who’s fully fit and who’s not. They have fielded Adrien Tameze all over the formation, and he might play as a no.10 if Lasagna or Verdi can’t start. That would add grittiness but also take away creativity to their attack. Even though they are in dire straits, most of their recent defeats have been narrow. Facing them won’t be the walk in the park it might appear on the surface. Roma, Milan, and Sassuolo had to resort to late goals to beat them. The vigor that is the hallmark of this kind of side is still there; perhaps the quality will follow once they get right.
3-4-2-1: Montipò; Dawidowicz, Gunter, Ceccherini; Depaoli, Hongla, Veloso, Doig; Tameze, Verdi; Henry.
Magnani (suspension), Hrustic (ankle sprain), Piccoli, Coppola, Faraoni (thigh strains).