After being crowned the champions of Serie A for the 9th time on the bounce, Juventus travel to the Sardegna Arena to lock horns against Cagliari.
In an entirely predictable turn of events, Juventus clinched their 9th consecutive Serie A title on the weekend after registering a 2-0 win over Sampdoria. Lazio, Inter Milan and most recently Atalanta were hot on Juve’s heels but could not catch up to the defending champions.
That said, the Bianconeri have been far from convincing since football resumed last month. They have played ten games in the league, winning just six and losing two. They have also been held to two draws by Sassuolo and Atalanta. Additionally, they were beaten in the Coppa Italia final by Napoli on penalties after a 0-0 draw.
Speaking on teams who have been weak since the restart, Cagliari have won 13 games in the league out of a possible 36. However, only two of them have come since football resumed. They have gone winless for eight games on the bounce, losing four and drawing four. Their last outing came against Udinese, who defeated them 1-0.
The reverse fixture at the Allianz Stadium was an easy win for Juventus who put four unanswered goals past Cagliari courtesy of a hat-trick and an assist from Cristiano Ronaldo. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at Wednesday’s fixture between the two teams.
Team News & Tactics
Walter Zenga will have to cater for several absentees ahead of the game. Nahitan Nandez is suspended after picking up his 15th yellow card of the season. Additionally, Radja Nainggolan, Christian Oliva, Luca Pellegrini, Leonardo Pavoletti will miss yet another game through injury. Neither of them is expected to be back for the final game of the season either.
Alessio Cragno will continue in goal, as he has after the departure of Robin Olsen who returned to parent club AS Roma. To screen him, Fabio Pisacane, Luca Ceppitelli and Sebastian Walukiewicz will start in the three-man backline in the 3-5-2, which would turn into a 5-4-1 when they defend.
The second layer of defence will feature Federico Mattiello and Charalampos Lykogiannis who will provide the width in this setup. Artur Ionita, Riccardo Ladinetti and Marko Rog will occupy roles in the centre of the park. Rog will be given the license to move out of position and act as an attacking midfielder while the other two shield the defence.
Up top, Giovanni Simeone will act as the striker who moves in behind the defence latching on to through balls and crosses. Joao Pedro will partner him, but will assume a more creative role as a second striker.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Cragno; Pisacane, Cappitelli, Walukiewicz; Mattiello, Ionita, Ladinetti, Rog, Lykogiannis; Pedro, Simeone
Maurizio Sarri has to cater to a lot of missing players for the game including three fresh injuries that came against Sampdoria. Matthijs de Ligt, Danilo and Paulo Dybala were all subbed off due to injuries. Danilo is certainly out for the game, while Dybala and de Ligt will go through last-minute fitness tests to confirm their participation.
Additionally, Douglas Costa, Sami Khedira, Giorgio Chiellini and Mattia De Sciglio are injured and will not be a part of the game, while Adrien Rabiot is suspended.
Since the title has been wrapped up, we expect Gianluigi Buffon to start in goal replacing Wojciech Szczesny. Juan Cuadrado began the previous game on the wing in an advanced role but will have to drop back to the right-back spot. Alex Sandro will play on the left. Leonardo Bonucci should retain his place in the centre and play alongside Daniele Rugani.
In the absence of Adrien Rabiot, Aaron Ramsey ought to start on the right of central midfield. Blaise Matuidi will retain his spot as the left central midfielder, while Rodrigo Bentancur will hold the fort as the defensive midfielder.
Gonzalo Higuain will replace Paulo Dybala as the striker in the team. Federico Bernardeschi returned to goalscoring ways in Serie A after nearly two years against Sampdoria and is expected to start on the right-wing. The lethal Cristiano Ronaldo will start yet again as the left-winger.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Buffon; Cuadrado, Rugani, Bonucci, Sandro; Ramsey, Bentancur, Matuidi; Bernardeschi, Higuain, Ronaldo
- Maurizio Sarri and Walter Zenga have met thrice before in their careers. The latter has failed to win any game, while the former has won two.
- Juventus have won seven consecutive games against Cagliari, scoring 19 goals and conceding only once.
- The Bianconeri are undefeated against Cagliari in 18 games in the league and 19 in all competitions, out of which just three have been draws.
- The last time Cagliari won against Juventus was in the 14th gameweek of the 2009/2010 season.
- Cristiano Ronaldo has more goals in the league than the top two scorers (Giovanni Simeone and Joao Pedro) from Cagliari combined – 31 vs 29.
Player to Watch
It would be incredibly unfair on Cristiano Ronaldo to name anyone else as the marquee player in a game, especially with a squad that does not feature Paolo Dybala. Ronaldo’s scoring record this season is phenomenal – 31 goals in 32 games with a goal every 91 minutes. With his brace against Lazio, he became the fastest player to reach 50 Serie A goals, taking 61 games to reach this tally.
Additionally, he has been on a sensational scoring spree since lockdown ended, scoring ten goals in as many games. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has also been a threat to Cagliari, scoring three goals and setting up one for Juan Cuadrado in just 180 minutes of football. It would be unwise to rule him out of getting on the scoresheet against an unsettled Cagliari defence.
Cagliari 0-3 Juventus
We should not expect Juventus to slow down just because they have won the Serie A. In fact, this could serve to them as a morale booster, especially ahead of their crucial Champions League tie against Olympique Lyonnais, where they have to come back from a one-goal deficit.
Cagliari have been unable to win against Juventus in nearly ten seasons now, conceding 45 goals in the process. On top of this, if form is anything to go by, Cagliari’s winless streak cannot be overlooked. We expect this to be an easy outing for the Bianconeri against a side that has practically nothing to play for.