Finishing third in the Champions League group stage is not an achievement, especially when you win just once, but it is better than nothing. Considering that Juventus are a long way from actually contending for the big ears cup, they should definitely put in a decent push to go deep in the second continental competition when the time comes. A trophy is a trophy, even more so for a team with very little European success. But that will be February and March.
The performance against PSG was half decent, and the Bianconeri have shown fight and determination in recent games. It took a lot of injuries and the energy of some youngsters, but the coach was finally able to rally the troops, so the shortcomings are strictly technical and no longer also motivational. While the performances haven’t been great, playing with the right attitude and vigor has been enough to get past some minnows for the first domestic win streak of the season. Hopefully rudderless, terrible demos like the ones at Monza and Maccabi Haifa are a thing of the past.
The challenge is to maintain the same spirit and focus after the return of key players. Everyone tends to give more in tough situations, but that shouldn’t change once the injury crisis subsides. The top four are within easy reach, and the next three meetings are an opportunity to make a serious claim, although they are far from an easy pick. A win in this one could easily be a turning point of the season. It’s been so long since the old lady prevailed in a crisis game.
The coach must keep the stars involved in normal circumstances and not just when there are no alternatives. They tend to be less burdened by sticky patches than veterans, because they don’t know any better. While Federico Gatti is going through the ups and downs of taking on much better opponents, Fabio Miretti and Nicolò Fagioli provide a real boost to midfield, which has been a weak link all year.
Besides, it would be better not to return to the tactical confusion of previous weeks. The roster works well with the 3-5-2, as there are more contributors in their natural habitat, starting with Leonardo Bonucci and Juan Cuadrado, who can be passive in different formations. Using Filip Kostic at full-back hasn’t caused any defensive problems, even with Alex Sandro behind him, and Gleison Bremer is back and will play there or at anchor when Bonucci can’t go.
Federico Chiesa and Ángel Di María will probably not be able to take on full minutes before the World Cup, so integrating two pure wingers will be a problem later on. Who knows if the latter will ever be able to string together a few appearances in a row without getting hurt. Considering the time off, there shouldn’t be any high expectations for the Italian winger, but he couldn’t have looked better on his return. In any case, both can be listed as second striker / No. 10, and the Argentine maybe even box-to-box with two bulldogs next to him. Also, with Leandro Paredes, the only pure regista, who fails to become an indispensable player, a slight tweak to a 3-4-3/3-4-2-1, which works wonders for many Serie A teams who copied it from Gian Piero Gasperini, could and should be the final destination. However, it’s one of the few lineups Allegri hasn’t tried yet in his whirlwind season.
Bremer and Di Maria are set to play, while Dusan Vlahovic will be called up late and will be a bench option at most. The simplest solution would be the same setup as against PSG, with the former Torino ace at the back. The manager hinted at some changes, which could involve Fagioli and Miretti and most likely a change of scheme as the only other alternatives are in different roles.
3-5-1-1: Szczesny; Danilo, Bremer, Alex Sandro; Square, Fagioli. Locatelli, Rabiot, Kostic; Miretti; Property of.
Pogba (meniscus tear), De Sciglio (thigh strain), Kaio Jorge (patellar tendon tear), Aké (malleolus fracture).
Inter have managed to do what Juventus dreamed of doing after their early problems, which is to get back to almost elite levels by tightening the screws and not doing anything too drastic. They have looked like the same ones from last season in the last month. While thrashing the bottom teams in Serie A is par for the course, what they have achieved in the Champions League, with some help from Barcelona, is absolutely impressive.
Their early defeats were disconcerting for a team with so many certainties to fall back on, and the problems turned out to be mostly mental. A misstep can happen here and there when you meet in-form opponents, but experiencing five stumbles in seven rounds, albeit against strong sides, was appalling. It couldn’t possibly last, and in fact it didn’t, although it may have already cost them the Scudetto. Regaining eight points from this version of Napoli is hard to conceive of, but the season is still reasonably young. They have achieved four consecutive domestic wins, the best against Fiorentina in a dramatic finish and the most comfortable against Sampdoria. They also overcame Sassuolo and Salernitana, which were no walk in the park.
They got rid of the lapses and lack of cohesion that hindered them beforehand, and their best players returned to normal. Lautaro Martínez came out of a goalscoring drought, Nicolò Barella was furious again and the defense improved, although it is still not completely superb. They will surely continue to improve once Romelu Lukaku and Marcelo Brozovic are fully back. The two injuries rocked the boat initially, but eventually found a new footing.
The way they dealt with the absence of their key player in midfield has been Simone Inzaghi’s biggest contribution to date. They signed a promising young MP in the summer, Kristjan Asllani, but hadn’t used him from the start, so he flopped when he was first called up during his streak. The coach called on experience, moving Hakan Calhanoglu to a deep-lying playmaker – something he’s probably destined to do in the later stages of his career as he’s not the fastest cat – and started Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who He became a complete player. in his seasons in Rome. They have a lot of technique and cunning in the role now, and they haven’t had much trouble defensively as Barella can run for three guys, and the other two aren’t far behind either, plus the 3-5-2 is naturally strong.
Another brilliant decision of the coach was to speed up the changing of the guard in the goal. Samir Handanovic may still put on the occasional great display, but he’s almost immobile at this point. André Onana isn’t the most reliable goalkeeper, but at least he routinely flies and makes difficult saves. Also, Federico Dimarco has been the starter on the left flank, which was hardly a given considering they paid a pretty penny for Robin Gosens last January, and they are in no position to waste an investment. But the former Atalanta ace has been a shadow of his former self in Milan following a serious thigh injury. Also, the homegrown product of his is more similar to Ivan Perisic, as he is a prolific center and a decent playmaker, while the German is more of a finisher. That’s particularly helpful since they have a closer on the other flank, Denzel Dumfries, who isn’t having a devastating season but is always a big threat to make a game-winning play when they need it. If Lukaku ever gets it right, containing his physicality will be a challenge for any team.
They make the most of it on set pieces, thanks to two pristine takers in Calhanoglu and Dimarco, but their defense is still a bit lacking considering their talent. They’ve gotten better lately, but they’re still not quite right. They have not had blunders but rather collective and perhaps systemic mishaps. Also, they’re not psychologically rock solid, and things can snowball for them and can come unstuck when they get sloppy, so maybe that’s something to take advantage of.
On the other hand, they have a plethora of weapons and still untapped offensive potential. Lautaro Martínez can hurt opponents in a variety of ways, and he just needs a little space to deliver. Edin Dzeko is not the best scorer, but he is an ideal second fiddle for his size and passing. Joaquin Correa is finding continuity off the bench, which should probably be his natural role, even if his price suggests otherwise. Their strikers attract so much attention that it’s easy for midfielders to slip into the folds, and Barella and Mkhitaryan are tremendously effective. And his flank play is a major source of offense in his day. They’re a cutting edge team in one way or another, and they’re on pace right now.
Brozovic will be available for this one, but the action will be easier for him. Alessandro Bastoni has a fever, so he will be evaluated late. He will start if he is in good shape; otherwise Stefan De Vrij and Francesco Acerbi will get the nod together in the back. They are ready to go with their best XI at the other positions.
3-5-2: Onana; Skriniar, De Vrij, Acerbi; Dumfries, Barella, Calhanoglu, Mkhitaryan, Dimarco; Martinez, Dzeko.
Lukaku, D’Ambrosio (thigh injuries).