Juventus will look to get back to winning ways at home when they face off against Empoli this weekend in Serie A.
Italian giants Juventus are about to embark on their first game in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era as the Portuguese international is set to return to Manchester United.
Juventus were cruising against Udinese on the opening day of the season only for a Wojciech Szczesny horrorshow to hand their rivals a share of the spoils. Ronaldo looked to have stolen the game in stoppage time but saw his effort ruled out for offside. The 36-year-old also received a yellow card for his troubles in what was his last significant moment in a Juventus jersey.
The second coming of Massimiliano Allegri has so far proven to be a mixed bag. The Italian will be keen to get his first win this season before next week’s international break.
Empoli meanwhile lost their opening game of the season against Lazio and will be pushing for an upset. Playing in front of their home crowd, the onus is on Juventus to take the game to their opponents. Anything less than a win should be considered unacceptable, given their squad’s riches.
Having won Serie B at a canter last season, Empoli put up a decent showing in their first game against Lazio. Whether they can spring a surprise and do the unthinkable in Turin remains to be seen. Ahead of their trip to the Allianz Stadium, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
The biggest news concerning Juventus is the departure of superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo. The veteran has already said his goodbyes to the squad and has played his last game for the club. Allegri could, thus, revert to a 4-4-2 formation this week with some change in personnel. The return of Federico Chiesa to full fitness is a welcome development that will offer Allegri more options.
Summer signing Manuel Locatelli came on as a stoppage-time substitute last week. He could be set for a more pivotal role this time around. Allegri also welcomes back Adrien Rabiot from injury and Weston McKennie from a suspension. The Old Lady will, however, be without Arthur and Aaron Ramsey who are both injured. They should, however, have enough in the tank to overcome a plucky Empoli side.
Despite his blunders last week, Szczesny looks set to start in goal for the home side. There is little reason for Allegri to change his backline and the Matthijs de Ligt – Leonardo Bonucci partnership looks set to continue. Euro 2020 hero Locatelli could be in line for his first start in midfield, forming the midfield partnership alongside Rodrigo Bentancur.
The onus to lead the line will fall on Spaniard Alvaro Morata alongside Paulo Dybala. The former was unlucky to not score against Udinese while the latter put on a hell of a show. They will hope to get the job done this time against Empoli.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Szczesny; Danilo, de Ligt, Bonucci, Sandro; Chiesa, Bentancur, Manuel Locatelli, Cuadrado; Morata, Dybala
Aurelio Andreazzoli looks set to continue with his 4-3-1-2 system despite the opening day result against Lazio. Fabiano Parisi is still not ready to feature and will miss the game against the Old Lady.
The Serie B champions have landed themselves a strong frontline with the Patrick Cutrone with Leonardo Mancuso pairing. The duo has the ability to put together a prolific partnership and it remains to be seen if Juventus will get a first taste of it. The Juventus centre-backs are, however, beasts in the air and the aerial route is something Empoli will be advised against adopting.
Empoli’s full-back pairing of Petar Stojanovic and Riccardo Marchizza could prove to be a handful if they get going. It will be interesting to see how Sandro and Danilo match up against them. Juventus showcased an Achilles Heel with their inability to kill off lower-ranked teams in Serie A last season. While there is a gap in quality, Empoli could fancy their chances the longer it stays scoreless.
New signing Andrea Pinamonti (on loan) is a player to keep an eye on and could come off the bench for his debut. Empoli have a number of stars who are on loan. Just how well they gel together could decide their fortune this season.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Vicario; Stojanovic, Ismajli, Romagnoli, Marchizza; Ricci, Stulac, Bandinelli; Bajrami; Mancuso, Cutrone
- Juventus have won all eight meetings between the clubs since 2010.
- Juventus have kept a clean sheet in 7 of their last 9 matches against Empoli in all competitions.
- The last time Juventus failed to win their first two Serie A games of the season was in 2015/16. They, however, went on to win the league.
- With Ronaldo gone, Juventus have lost a player who scored 36 per cent of their total goals in Serie A over the last three seasons.
- Juventus have a 79 per cent win percentage against Empoli (W19 D3 L2). This is their best record against any current Serie A side who they have faced at least thrice.
Player to Watch
The Argentine international was handed the armband on opening day against Udinese and did himself proud on the night. With Ronaldo gone, the onus will be on Dybala to be the lynchpin of the Juventus attack this season.
The striker endured a torrid time in the 2020/21 season due to a loss of form and injury. He appears to have rediscovered his best and looks set for a resurgence. At 27, he is entering his prime and in Allegri has a manager who is capable of coaxing the best out of him.
With the likes of Manuel Locatelli and Federico Chiesa now available, Dybala has partners he can rely on and could be set for a prolific season. How well Empoli can contain him should determine their chances of victory against their more illustrious opponents.
Juventus 2-0 Empoli
The Turin giants ooze quality on paper and are keen to make amends for a forgettable 2020/21 campaign. Adding the likes of Locatelli and a fit-again Chiesa alongside a resurgent Dybala hands Allegri the initiative when it comes to taking the game to his opponents.
Apart from a couple of goalkeeping blunders, the Juventus defence held their own against Udinese on the opening day. Juventus have a solid starting XI and boast of great quality in every area on the pitch.
As long as they turn up, it should be a straightforward win against their less vaunted opponents. Allegri will want to go into the international break with a win on the board and will be sure to see his players don’t throw away the initiative, unlike last week.