Juventus will be keen to put their Supercoppa Italiana heartbreak behind them when they take on an inconsistent Udinese at home in the Serie A on Saturday.
Italian giants Juventus will seek to take another step towards finishing in the top four when they take on Udinese in the Serie A on Saturday.
The Bianconeri have been sub-par this season, but have had the rub of the green when it comes to results. This has seen them keep in touch with the top four, and a strong second half to the season could see them even break into the elite group.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side will be keen to bounce back after losing to Inter Milan in the Supercoppa Italiana earlier this week. The game looked to be heading to penalties before Alexis Sanchez won the match for the Nerazzurri in stoppage time of extra time. To say that the defeat was heartbreaking would be an understatement.
On the other hand, Udinese are coming off the back of a 6-2 mauling at home to Atalanta. They are currently in the 14th spot and could be sucked into the relegation dogfight should results go against them in the coming weeks.
Despite their struggles, Juventus remain a difficult team to break down at home. This season, the Bianconeri have conceded just eight goals in ten Serie A games, a tally bettered by only Inter Milan and Napoli. In Udinese, Juve face an opponent they are expected to beat on paper. However, the visitors have proven themselves to be capable enough to spring a surprise in Turin.
With injuries and a loss of form sidelining some of his stars, Allegri has several decisions to make in the coming days. This weekend, a win will ease his worries and give his side some momentum going into the upcoming games. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could fare on the night and what tactics they might employ.
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The Bianconeri will be without Danilo, Aaron Ramsey and Federico Chiesa, who are all unavailable due to injury or fitness issues. The latter’s absence will be particularly noticeable given how key he has been to the Juventus attack this season. The Euro 2020 star injured his ACL against AS Roma and is set to miss the rest of the campaign. This could see Federico Bernardeschi or Dejan Kulusevski take the field this weekend.
Italian veterans Georgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are available and in contention to play. However, the former started against Inter in their midweek clash and could be given a breather. Weston McKennie has played every minute of Juventus’ first three games of the year and could be another player to be afforded a rest on the night.
Allegri is likely to start his side out in a 4-4-2 formation. Wojciech Szczesny will start in goal behind the back four of Juan Cuadrado, Matthijs de Ligt, Daniele Rugani and Luca Pellegrini. Kulusevski and Bernardeschi will be entrusted with proving the width on the wings. Both players have blown hot and cold this season and will need to showcase their credentials as consistent performers to gain a regular first XI spot.
Rodrigo Bentancur and Manuel Locatelli will be tasked with providing the solidity in midfield. The latter scored in the midweek fixture and has shown the drive to succeed in recent games. Adrien Rabiot is available but has struggled to impress of late. The Frenchman played all 120 minutes against Inter and is likely to start on the bench.
Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata are expected to lead the line. The former can also drop back into midfield and help connect the attack to those in the middle of the park. Morata will be tasked with leading the line and stepping up as a target man on the night.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, de Ligt, Rugani, Pellegrini; Bernardeschi, Locatelli, Bentancur, Kulusevski; Morata, Dybala
Udinese only recently came out of quarantine after 12 players tested positive for COVID-19. It is possible that Marco Silvestri, Jean-Victor Makengo, Mato Jajalo, Ilija Nestorovski, Lazar Samardzic, Ilija Nestorovski and Marvin Zeegelaar might not be available in time to feature on the night.
Roberto Pereyra is out injured while Rodrigo Becao is suspended for the game. New signing Filip Benkovic has already undergone his first training session, and it remains to be seen if he will be thrown right into the action. Given the players at his disposal, Gabriele Cioffi could start with a 3-5-2 formation. Daniele Padelli is in line to get the nod in goal behind a back three of Nehuen Perez, Bram Nuytinck and Benkovic.
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Udinese could pack the midfield with five players to gain the upper hand in numbers. This could transition to a three-person midfield that is narrow in the centre, with the full-backs dropping deep to make it a back five while defending.
Nahuel Molina and Iyenoma Udogie will start wide, with Walace, Gerard Deulofeu and Tolgay Arslan playing in the centre. Beto, who is in red hot form, is an automatic starter upfront and could be partnered with Ignacio Pussetto.
The players on hand could help Udinese sit deep and then break on the counter with pace. Deulofeu, Pussetto and Beto will be tasked with making something happen in attack and how well Juventus chain them could decide the match.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Padelli; Perez, Nuytinck, Benkovic; Molina, Arslan, Walace, Deulofeu, Udogie; Pussetto, Beto
- Anything but a win on the night will see Juventus fail to win any of their Serie A games against Udinese for the first time in a season since 1989-90.
- Juventus have won their last five home games against Udinese.
- Juventus have lost just once in Serie A since November and conceded six goals during that time. Only defending champions Inter Milan have done better in both parameters in that timeframe.
- Juventus are undefeated in their last seven Serie A games. In the same time, Udinese have won just once.
- Paulo Dybala has scored more goals against Udinese than against any other side in the competition (nine goals in 16 games)
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With Federico Chiesa now out of action, the onus to create chances in attack falls completely onto Dybala. The Argentine is yet to pen a contract with Juventus and looks set to become a free agent in the summer. But for now, he will be tasked with leading the Bianconeri to a strong finish to the season.
The 28-year-old has a sensational record against Udinese and has scored more against them than any other side in the Serie A. With Dejan Kulusevski and Federico Bernardeschi struggling for consistency, Dybala appears to be the go-to man for Allegri in attack. Dybala leads the club’s goalscoring and assists charts this season, and just how well Udinese can shackle him could determine how sharp the Juventus attack will be.
Juventus 2-1 Udinese
Juventus have not got going this season and have been far from convincing on the field. With Federico Chiesa also missing, the home side’s attack could be blunted should the opposition defence sit deep and stay disciplined.
That being said, Udinese could step out onto the pitch without some of their first XI players, which could impact their ability to keep a steady shape. Juventus have also been comparatively better at home and should be expected to edge the game. A win will see them stay within touching distance of Atalanta, who are in fourth spot.