Napoli have travelled to Turin meaning we should see some football at the Allianz Stadium on Thursday night. The visitors’ availability crisis due to various factors had thrust this fixture into doubt, but those fears have been eased on Wednesday.
Thus, Juventus have a brilliant chance to take points off a likely top-four rival to kick-off the new year. The Bianconeri concluded 2021 on a bright note following a pitiful start to the domestic season, but they begin 2022 with a January gauntlet.
They’ll be galvanised by the returns of two attacking stars for a tough month of fixtures, with Massimiliano Allegri confirming ahead of Thursday’s bout that Danilo, who’s been out since November with a thigh injury, will make his comeback in the coming days. Despite several returns, Allegri has a mini centre-back crisis to contend with all while attempting to manage his squad with Juventus playing six games in 17 days.
Still, it could be worse. You could be Luciano Spalletti!
Juventus’ predicted XI vs Napoli
Here’s the starting XI we think Allegri will deploy for Juventus’ first game of 2022 against Napoli.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Wojciech Szczesny (GK) – Szczesny turned around his 2021 towards the end of the calendar year and he’ll start between the sticks to kick-off 2022.
Mattia De Sciglio (RB) – When De Sciglio’s available, Allegri tends to use him and that’s the case on Thursday. The boss also has Juan Cuadrado as an option, but I think he’ll opt for the steady and reliable Italian as opposed to more streaky Colombian.
Daniele Rugani (CB) – Rugani will start just his second Serie A game of the season on Thursday. Giorgio Chiellini is out after testing positive for COVID-19, while Leonardo Bonucci is an injury absentee. Thus, Allegri has no choice but to deploy Rugani from the outset against Napoli.
Matthijs de Ligt (CB) – De Ligt will be holding Rugani’s hand in this one. De Ligt has lifted the Italian’s level on both his starts this term and he’ll need to do the same against a Napoli side that still boasts plenty of attacking talent despite their availability woes.
Alex Sandro (LB) – Luca Pellegrini misses out due to illness which gifts Alex Sandro a spot in Thursday’s XI. The Brazilian lost his grip on the starting left-back spot towards the end of 2021, but he’ll be given a chance to assert himself in this one. He desperately needs another upturn in form before the summer.
Federico Bernardeschi (RM) – Bernardeschi must start following his brilliant end to the calendar year. The Italian was playing his best football since his debut season in Turin before the winter break and he may be handed a different role on Thursday. We’ve seen Bernardeschi perform various functions in multiple systems for Allegri this term, but we’re yet to see how he fares on the right flank in a 4-4-2. When he’s played on the right so far this season, he’s shown off his ability to both hug the touchline and drift in to occupy spaces between the lines.
Manuel Locatelli (CM) – Allegri confirmed that Locatelli will start on Thursday and the Italian will lock horns against Napoli’s controller Fabian Ruiz. That’s a key battle to watch out for, with both teams expected to enjoy sustained periods of possession considering the efficacy of both teams’ press.
Weston McKennie (CM) – Arthur Melo is now available after recovering from COVID-19, while Rodrigo Bentancur could be utilised by Allegri alongside Locatelli. However, McKennie was brilliant before his knee injury last November and he looked bright on his return before the end of the year. As we head into 2022, the American is the best option to partner Locatelli. He adds dynamism, innovation and genius off the ball movement.
Adrien Rabiot (LM) – Rabiot is in contention for Thursday and I’ve got an awful feeling that we might see him in the hybrid function with reports suggesting that Allegri’s going 4-4-2 for Thursday. McKennie would be a better option in this role, but Rabiot and Bernardeschi are the only players to be tested here this term. With Bernardeschi starting on the opposite flank, Rabiot may well start off the left.
Paulo Dybala (SS) – Dybala is back in business! The Argentine missed the final two games of 2021 as a precaution and he returned to full training ahead of Thursday’s clash. Allegri hinted that just one of Dybala and Federico Chiesa would start against Napoli and it’d make sense for this to be the former considering how minor his problem was. La Joya celebrated his return from a long-term knee injury with a trademark finish in this fixture last season.
Alvaro Morata (ST) – Morata stays. The Juventus forward looked like he was on his way to Barcelona this month but the club’s struggle at identifying a suitable replacement means he’ll remain in Turin for the remainder of the season. It’s unlikely that the whole fiasco will deter Allegri from using Morata in the first game of 2022, with many projecting a Dybala/Morata partnership.