Congratulations, you’ve done it! You’ve all but survived the final international break of the year!
For the vast majority of Calcio watchers, the November break wasn’t an enjoyable one. European champions Italy failed to qualify automatically for next year’s World Cup in Qatar meaning an arduous play-off process awaits them in March.
But after you watched apparent Ballon d’Or candidate (lol) Jorginho spurn another opportunity from 12 yards to secure Italy’s progression at the expense of the Swiss and whatever that performance was in Belfast on Monday night, you can now take solace in knowing that club football is back.
For Juventus, a renaissance to end the year is in order to keep their all but dashed Scudetto hopes alive. However, a treacherous seven days lie ahead as they take on Chelsea in between two huge domestic clashes against Lazio and Atalanta. Those matches will go a long way in determining just how far Massimiliano Allegri can take his rebuilding Bianconeri this season.
The manager must get it right and he must establish some continuity in his starting XI. It’s something we haven’t seen at all this season, with the returning boss having to deal with various mitigating factors including CONMEBOL’s stubbornness and untimely injuries. Nevertheless, the Juventus squad is on the mend and there’s hope Allegri can have close to a fully fit squad for the weekend’s clash away at Lazio.
The boss is yet to settle on his best XI, but here’s what we think the Bianconeri team should look like for the foreseeable future.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Wojciech Szczesny (GK) – Szczesny’s season started horribly as he cost Juventus points in the draw at Udinese and defeat in Naples. However, since then (Matchday 3), the Poland international has returned to his secure self. While he’s kept just two clean sheets in Serie A, his save percentage (69.7%) ranks a respectable eighth in the division. The underlying metrics also depict Szczesny’s swift improvement in recent weeks. Mattia Perin has been handed the odd start, but Szczesny is Allegri’s guy moving forward.
Danilo (RB) – The Brazilian has racked up the second-most minutes for Juventus in Serie A this season (890) and it’s understandable as to why. He’s such a dependable figure. After often performing an inverted full-back function for Andrea Pirlo last season, his role has been simplified by Allegri. He isn’t expected to offer much from an attacking perspective with stout defending his primary goal. The reliable veteran has been a model of consistency this term.
Matthijs de Ligt (CB) – Now, De Ligt certainly hasn’t played as much as he should have this season with Allegri trusting his veterans, but the manager certainly appreciates what the Dutchman offers at the heart of the defence. Fitness issues have limited his minutes somewhat, too. Nevertheless, with Giorgio Chiellini currently nursing an injury, De Ligt’s a sure bet to enjoy a consistent run in the side. He’s the Bianconeri’s best centre-half.
Leonardo Bonucci (CB) – Bonucci has been ubiquitous this season. His 900-minute haul in Serie A this season is the highest among Juventus players, starting ten of Juve’s 12 league games thus far. The Italian’s flaws remain (one-v-one’s, defending in transition/space, etc) but he’s nonetheless enjoyed a fine start to the campaign. There have been games where his passing range has papered over his side’s build-up woes, while his box defending remains imperious. De Ligt partnering Bonucci should be the combination for Lazio, Chelsea and Atalanta (should they stay fit!).
Mattia De Sciglio (LB) – Alex Sandro has flashed his vintage dynamic self at times this season, but way too often does his tepid, conservative iteration manifest. Mattia De Sciglio, meanwhile, has been a revelation. Following an underwhelming start to the season, the Italian appeared that he’d be thrust to the periphery for good. However, a super display against AS Roma ignited a brief resurgence that came to a shuttering halt in the defeat to Sassuolo as he picked up a hamstring injury. Nevertheless, De Sciglio is on his way to recovery and once he returns, he should be the starting left-back. He offers more from an attacking perspective than Alex Sandro despite being right-footed.