The international break is over and Serie A returns this weekend with champions Juventus hosting Cagliari in a much-awaited clash at the Allianz Stadium.

Juventus’ start to the season has been nothing short of underwhelming. They are currently placed 5th on the table – 4 points behind leaders AC Milan and just 3 points ahead of 11th placed Cagliari, who are their opponents for the weekend.

After the late 1-1 draw against Lazio last time out, Juventus cannot afford to drop more points. Even though it is still early in the season, competition is very tight and it is important to keep up in this long race.

Cagliari, although placed 11th, have impressed under manager Eusebio Di Francesco. They look like a team who know what they are doing and have a good goalscoring record, scoring 2+ goals in each of their previous 5 matches.

The last time these two sides met earlier this year, Cagliari prevailed with two goals to none. And Juventus would be hoping to take revenge, with Cagliari’s poor away form boosting their chances. Ahead of this much-anticipated encounter on Sunday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the squads.

Team News & Tactics

Juventus

Leonardo Bonucci is ruled out with an injury (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Leonardo Bonucci is ruled out with an injury (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Juventus return to the Allianz Stadium after two away trips in the Serie A. Fifteen members from the Juventus team were busy in the international break, and it would be interesting to see how the players cope with the fatigue. Juventus are likely to continue play 3-4-1-2 that transits into 4-4-2 at times.

Leonardo Bonucci has picked up an injury and could be sidelined for a month. This means that we could see the young centre-back partnership of Matthijs De Ligt and Merih Demiral play together – something that excites fans. This would be De Ligt’s first appearance this season.

Juan Cuadrado and Danilo who both travelled to South America, are also likely to start. Federico Chiesa picked up an injury before the international break and his appearance for this match will be down to a late fitness test. In place of Chiesa, Alex Sandro, who began training recently, could earn his first start of the season.

Rodrigo Bentancur and Weston McKennie could hone the centre-mid roles, considering Adrien Rabiot played more matches during the international break. Bentancur, on the other hand, was subbed off at the 60th minute versus Brazil and earned some rest. So he should be ready to go.

Paulo Dybala was one of the few players who did not travel for the international break, and that time with Andrea Pirlo should earn him a start versus Cagliari. He has not been his usual self this season, and a run of starts are needed to bring the Argentine back to his best.

Dybala should be accompanied by the in-form Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata, who has looked in fine touch for both club and country. Their goalscoring touch will be crucial for Juventus in this tough match up.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Szczesny; Danilo, De Ligt, Demiral; Sandro, Bentancur, McKennie, Cuadrado; Dybala; Ronaldo, Morata

Cagliari

Cagliari’s most impressive performers have been their attacking duo of Joao Pedro and Giovanni Simeone, who have already bagged 5 goals each this season. The defensive midfield pair of Marko Rog and Razvan Marin has been very dependable this season and will continue to be deployed in that central role.

Ricardo Sottil is the skillful left-winger that adds width to this team. With Cagliari’s tendency to operate more from the right, Sottil’s late runs into the box are useful. Adam Ounas is likely to get a consecutive start on the right side, and will hope to impress yet again.

The biggest miss for Cagliari would be the absence of Diego Godin and Nahitin Nandez. Godin will miss out from the match after tested positive for COVID-19 earlier today. Ragnar Klavan is likely to come in for the Uruguayan and partner Sebastian Walukiewicz at central defence. Alessandro Tripaldelli and Gabriele Zappa look set to retain their spots on either side of the defence.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Cragno; Tripaldelli, Walukiewicz, Klavan, Zappa; Rog, Marin; Sottil, Pedro, Ounas; Simeone

Key Stats

  • After a streak of 18 unbeaten Serie A matches versus Cagliari, Juventus lost to them in July this year. Last time Juventus lost two in a row versus Cagliari was in 2009.
  • Cagliari have scored 2+ goals in their previous 5 matches this season, winning three out of those matches.
  • Juventus have started gameweek 8 from outside the top 3 of the table for the first time since the 2015/16 season when they were 12th.
  • If Juventus draw the match versus Cagliari, it will be the first time since 1978/79 that Juventus will have drawn five of their first eight Serie A matches.
  • Cagliari’s Giovanni Simeone is close to securing his 50th goal in the Serie A. Aged 25 years and 139 days, Simeone could join Icardi, Dybala and Crespo who are the only Argentinians to have achieved this record at a younger age.

Player to Watch

Joao Pedro

In 7 matches this season, Joao Pedro has 5 goals and 2 assists to his name. Under Eusebio, Pedro has really honed the role of trequartista behind Simeone.

Pedro has the creativity to pick out the right passes and his involvement in shot-creating actions is one of the highest in Europe. Pedro could be pivotal if Cagliari are to take advantage of Juventus’ defensive woes and find a result this weekend.

Prediction

Juventus 3-1 Cagliari

Juventus have not looked comfortable defensively this season, and the absence of Bonucci could hurt them. However, the young pairing of De Ligt and Demiral is more than capable of guiding Juventus to a positive result. Cagliari is an attacking side, and with the form of Simeone and Pedro, they are likely to get goals.

However, the dire need of a win for Juventus will give them that push to go all in for the win and get all three points this weekend.

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