Massimiliano Allegri’s showtime Juventus return to action on Thursday night as they play host to Sassuolo in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals.
A new-look Bianconeri will be looking to avenge the last-gasp defeat in their previous meeting with the unpredictable Neroverdi as the two sides fight for a place in the last four of Italy’s premier cup competition. The holders are very much expected to advance considering the Dusan Vlahovic-induced high they’re currently riding, but the temperamental form of Sassuolo this season suggests the Old Lady will be in for a difficult contest on Thursday.
Alessio Dionisi’s men are heading into this bout having lost 4-0 to the struggling Sampdoria on Sunday.
Predicting Juventus’ starting XI for the Coppa Italia quarter-final against Sassuolo
Nevertheless, Allegri will have to carefully manage his squad with an imperative few fixtures in the offing. While this competition is valued highly by the boss and club, changes are expected to be made from the side that beat Igor Tudor’s Verona on Sunday. Still, a strong Juventus side is projected.
Here’s the starting XI that Allegri could pick.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Mattia Perin (GK) – Perin recovered from COVID-19 ahead of the Hellas Verona and he’s expected to continue as Juventus’ ‘cup goalkeeper’ in this one.
Mattia De Sciglio (RB) – While De Sciglio has performed better at left-back this season, Allegri may want to conserve Danilo for Sunday’s mammoth bout with Atalanta. Thus, with alternative options required elsewhere, De Sciglio should get the nod at right-back for this one.
Leonardo Bonucci (CB) – Where has this guy been for the past two months?! Injuries and strange suspensions mean Bonucci hasn’t seen the field at all in 2022. Although, he did come close in the Supercoppa Italiana defeat to Inter Milan. Nevertheless, he’s expected to make his first appearance of the calendar year on Thursday and he’ll likely captain the side.
Daniele Rugani (CB) – Giorgio Chiellini has been ruled out for the next couple of weeks which means that Rugani should return to the fold for this one. Matthijs de Ligt is expected to earn a rest ahead of Sunday, but Rugani proved throughout January that he’s more reliable than you initially gave him credit for. Gone are the days of cringing at seeing this guy’s name in the starting XI.
Luca Pellegrini (LB) – Doesn’t it feel like a lifetime since we last saw Alex Sandro in action? Let’s keep it that way, Max. With De Sciglio projected to start at right-back, Allegri has a choice between Pellegrini and the Brazilian for the left-back spot. Let’s hope he opts for the more competent and dynamic option.
Arthur Melo (CM) – The knock taken to Denis Zakaria’s back on Sunday isn’t serious but I don’t expect him to start on Thursday. Thus, with the process of unlocking Manuel Locatelli already underway, Arthur should retain his spot at the base of midfield. The metronomic Brazilian is garnering the trust of Allegri by the game.
Manuel Locatelli (CM) – Locatelli’s a shoo-in to start after he missed the Hellas Verona victory due to suspension. With Arthur in the side, Locatelli will be freed from the regista function and he should primarily operate from the left half-space in Allegri’s new 4-3-3.
Weston McKennie (CM) – McKennie’s late return from international duty meant he could only muster minutes off the bench at the weekend. Nevertheless, the Texan-born midfielder has been one of Juve’s standout performers in recent months and this newly-adopted system should suit him. McKennie will replace Adrien Rabiot in the side but instead function from the right half-space.
Juan Cuadrado (RW) – Federico Chiesa’s injury and Dejan Kulusevski’s sale combined with Danilo’s return from injury means we’ll likely see Cuadrado in a more advanced position for the foreseeable future. The Colombian will play second fiddle to Dybala but the Argentine’s frailty should see him earn plenty of minutes nonetheless. I expect Cuadrado to start on Thursday with La Joya getting the nod for Atalanta.
Dusan Vlahovic (ST) – Vlahovic’s availability in his career up to this point has been super impressive and he’ll be wanting to play every game possible with the goalscoring form he’s in. I expect Allegri to give him the nod on Thursday. Although, I suspect the boss will have one eye on Sunday’s clash.
Alvaro Morata (LW) – THERE’S LIFE. I have no idea what iteration of Morata that was on Sunday night because it most certainly wasn’t the same player we’ve seen for the past however many months. The Spaniard looked like a man reborn in a different role, playing alongside Juventus’ new leading marksman. He should keep his place in the team as the second coming of Mario Mandzukic.