Juventus will look to continue their perfect start to the 2018-19 Serie A campaign as they go up against Sassuolo at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
Juventus may have three wins out of three. But, they have hardly looked the side everyone were touting them to be, especially after the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese has himself not managed to open his account in Serie A after three games. To sum up in one word, Juventus have not been their usual ruthless selves.
The three wins though, are indicative of just how dominant Juventus can become once the squad is in tune with each other and the players regain their sharpness.
Sassuolo, on the other hand, have had a solid start to their 2018-19 campaign as well. Two wins and 7 seven points out of three matches so far, their narrow victory over Inter Milan shows that the club can go toe-to-toe with the top teams in Serie A.
Sassuolo were demolished on their last trip to face Juventus, with the home side emerging as the winners with a 7-0 scoreline. Gonzalo Higuain had scored a hat-trick. But, the Argentine is no longer at Juventus, having joined AC Milan in the summer. Cristiano Ronaldo though, will be tipped to emulate the success his former Real Madrid teammate found against Sassuolo last season.
Ahead of their latest meeting at the Allianz Stadium, we run the rule over the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Massimiliano Allegri hinted at massive changes to the starting eleven that registered a narrow win over Palma Calcio before the international break. Allegri has stated that any player who represented their nation during the international break and started in both the matches in the said time will not start against Sassuolo; except Blaise Matuidi.
Wojciech Szczesny is confirmed to be starting on Sunday. Giorgio Chiellini though, is likely to be rested, which means one of Daniele Rugani and Medhi Benatia will enter the fray. Allegri could go with Rugani to partner Bonucci at the back.
Joao Cancelo and Mattia De Sciglio should both start, with the latter taking Alex Sandro’s place on the left, with the Brazilian likely to be rested.
Miralem Pjanic is also in line for a rest, which should see Emre Can being handed a start in midfield alongside Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi. Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic are already confirmed to be starting against Sassuolo, leaving just one spot to speculation.
Despite Allegri talking up Dybala, we should see Federico Bernardeschi start, with the winger able to cause a threat with his directness.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Rugani, De Sciglio; Matuidi, Can, Khedira; Bernardeschi, Ronaldo, Mandzukic
Roberto De Zerbi chose to tinker his formation for the match against Genoa, which bore fruit to an extent as Sassuolo ran out 5-3 winners. But, the amount of chances that their opponents managed to create could compel the manager to revert to the 4-3-3 formation that was fielded in the first two matches.
Andrea Consigli is an automatic choice in goal, as are the likes of Pol Lirola and Rogerio, who will be guarding the flanks for Sassuolo. Gian Marco Ferrari should be one half of the pair while summer arrival Giangiacomo Magnani seems to have impressed De Zerbi, having started all three league games and should be the one to partner Ferrari against former club Juventus.
Alfred Duncan is almost guaranteed to start in the middle of the park, with Francesco Magnanelli and Mehdi Bourabia likely to be in the starting lineup as well, with De Zerbi likely to go for experience in midfield.
Domenico Berardi should assume his position on the right side of the attack, with Kevin Prince Boateng likely to be deployed on the left, ahead of Federico Di Francesco. Khouma Babacar should lead the Sassuolo frontline against Juventus.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Consigli; Lirola, Magnani, Ferrari, Rogerio; Duncan, Magnanelli, Bourabia; Berardi, Babacar, Boateng
1. Sassuolo have managed to score just once in their last four league visits to face Juventus.
2. If Juventus manage to win against Sassuolo, they would record consecutive four-win starts to their campaign for the first time in the club’s history.
3. Clinical opposition – Sassuolo have the least shots to goal ratio among all the teams so far in the 2018-19 Serie A campaign.
4. Massimiliano Allegri has won six out of his 9 games as a manager against Sassuolo, with a draw and two defeats as well.
5. Federico Bernardeschi has had a hand in three of the seven goals Juventus have managed in the first three league games thus far (1 goal, 2 assists).
Player to Watch
Granted, we have picked the Portuguese in the former games as well. But, the fixture against Sassuolo could be the start of something special. Cristiano Ronaldo took a break from his international duties with Portugal to be in better shape and be fine tuned for club football after what has been a disappointing start to his Italian chapter.
Ronaldo will be feeling the pressure to get his first goal for Juventus in the league, especially after coming close on a couple of occasions. Expect a Ronaldo masterclass on Sunday.
Juventus 2-1 Sassuolo
With Massimiliano Allegri hinting at mass changes to the starting lineup, this serves as the perfect chance for Sassuolo to snatch a point or three at the Allianz Stadium. The centre-back partnership will be a fresh one while the potential absence of Miralem Pjanic and Alex Sandro in the starting eleven could see Juventus lose much of their attacking impetus.
But, as has been the case with Juventus so far this season, the defending league champions are expected to slug it out for the win. Expect Cristiano Ronaldo to finally get going as far as goals are concerned.