A solid week for the Juventus, also thanks to the missteps of the Scudetto contenders and the comeback is starting to look like a real possibility, but they will obviously have to keep churning out wins to put pressure on the leading duo. Milan in particular have a creampuff stretch of the schedule coming up, the same that allowed them to have a great start back in September and October, while Inter, despite some underwhelming performances, are in a great spot without European competitions.
As it happened in the past, the Bianconeri have showed a remarkable ability to shake off big losses, but hopefully the opportunity will not present itself too often as it is time to erase those kind stumbles altogether, otherwise the tenth title in a row will resume being mirage. Since every point is precious in this kind of situation, it will also be paramount to avoid looking ahead at the more difficult clashes. Coppa Italia is a chore in its early stages, but now that the semi-finals, against Inter no less, are on the docket, it does become a real objective and potentially a distraction. The double rematch with the Nerazzurri will be an immediate test to see if the squad and the coaching staff can learn from their mistakes in a hurry, but that is a matter of another time.
The COVID outbreak has ended with Alex Sandro coming back midweek and so Andrea Pirlo has almost the full roster to play with but there are some offensive issues in this one. Paulo Dybala, who will miss some more time with a knee sprain as the initial timetable turned out to be a little optimistic. Dejan Kulusevski is suspended due to yellow-card accumulation, which will leave the front-line very thin for this one and force Alvaro Morata to play through a small ankle injury. The only alternatives to the starters will technically be Federico Chiesa, who has however already been announed as a starters on the wings.
The goal was very fluky, but beyond that, it looks like Arthur has finally managed to put together few convincing outings in a row and the combination with Rodrigo Bentancur and Weston McKennie could finally be the right one in the midfield given the different traits of the players. As the purest passer in the roster, barring besides Kulusevski, Arthur should be able to carve a significant role for himself in a team that likes to have possession so far, but up until recently he was too tentative and not really able to dictate the tempo, plus an injury got in the way as well. Hopefully he will be able to continue growing and he is by far the player with the most untapped potential in the roster.
The options are meager in that role and so everybody will be able to stay engaged: Adrien Rabiot struggled when he was not a full-time starter in the past but, for what was worth, he fared well against SPAL, while Aaron Ramsey is steadily vanishing and, even if McKennie has clearly outplayed him, that could become an issue in terms of energy management. While there could always be some rotation, the only doubt about the lineups seems to be in the back between Giorgio Chiellini and Matthijs De Ligt and whoever is in better shape will get the nod.
3-4-1-2 Szczesny; Danilo, Bonucci, Chiellini; Cuadrado, Bentancur, Arthur, Chiesa; McKennie; Morata, Ronaldo.
Sampdoria are not the most ambitious nor the most consistent side in the League, as evidenced by the fact that they basically never tie, but they certainly do not lack talent, especially up front, and they are currently in a good run of form as they have prevailed in three of the last four contests, against Inter, Udinese and Parma, and they have been especially effective at home, even though they have been liable to fall into some swoons at times.
They have a very deep and talented front-line that has propelled their recent push, especially Balde Keita that has been on a tear since coming back from an injury and offers a high level of unpredictability and explosiveness and has been more clinical here than in previous stays. Coach Claudio Ranieri has been reluctant to field him next to Fabio Quagliarella for some time, but he did not in the past game and that is likely going to be their go-to attack going forward, but they possess few other quality options and each is getting some shine.
While Quagliarella has been steady, the other attackers have been more seesawing until Keita showed up. Gaston Ramirez is a pet player of the coach and he is capable of dazzling plays, but he also severely inconsistent, Valerio Verre was pretty terrific last year and has been an interesting tactical weapon in challenging match-ups and he is the hardest worker of the bunch, but also slouch when it comes to finishing.
The one with the highest ceiling is newcomer Mikkel Damsgaard, who can feature on the flanks but has looked more at ease as no.10 as he can move around more freely, and boasts an impressive mix of pace, dribbling skills, inventiveness and shooting. He has not been fully unleashed yet, but he has produced whenever called upon. They recently added Ernesto Torregrossa to the mix, who is the purest center-forwards on the roster given his size, and he scored right away on his debut. They have basically six guys for two roles, each with different characteristics, so they can throw all sorts of combinations at the opponents and the gaffer has not been shy in making early subs when things are not working out.
Adaptability and malleability have been key assets for them as, even though their base scheme is 4-4-2 or a slight variation of it, they change it often based on the foes, also within the same game. They started off with 4-3-1-2 against Parma and they have also at times also turned to 3-5-2 to mirror the opposing scheme. They are able to do that thanks to the versatility of their contributors as the veteran Antonio Candreva and Jakub Jankto, their steadier and arguably more complete players, can play both as wingers or as box-to-box midfielders, while fullback Bartosz Bereszynski can easily serve as third center-back if need be as he is very defensive-minded. They already rely a lot more offensive on left-back Tommaso Augello anyway, who is stupendous crosser. Their flank game is rather productive and the Bianconeri have often struggled with teams playing with width in the past.
They are fundamentally sound team that at every level given the stabilizing presences of Albin Ekdal, Morten Thorsby and Adrien Silva in the midfield, who take care of all the dirty work allowing them to field pretty aggressive lineups, and the muscularity and savviness of Maya Yoshida, Omar Colley and Lorenzo Tonelli in the back. Candreva and Jankto also chip in significantly in the passive phase, making the formation very balanced, but also capable to countering in a hurry thanks to few specialists, including Quagliarella, who might be pretty old but still keeps up and has become a marvelous passer.
They can bunker up if they want to, but since their position in the table is pretty serene they have tackled their recent matches head-on and they have reaped the benefits for it. Juventus should have more room to attack than against a regular minnow, but will also be to be more attentive in the back given the vast and diverse array of weapons at Ranieri’s disposal. They will also have to be on point until the end because the Blucerchiati are very resilient and tough to put down and can turn the game on its head in few plays thanks to their bench.
4-4-1-1 Audero; Bereszynski, Yoshida, Colley, Augello; Candreva, Silva, Thorsby, Jankto; Ramirez; Keita.