Following back-to-back defeats in Serie A, the pressure is starting to mount on Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri. The Italian pragmatist, though, has been gifted some respite via the Bianconeri’s perfect start to their Champions League campaign.
At the halfway stage, Juve sit atop of Group H having won their opening three games. One more victory will see them qualify for the knockout phase and they have a great chance to secure their progression on Tuesday night as Zenit come to town.
While we should expect to see a more enterprising outfit to the one that shut up shop against a vulnerable Old Lady two weeks ago, this is a game the hosts will be expected to win.
Cries have been universal among Juventini for the manager to alter his approach in the wake of a dismal week, while calls for several players to be dropped have been fierce. It’s certainly going to be an interesting team selection, and here’s the starting XI we think Allegri will pick for Zenit.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Wojciech Szczesny (GK) – Szczesny most definitely wasn’t to blame for Juventus’ humbling in Verona. There was little he could do to deny Giovanni Simeone from striking twice in the 2-1 defeat. The Poland international will continue between the sticks on Tuesday.
Danilo (RB) – I don’t see how Danilo doesn’t start this game. The Brazilian’s been a stable performer amid the Bianconeri’s recent woes and he sat by the side of Allegri in the manager’s pre-match press conference for this one. He’ll surely make his third Champions League appearance of the season on Tuesday.
Matthijs de Ligt (CB) – Allegri’s use of De Ligt is strange. He’s quite clearly Juventus’ best defender yet he’s made fewer appearances in Serie A than Giorgio Chiellini while Leonardo Bonucci has been a ubiquitous presence in the backline. The Dutchman has started all three of Juve’s Champions League outings this season, with the Bianconeri yet to concede in the competition. Coincidence?
Leonardo Bonucci (CB) – Chiellini’s horror show in Verona has all but thrust him out of contention for Tuesday. Bonucci hardly covered himself in glory, but he wasn’t as pitiful as his veteran comrade. The Italian has started 13 of Juventus’ 14 games this season and is poised to earn another start in this one.
Alex Sandro (LB) – The Brazilian deserves to be dropped, but Luca Pellegrini is yet to garner the trust of Allegri, while there are no signs of Juan Cuadrado dropping back to right-back that could move Danilo over to the left. Should he start, we need to see a more assertive and confident iteration of the veteran full-back.
Federico Chiesa (RM) – Chiesa missed the trip to Verona but Allegri confirmed in his pre-match press conference that the 24-year-old is available for Zenit. He’ll start. The Italian’s 2021/22 season is yet to catch fire, but he remains an imperative cog in Juve’s faltering machine.
Manuel Locatelli (CM) – Locatelli desperately needed a rest on Saturday after enduring a dip in form to round off October. His replacement, Arthur Melo, however, endured a disastrous evening in Verona on his first start of the season. Allegri will return Locatelli to the XI on Tuesday and he needs more from him. The Italian must begin to control proceedings in the middle of the park.
Weston McKennie (CM) – Juventus need more reference points between the lines and McKennie (alongside Aaron Ramsey) is the best at creating positional superiorities in such zones among Juve’s midfield contingent. McKennie was harshly dropped for the defeat on Saturday and should return to the team on Tuesday. The American’s scored in his last two outings.
Federico Bernardeschi (LM) – Allegri can’t persist with Adrien Rabiot, surely. Not after those displays last week. In his place, Bernardeschi should come in if he continues with the asymmetrical configuration in possession that facilitates a hybrid function on the left. The Italian is diligent defensively and adept at receiving between the lines.
Paulo Dybala (CF) – Dybala was once again Juventus’ brightest spark amid a toothless attacking display. He simply needs more support and deserves to play in a better functioning system that isn’t wholly reliant on him for innovation and chance creation. La Joya’s a shoo-in.
Alvaro Morata (ST) – The Spaniard’s form has been dismal since he returned from a hamstring injury last month. However, Allegri’s set to give Morata another chance to ignite a resurgence on Tuesday despite his admiration for youngster Kaio Jorge. This is a huge game for the former Chelsea forward.