Juventus return from the international break to take on Cagliari at home, and they will be expected to win handily.
So far this season, Juventus have fallen short in matches they were expected to win with ease. The 1-1 draws against Verona and Crotone are examples of this. But recently, they did dominate 4-1 against Spezia, thanks to a second-half brace from a returning Cristiano Ronaldo.
On Saturday night, Juve will play against Cagliari, who are currently 11th in the Serie A table. It hasn’t been an ideal start to the 2020-2021 season for the Bianconeri, but Juve should be able to win by a comfortable margin.
Here are five key players on Juventus to watch closely this weekend.
CB Matthijs de Ligt
Juventus will get star center back Matthijs de Ligt back this weekend against Cagliari after he missed the first seven matches of the season with a shoulder injury. De Ligt is one of Serie A’s most impressive players, as he is a 21-year-old player who can already boast of being one of the world’s best defenders.
Although Juve have allowed the fewest goals of any team in Serie A ranked in the top seven of the table, they’ve had some defensive lapses this season. De Ligt can help solve those issues upon his return, as he is the Bianconeri’s best center back.
CM Rodrigo Bentancur
According to WhoScored.com, Juventus center midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur is averaging just 0.8 tackles per game and 0.2 key passes per game this season. He continues to work hard on and off the ball for the team, but his overall influence and end product have been lacking. Bentancur has not taken the expected step forward in 2020-2021 after a promising 2019-2020 campaign.
On Saturday, Bentancur will need to be at his best, especially defensively. The Bianconeri will be going up against Cagliari’s Joao Pedro, who is a worthy star man for the visitors. He is tied for the team lead with five goals and two assists, and it will take a team effort from Juve’s center backs and center midfielders to keep him quiet.
LWB Alex Sandro
Gianluca Frabotta will likely start for the Bianconeri on Saturday, but don’t overlook Alex Sandro joining Matthijs de Ligt as a returning defender.
Alex Sandro received heavy criticism over the summer for his subpar displays, as his lack of quality in the attack dragged down the Bianconeri. Juve were in the market for a left wing back this summer, but they ultimately chose not to pursue Robin Gosens or Emerson Palmieri.
Instead, Juve have went with Federico Chiesa, who is a left winger by trade, and Frabotta, who has broken out as a contributor under Andrea Pirlo.
So now, the onus is on Sandro to prove that he still has a place in Turin.
ST Alvaro Morata
Alvaro Morata has been a revelation for Juventus since returning to Turin on a loan deal from Atletico Madrid. He could be signed permanently at the end of the season, and if his performances continue, then the Bianconeri should do just that.
So far this season, the Spanish international has four goals in the Champions League, two goals in Serie A, and two assists in the league to boot. His form has carried over for the national team, as Morata is suddenly looking like one of Europe’s most prolific striker, as was his destiny as a promising young talent at Real Madrid.
Morata is clearly enjoying his football in Turin, which has always treated him well. His partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo is flourishing, and you’d back him to find the scoresheet vs. Cagliari.
RW Dejan Kulusevski
Dejan Kulusevski is at his best as a right winger, as he can cut inside on his left foot and score some lovely goals. That’s exactly what he did for Parma on loan all of last season, for Juventus in the Serie A opener against Sampdoria, and for Sweden in the most recent international break.
Kulusevski will find it tough to get starts in his preferred position, so may have to show ability as a wing back, much like Chiesa has done thus far.
I’m not a huge fan of Kulusevski as a right wing back, because it’s difficult for him to cut back onto his left and deliver crosses. Against Roma, we saw how the opposition didn’t fear Kulusevski’s right foot and challenged him to get to the end line to whip in right-footed crosses. It didn’t work, and playing so deep impacted Kulusevski’s attacking threat.
But there’s promise and the potential for growth in this different role. So we’ll see how Kulusevski lines up for Pirlo this weekend.