Juventus is on a roll at the present moment. Dating back to a late October road loss to Greek giants Olympiakos in the Champions League that jeopardized the team’s chances in Europe, the Bianconeri have reeled off five straight wins. However, the last two victories are the most impressive – Juve pulled out a 3-2 win over the same Olympiakos and thumped Parma 7-0 over the weekend.
The Old Lady sits three points clear of Roma atop the Serie A table and has drastically improved its prospects in the Champions League thanks to the win over the Greek champions.
Best Starting XI
New Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel during his brief time in Turin. The ex-Milan coach has stuck to the 3-5-2 formation (or a slight variation of it, the 3-5-1-1) that worked best for former coach Antonio Conte. After all, the roster is teeming with center-backs and central midfielders, hallmarks of the 3-5-2.
When naming Juve’s best XI, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is the first player on the list. The ageless wonder has nine clean sheets in 15 games this season across all competitions. He didn’t allow a goal over the course of the team’s first six games.
The rest of the best 11 features other locks, like Buffon, and some positions where the starting role isn’t set in stone.
Starting with the defense at center-back, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini continue to be two of the world’s best and occupy the center and left center-back positions in the back three. The third center-back position should be occupied by Andrea Barzagli, but the veteran defenseman hasn’t played a game this season due to injury. Angelo Ogbonna and Martin Caceres have filled in for the Italian with mixed results. Caceres played exceptionally well during the first three games of the season, starting and completing every game. But the Uruguayan trailed off during the next three contests, failing to last the full 90 in each. He was ruled out with a thigh injury in early October and hasn’t played since. Ogbonna gets the nod in the best 11 due to his more consistent play and field time.
As for the wing-backs, Stephan Lichtsteiner maintains his spot on the right, while Patrice Evra would be the choice on the left. The Frenchman has received fewer matches than fellow left wing-back/defender Kwadwo Asamoah, but is the more experienced of the two and has outperformed the Ghanaian in the Champions League.
In the center of the park, the decisions are more difficult. Paul Pogba has maintained his superb play from last season and continues to be one of the team’s best players, making him a lock. Joining him is two of the group of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio.
Limited by injuries, Pirlo has only appeared in six games. However, when healthy, the midfielder should start due to his superb dictation of tempo, passing ability and set-piece prowess. That leaves Vidal and Marchisio. The former performed better in the Champions League, while the latter has had the advantage domestically in terms of Whoscored ratings, but due to Vidal’s injury issues, Marchisio would be the pick as the third midfielder.
Up top, there is little question who the strikers should be—Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente. Youngsters Alvaro Morata and Kingsley Coman are still developing, but regardless of this, Tevez and Llorente are the best options. The two have combined for 13 goals and four assists.
Juventus’ best performer, without a doubt, is Carlos Tevez. The Argentine striker has 10 goals and four assists across all competitions. Among those 10 strikes are two Champions League goals (an area where Tevez struggled in recent seasons). He has scored twice as many goals as the next Juventus player.
The former Manchester City man’s four assists also paces the team. In addition, he hasn’t been selective with his scoring. Selective, meaning he doesn’t just score against small teams and go quiet versus bigger clubs or vice versa. The Argentine has bagged braces against Parma and Malmo but also scored a crucial, penalty-induced double against Roma to help the Bianconeri to a 3-2 win. In addition, he produces when the team needs him, with the brace against Roma and assisting on Paul Pogba’s goal in a 1-1 draw with Sassuolo to avoid a loss.
Most Improved Player
For a team with the same core of players getting the majority of the minutes, Juventus doesn’t have a ton of candidates for a most improved player. Morata, Coman and Roberto Pereyra have all showed well, but the most improved player has to be Angelo Ogbonna. Paul Pogba would have been another choice, but due to Ogbonna’s lack of playing time last season the defender gets the nod.
Ogbonna was buried behind Chiellini, Bonucci, Barzagli and Caceres on the depth chart last campaign, but injuries to the latter two have thrust the former Torino center-back into the starting lineup. He hasn’t done anything to unseat Chiellini as the team’s best central defender, but he performs solidly and consistently. Whereas last season Ogbonna looked out of place at times, this season he hasn’t had a poor game. Domestically, his level of play has him rated by Whoscored as the 69th best player in Serie A. That statistic may not jump out at you, but it will when you consider he’s rated ahead of other defenders such as Nemanja Vidic, Kostas Manolas and Matteo Darmian.
Juve have been hit with injuries this season. In their most recent game against Parma, the team was without Asamoah, Evra, Barzagli, Caceres and Pirlo among others. Additionally, the team has missed Morata and Ogbonna for varying stretches this season due to injury.
Positions that Need to be Filled in the Transfer Window
There aren’t many positions that Juventus needs to address during the upcoming winter transfer window. A replacement will be needed if Arturo Vidal is sold, but other than that, the biggest need is at center-back. Once the team’s calling card, the defense has struggled as of late, most notably letting Roma and Olympiakos put four goals in the net during two games. Should Barzagli’s injury woes continue, the team may look for another central defender. They’ve gotten by with Caceres and Ogbonna, but another addition will be needed. Tottenham’s Vlad Chiriches, Manchester City’s Matija Nastasic and Borussia Dortmund’s Neven Subotic have all been linked with a move to Turin and all would make sense given the state of things. Additionally, should contract talks with Stephan Lichtsteiner sour, the team could look for a replacement for the defender whose contract expires at the end of the season. Fellow Swiss full-back/wing-back Ricardo Rodriguez is rumored to be a possible replacement.
On the whole, Allegri has performed adequately in his first go around as Juventus’ head man. He didn’t try tinkering with the formation and only reverted away from the 3-5-2 when he had to because of significant, injury-related absences. Additionally, he has the team in first place in Serie A and didn’t make the cardinal sin of playing Pirlo out of position – something he has done before.
For all of the criticism Allegri received for what occurred at Milan, he has performed moderately well in Europe. Juventus isn’t top of the group, but it sits in a good position to advance. Tied on points, but in third due to a goal-differential behind Olympiakos, the Italians have two games remaining. One is at home against Atletico Madrid and the other is away to Malmo. The Bianconeri nearly played the Spanish champions to a standstill but eventually lost 1-0 in Spain. Allegri should feel good about the team’s chances facing the Spaniards at home – Pirlo was absent during the loss. Having the maestro back should help the Turin-based club greatly. That, and a winnable game away to Malmo is what stands in the way of Allegri guiding Juventus to the knockout stages. Should the team advance past the quarter-finals, which is a real possibility given the talent, Allegri will have achieved something what former coach Conte never did.
In typical fashion for a top-of-the-table team, Juventus doesn’t have many weaknesses. The team’s defense has faltered at times this season, but the returns of Barzagli and Caceres from injury plus the continued improvement of Ogbonna should help. Additionally, the potential inclusion of a center-back during the winter transfer window should fix any problems the team has at the back.
Overall Rating (Out of Five Stars)
Four stars. Juve is on top of Serie A at the moment, but a rash of injuries and an inability to achieve similar success in Europe are the only factors keeping the team from achieving a five-star rating.
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