After claiming two victories from their opening two games, Group H leaders Juventus travel to Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champions League on Wednesday night hoping to preserve their 100% start to the competition.
The Bianconeri are slowly beginning to rediscover their vintage identity under returning manager Massimiliano Allegri and they head into the bout on a seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions. They last tasted defeat away at Serie A leaders Napoli on 11 September.
So far, Allegri has masterfully managed Juve’s squad amid a mini injury crisis and the problems that manifest regarding their South American contingent. Squad depth will be key for the Bianconeri in this daunting run of fixtures, and Allegri’s set to rotate from the team that edged AS Roma on Sunday for this continental clash.
Here’s our predicted starting XI for Juventus’ trip to Zenit on Wednesday night.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Wojciech Szczesny (GK) – Szczesny partnered Allegri in his pre-match press conference and is a shoo-in for Wednesday’s clash. The Polish international is starting to find his feet once more after enduring a horrible start to the new season. He was Juve’s hero in the win over Roma, as he saved Jordan Veretout’s penalty in the first half.
Mattia De Sciglio (RB) – De Sciglio surprised many with his performance against Roma, as he replicated Alex Sandro’s function from left-back admirably. I suspect Allegri will want to keep him in the starting XI, but he could switch over to right-back. Danilo looked exhausted after returning from South America at the end of last week and deserves a rest.
Leonardo Bonucci (CB) – Tammy Abraham certainly gave the veteran a few problems at the weekend, but Bonucci’s resilience eventually prevailed as Juve shut the Giallorossi out. The Italian’s enjoyed a stellar start to the season, with his passing range proving a useful weapon for the Bianconeri.
Matthijs de Ligt (CB) – De Ligt missed Sunday’s victory over Roma with a suspected injury and he initially didn’t appear in contention for Zenit. However, the Dutchman trained on Tuesday and Massimiliano Allegri confirmed he’ll play in this one.
Alex Sandro (LB) – The impressive Alex Sandro came on as a late substitute on Sunday and he should return to the starting XI for the trip to Zenit. With Mattia De Sciglio switching over to the right to fulfil Danilo’s typically conservative function, Alex Sandro is set to perform his usual attacking role from left-back. The Brazilian’s started both of Juventus’ Champions League outings so far this season.
Federico Chiesa (RM) – Hopefully, Allegri drops the Chiesa/Moise Kean strike partnership with Alvaro Morata returning to action. Chiesa was abhorrent on Sunday, dropping his worst performance in a Juventus shirt, and looks in desperate need of a rest. However, I don’t think the manager will grant him one on this occasion.
Manuel Locatelli (CM) – The manager could be tempted to rest Locatelli for Sunday’s Derby d’Italia with Juventus currently in a strong position in Group H. If Arthur Melo was fully fit, maybe Allegri would have such luxury. But he doesn’t, and Locatelli must play for the midfield to function.
Weston McKennie (CM) – Rodrigo Bentancur, though, could be saved for the clash with Inter. The Uruguayan’s emerged as an important player on the big night for Allegri, and the manager could gift McKennie yet another opportunity to shine with Arthur likely to earn minutes off the bench.
Federico Bernardeschi (LM) – Bernardeschi is suited to performing the hybrid function off the left with Alex Sandro marauding upfield from left-back. The Italian will perform diligently as a wide midfielder in Juve’s 4-4-2 structure before drifting infield to function in the left half-space when his side have possession. Bernardeschi impressed in the Bianconeri’s last European outing against Chelsea.
Alvaro Morata (ST) – The Spaniard made an appearance off the bench against Roma and is “fine” according to Allegri. Morata’s fully recovered from the hamstring injury he sustained last month and he’s expected to return to the starting XI against Zenit. He’s crucial to Juve’s dynamics in possession, with his ability to drop between the lines simplifying Moise Kean’s role.
Moise Kean (ST) – Kean knew little about his second goal of the season on Sunday, but his inadvertent touch was a crucial one as it proved the winner. The Italian has plenty to improve upon if he’s to earn regular minutes once Paulo Dybala returns but, for now, Allegri’s likely to stick with him. He’ll benefit from Morata’s return.