We can question whether it was the right move for Cristiano Ronaldo to rest last Saturday instead than in Champions League, but it surely should not take him to beat Benevento. Even though the team is constructed to cater to him and he brings to the table unique assertiveness, the rest of the attackers should be enough to skate by the minnows, especially given their experience and previous success in Serie A. It is something that should be rectified keeping in mind what could happen in the Spring, as Juventus can not imagine going places in Champions League if CR7 has to carry the load in every domestic game too.
Andrea Pirlo is understandably under scrutiny because the manager is always the easiest target when things are going poorly, but to me the struggles seems more related to those who go on the pitch rather than to coaching. Too often the lads take the foot off the gas after getting the lead and give up cheap goals, which happened a lot last year too. More worryingly, they allow inferior opponents to muck it up, slow the rhythms, fragment the game and reduce their momentum and, in those instances, the squad has proven to be incapable to react by turning up the intensity and overwhelm the adversaries as they should be capable and become too content with passing the ball around without sense of urgency and without creating chances.
What is instead down to the manager to figure out is how to put his players in the best position to succeed and it seems like Dejan Kulusevski, who had a blistering start of the season but then tailed off dramatically, is having a tough time both making an impact off the bench and co-existing with Paulo Dybala. Other than being hampered by a thigh injury, Federico Chiesa has instead adapted more smoothly to having a more limited amount of touches compared to his Fiorentina days.
It has also become pretty clear that most of the attackers/wingers are more comfortable on the right flank, even Aaron Ramsey, but somebody will have to adapt to featuring on the other one otherwise there are not enough minutes to go around and somebody would risk being left behind. Perhaps the scheme will start to looking like more like a 3-4-1-2 and less like a 4-4-2 to make it easier.
The abundance in the back lasted for just one game as Merih Demiral suffered a thigh injury and Giorgio Chiellini had a relapse, so it will be Matthijs De Ligt, Leonardo Bonucci and Danilo as the centre-backs for a while. Now it will be interesting to see whether Alex Sandro can play somewhat similarly to his fellow compatriot of if he is not considered polished enough defensively. He surely looked pretty good on offense versus Dynamo Kyiv.
After initially resting midweek, Danilo, Juan Cuadrado, Arthur and Adrien Rabiot are likely to be in the XI, but whom they will replace remains to be determined and Rodrigo Bentancur is in the mix. Dybala will partner Ronaldo as Alvaro Morata is suspended. Federico Bernadeschi is making a push to replace Chiesa.
4-4-2: Szczesny; Cuadrado, De Ligt, Bonucci, Danilo; Kulusevki, Rabiot, Bentancur, Chiesa; Ronaldo, Dybala.
Chiellini (thigh), Demiral (thigh).
Torino have tried something different after the Walter Mazzarri/Moreno Longo era, going with Marco Giampaolo, who went bust at Milan but had some strong years at Sampdoria. They have not been able to get good results so far and as matter of fact they sit in the bottom three, but at least they have put up a fight in recent matches after a dreadful start.
The Granata have shown very little of the good-looking brand of football their manager preached with the Blucerchiati and even ditched his beloved 4-3-1-2 tactic recently, moving to the more cautious 3-5-2, also because they no longer have the manpower to run it due to COVID and other injuries. They do have the pieces instead for what has become the most common formation in Serie A.
While they have been able to find the target in most matches, fueled by Andrea Belotti that has been on fire this season, they have had some inexplicable collapses that cost them a lot of points. They were up two-nothing in San Siro against Inter and lost four-to-two, they gave up two goals to Lazio in the stoppage time, and almost threw it away versus Genoa too despite a strong first hour. In their most recent match against Sampdoria, they started off well, had ten hellish minutes in the second half where they conceded twice, and then surged back and got the draw and could have obtained even more. They are wildly inconsistent throughout the same game.
Whether with three or four men, their back-line has struggled mightily as Salvatore Sirigu and Nikolas Nkoulou have not performed at the same levels they have done in the past. Lyanco and Bremer have been fine and the former is precious because of the quality of his feet, but they lose a lot of leadership when Nkoulou is not there. In the past game they opted to use Ricardo Rodriguez as left centre-back, probably they will go with a more defensive-minded in this one. Armando Izzo is tailor-made for this type of rearguard, but he has spent a lot of time on the shelf and looks on his way out.
The main reason they have not been able to play as the gaffer did in the past is that they do not have many ball handlers and, despite their attempts, they could not sign a pure deep-lying playmaker in the summer, deploying Tomas Rincon in that role, who can distribute it a little but is more known for his hustle and physicality.
They also have had troubles finding a proper no.10 until Sasa Lukic broke out: he has been great as saboteur of defense with his sneaky cuts, but he caught COVID and resumed practicing after two weeks only on Friday. Simone Verdi has proved ineffective in that position and has been better as second striker, where he has more freedom, but he also faces competition from Federico Bonazzoli and especially Simone Zaza, who has much better chemistry with Belotti.
The positive development stemming from the new tactics is that their flank game has been strong despite the absence of Mergim Vojvoda, who was dynamic but caught COVID as well. Wilfred Singo has been a revelation and he is a ball of energy on the right, while Cristian Ansaldi has resurfaced on the left one and has always been an underrated playmaker. The two box-to-box midfielders, Soualiho Meite and Karol Linetty, have more freedom and they are both pretty well-rounded players.
They will obviously get up for the Derby and they excel in feeding their leader Belotti, who can punish opponents in a variety of ways, but they have also displayed some major fragilities, both in the back and mentally, that the Bianconeri should surely exploit.
3-5-2: Sirigu; Bremer, Lyanco, Nkoulou; Singo, Meite, Rincon, Linetty, Ansaldi; Zaza, Belotti.
Gojak, Vojvoda, Ujkani (COVID), Millico (thigh).