Juventus will be aiming to continue on their winning ways in the new year when they lock horns with Sassuolo at the Allianz Stadium this weekend in Serie A.

Reigning champions Juventus will be aiming to close the gap to the top of the Serie A table when they play hosts to Sassuolo at the Allianz Stadium in Matchweek 17 on Sunday night.

It hasn’t been a straightforward start to life under Andrea Pirlo for Juventus, who, after 15 league games, find themselves in the fifth position in the table, seven points off of leaders AC Milan. However, the morale will be high in the Bianconeri camp following their impressive back-to-back wins against Udinese and Milan since the turn of the year.

Sassuolo, meanwhile, have started the season strongly and are well within contention for a top-four finish. Indeed, Roberto De Zerbi’s men are currently sixth in the table, just a point behind Juventus having bounced back from the heavy defeat to Atalanta last weekend with a 2-1 win over Genoa earlier this week. Three points on Sunday would take them to the fourth spot.

The corresponding fixture last season ended in a 2-2 draw courtesy a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty after Jeremie Boga and Francesco Caputo had cancelled out Leonardo Bonuccis’ goal and put Sassuolo in front. And, ahead of their latest meeting this weekend at the Allianz Stadium, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Juventus

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Juventus striker Alvaro Morata is the only player doubtful to be involved due to injury, although Andrea Pirlo did hint that the Spaniard could be ready in time to at least get a place among the substitutes. Juan Cuadrado, Alex Sandro and Matthijs de Ligt miss out after having contracted coronavirus.

The hosts are expected to set up in a 3-5-2 formation when Sassuolo come visiting, with Wojciech Szczesny being the undisputed starter in goal. In de Ligt’s absence, Merih Demiral should start alongside Leonardo Bonucci and Danilo in Juventus’ three-man backline. The latter will have the tough task of dealing with the dangerous Jeremie Boga in the right channel.

Federico Chiesa, who bagged a brace in the win against AC Milan, ought to be the right-sided wing-back and will be the key man with his forward forays and ability to hit crosses for the forwards to attack. Gianluca Frabotta should line up on the left side and is likely to be more restrained in his attacking movements.

With Rodrigo Bentancur looking tired in the last game against Milan, Arthur Melo should start in the middle of the park alongside Adrien Rabiot, who has been linked with Arsenal and Barcelona. The former will look to essay the role of the deep-lying playmaker while the latter will be the workhorse in the middle.

Weston McKennie should also feature after scoring after coming on from the bench last time out. The USMNT star will have the license to push forward and join up the two forwards, who should once again be Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, although Dejan Kulusevski is also an option Pirlo might look at.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Szczesny; Danilo, Bonucci, Demiral; Chiesa, McKennie, Arthur, Rabiot, Frabotta; Dybala, Ronaldo

Sassuolo

Sassuolo will have to cope without star attacker Domenico Berardi while Federico Ricci, Filippo Romagna, Mehdi Bourabia and Lukas Haraslin are also absent from the 24-man travelling party to Turin for Sunday’s game. Roberto De Zerbi is expected to set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Andrea Consigli manning the goal.

Vlad Chiriches and Gian Marco Ferrari ought to be the two centre-backs who will have the unenviable task of dealing with the duo of Ronaldo and Dybala. They will need support from the full-backs, Jeremy Toljan and Rogerio, who will look to stay compact when not in possession but push forward in the attacking phases.

23-year-old Manuel Locatelli will look to dictate play from the middle of the park with his range of distribution while also keeping an eye on the midfield runners in Rabiot and McKennie. The Italian will have support from Pedro Obiang in the double pivot, with club captain Francesco Magnanelli making way for him.

The creative onus will largely rest on the shoulders of Filip Djuricic, who will look to string together attacks and create chances from the No. 10 role. Hamed Junior Traore and Jeremie Boga will carry the threat from the wide areas, with the latter in particular likely to cause plenty of problems after getting among the goals in the midweek game.

Francesco Caputo, who has six league goals so far this term, ought to spearhead the Sassuolo attack with Giacomo Raspadori and intersting option from the bench that De Zerbi can call upon.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Consigli; Toljan, Chiriches, Ferrari, Rogerio; Locatelli, Obiang; Traore, Djuricic, Boga; Caputo

Key Stats

  • Juventus have lost only one of their 14 Serie A matches against Sassuolo (W10 D3).
  • Sassuolo have picked up just one point from their last seven away games against Juventus in the Serie A.
  • Juventus have won just four of their seven home games in Serie A this season.
  • Sassuolo have failed to keep a single clean sheet in their previous five Serie A matches. During this run, the Neroverdi have conceded 11 goals.
  • Juventus are unbeaten in 36 of their last 38 home matches in Serie A.

Player to Watch

Cristiano Ronaldo

He may soon be turning 36 years old, but Cristiano Ronaldo continues to be the MVP for Juventus. The Portuguese talisman has easily been the Bianconeri’s best player this season and it is no secret that Andrea Pirlo’s side have struggled when he is not available.

Ronaldo is leading the goalscoring charts in Serie A this term, bagging 14 goals in just 12 games, finding the back of the net once every 72 minutes on an average. Up against a tough Sassuolo side, the reigning champions will once again look up to the former Real Madrid superstar to deliver the goods in front of goal on Sunday night.

Prediction

Juventus 2-1 Sassuolo

The absence of Matthijs de Ligt means Andrea Pirlo will have to field a changed defensive partnership, which could provide the Sassuolo attack, comprising of the dangerous Jeremie Boga and Francesco Caputo, with a good chance to breach the hosts’ goal.

However, Juventus’ midweek win over AC Milan will have filled them with immense confidence, while it also showed that they are pulling in the right direction. With Federico Chiesa in fine form and Cristiano Ronaldo also among the goals, the title-holders should have enough to make it three wins in three in 2021.

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