Following the availability disaster that Massimiliano Allegri had to mitigate against on Saturday, the returning Juventus boss will welcome back several stars for their Champions League opener against Malmo.
It’s been a horrendous start to the 2021/22 campaign for the Bianconeri, although the club should be confident of picking up their first win of the season in Sweden. While any opposition in Europe’s premier competition shouldn’t be underestimated, Malmo are a team that Juventus should be brushing aside.
While Allegri is still without Federico Chiesa, the return of the South American contingent is a major boost and they’re expected to make up a large portion of his starting XI for Tuesday’s encounter.
Here’s our predicted team for the Group H opener.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Wojciech Szczesny (GK) – Although Allegri has played down talk of Szczesny’s position as Juventus’ number one being under threat, the Polish international is currently enduring his worst run of form since joining the club. It was his mistake that ignited Napoli’s comeback on Saturday, just weeks after his horror show in Udine. For now, though, he remains the first-choice. Just.
Danilo (RB) – The first of the returnees. Mattia De Sciglio filled in admirably at right-back on Saturday, but his limited profile reduces Juve’s tactical variance. Danilo and his flexibility will be welcomed back into the fold by Allegri for this one.
Matthijs de Ligt (CB) – De Ligt was surprisingly left on the bench for Saturday’s defeat, although he did earn some minutes off the bench following Luca Pellegrini’s withdrawal. The Dutchman’s a shoo-in for Tuesday.
Leonardo Bonucci (CB) – Bonucci, like Giorgio Chiellini, was once again steady at the weekend. Both veterans have looked comfortable to start the season and either could start alongside de Ligt, presuming Allegri doesn’t opt for the veteran pairing for a second consecutive game. It’s a toss-up, but we’ve gone for Bonucci.
Alex Sandro (LB) – Pellegrini’s promising performance in Naples will certainly have Alex Sandro looking over his shoulder with a tad more anxiety. The young Italian provided a crossing threat that the Brazilian lacks, while he was astute in his defensive work against Matteo Politano. Sandro should return to Allegri’s XI, but Pellegrini has certainly stated his claim.
Juan Cuadrado (RM) – The Colombian is poised to be a crucial member of Allegri’s Juve this term, and his absence was costly on Saturday as Juventus struggled to transition in the second half. Cuadrado’s the key outlet in this side with Federico Chiesa not making the trip, while Danilo’s return meaning he’ll be deployed higher upfield again. He was magnificent in Juve’s last European outing against Porto.
Rodrigo Bentancur (CM) – Bentancur suffered a couple of injury scares during the international break, but he appears to have returned to Continassa unscathed and he’s in contention to start in Sweden. Juventus missed his powerful running from midfield in Naples, and I think Allegri brings Bentancur back into the fold straight away.
Manuel Locatelli (CM) – Locatelli started brilliantly on his first Juventus start before fading – like the rest of the Bianconeri – after the break as Napoli penned the visitors into their own third. His pinpoint switches of play and industry out of possession were just a mere taste of what the former Sassuolo man offers the Bianconeri. There’s plenty more to come from Locatelli, and hopefully, he’ll grab a hold of proceedings in Sweden as he did in the opening period on Saturday.
Weston McKennie (LM) – Bernardeschi’s omission from the squad means Allegri could utilise McKennie in a hybrid function on Tuesday – similar to how he was often deployed by Andrea Pirlo last season. While the American will sit on the left-hand side out of possession, he’ll then look to join Paulo Dybala between the lines in possession and make late entries into the Malmo box. The onus will be on Alex Sandro to provide the width down the left.
Paulo Dybala (CF) – Following a quiet time away with Argentina, Dybala is ready to rumble in Scandinavia. Juventus were desperately devoid of any innovation in La Joya’s absence on Saturday, and the club will be hopeful of a magical Dybala European campaign in 2021/22. He’s pivotal to Juve’s chances, although he needs runners ahead of him!
Alvaro Morata (ST) – Morata opened his account with an opportunistic finish on Saturday and should retain his spot up top following Moise Kean’s ill-fated cameo at the weekend. The Spaniard scored a career-high six times in this competition last season.