Italian giants Juventus will look to put their Champions League heartbreak behind them when they take on bottom-placed Salernitana at the Allianz Stadium.
Italian giants Juventus were given a rude wake-up call regarding their standing in European football courtesy of a 3-0 defeat at home to Villarreal. Following another premature exit from the Champions League, Massimiliano Allegri’s men return to Serie A action when they welcome bottom-placed Salernitana on Sunday.
The Bianconeri are in the fourth spot and have a seven-point lead over fifth-placed Lazio with nine games to go. Juventus appear to be on course to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League and have their destiny in their own hands.
A win will cement Juventus’s hold on a top-four finish and give them an outside chance of making a late push for the Serie A title. Despite a rather poor season, Juventus are within touching distance of AC Milan at the top of the table.
Although Juventus are unlikely to win the title, it would not be a surprise should they finish higher than fourth, especially if the teams above them continue to throw away cheap points.
Given the midweek heartbreak against Villarreal, the Bianconeri could not have asked for a better fixture to get back to winning ways. Salernitana have proven themselves difficult to beat of late, but they remain at the foot of the Serie A table and are there for the taking should Juventus turn up.
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Sights set on Sunday’s #JuveSalernitana ?
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Despite falling short on the continental stage, Juventus have put up a decent run of results in the league in the past few months. They are currently on a 15-game unbeaten run in the Serie A, showing the ability to dig out results even while performing poorly.
Allegri will be without Leonardo Bonucci, Alex Sandro and Denis Zakaria. The trio joins long-term absentees Federico Chiesa, Kaio Jorge and Weston McKennie on the sidelines. Meanwhile, Manuel Locatelli tested positive for COVID-19 and will also be unavailable for the game. It is not all bad news, as Paulo Dybala returned to action against Villarreal and could be in line to come off the bench once again.
Federico Bernardeschi, Dybala and Giorgio Chiellini are all available, but Allegri has already confirmed that none of them are likely to feature for the full 90 minutes.
There is every reason to believe that Bernardeschi and Dybala will share minutes on the night, ensuring their fitness is not compromised while also offering an offensive threat. Allegri is likely to start with a 4-4-2 with Wojciech Szczesny in goal. The shot-stopper will feature behind a back four of Danilo, Daniele Rugani, Matthijs de Ligt and Luca Pellegrini.
Juan Cuadrado has looked exhausted in recent weeks, but will likely keep his spot on the right, with Federico Bernardeschi starting on the other flank. Arthur is set to start in the middle with Adrien Rabiot for support. Dusan Vlahovic and Alvaro Morata will start up front, leading the Juventus attack on the night.
Dybala could eventually be brought on for Bernardeschi in the second half. This could see Juventus shift to a 4-3-1-2, with Rabiot shifting to the left and Dybala in the playmaker’s role ahead of Arthur. It would certainly add more creativity to the Juventus frontline that has often appeared isolated due to the lack of support from midfield.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Szczesny; Danilo, De Ligt, Rugani, Pellegrini; Cuadrado, Arthur, Rabiot, Bernardeschi; Morata, Vlahovic
Davide Nicola’s side have been more resilient in recent weeks, but this newfound resolve appears to have come too late. While they will give Juventus a fight, the difference in quality should show.
Salernitana will be without Stefan Strandberg, Frederic Veseli and Andrea Schiavone for the game, but Brazilian forward Mikael has recovered from an ankle sprain and is available. Full-backs Pasquale Mazzocchi and Luca Ranieri missed out against Sassuolo and will be back in contention to feature on the night.
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The Italian minnows are expected to start in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Luigi Sepe is set to start in goal behind the back four of Mazzocchi, Radu Dragusin, Federico Fazio and Ranieri. The duo of Ivan Radovanovic and Lassana Coulibaly will act as the double pivot in midfield, affording the Salernitana attackers more freedom to push forward.
Diego Perrotti looks set to start on the left, with Federico Bonazzoli in the centre and Grigoris Kastanos on the right. Milan Djuric looks set to start up front and will look to trouble the Juventus defence.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Sepe; Mazzocchi, Dragusin, Fazio, Ranieri; Radovanovic, Coulibaly; Perrotti, Bonazzoli, Kastanos; Djuric
- Juventus are currently on a 15-game unbeaten run in the Serie A this season.
- Juventus have conceded just once in five Serie A games against Salernitana. The Bianconeri have lost just once to the Italian minnows in the five games.
- Juventus have never lost two home games against newly-promoted teams in the same season in the Serie A. Having already fallen to Empoli earlier this season, they will attain that unwanted record should Salernitana pull off a shock.
- Juventus are unbeaten in their last 32 fixtures against teams starting the day in the bottom three of the Serie A. This run of games includes 28 wins and four draws.
- Juventus are unbeaten in the league since the start of December 2021. Since then, no other team has won more points than the Bianconeri in the Italian top flight.
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Both Manuel Locatelli and Denis Zakaria are unavailable on the night, while Rodrigo Bentancur was allowed to leave to Tottenham Hotspur in the January transfer window.
As things stand, Arthur appears to be the lone player capable of playing the defensive midfielder’s role in the Juventus midfield. Allegri has already confirmed that the former Barcelona man will start on the night, and given the absentees, Arthur will have a key role to play.
The 25-year-old is good at recycling possession, but he will need to do more on Sunday. He must be more proactive playing forward passes and help open up Salernitana. His performance could determine who comes out on top in the midfield battle.
Juventus 2-0 Salernitana
Juventus are struggling with injuries and are down to the bare bones in central midfield, but they need a strong response following the loss to Villarreal. The home crowd will expect nothing short of a match-winning performance.
Juventus go into the game as favourites and are unlikely to have an easy night out. However, their quality should shine through, and the Bianconeri should secure all three points.