Group Stage Fan Preview: Juventus

The summer transfer market seemed to leave a bit of a bittersweet taste for Juventus, with some important quality signings being made but with the feeling that a few more additions could have arrived to further strengthen the team. The highest profile players that were purchased for the upcoming season are both wingers, Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa.

The Italian starlet arrived from Fiorentina in a move reminiscent of that very controversial signing when Roberto Baggio left la Viola to join the bianconeri in 1990. While the blonde attacker still has a way to go to match the talents of the long-haired playmaker that won the Ballon d’or in 1993, he is undoubtedly one of the most promising Italian players at the moment, along the likes of Andrea Belotti and Marco Verratti. Not only that, he’s a very versatile player, being able to play in several positions such as trequartista, second striker or winger.

The Brazilian on the other hand left after two seasons with Bayern Munich, following a disagreement with the club’s board. His first year at Munich was a success, getting a lot of minutes due to the injuries of Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben. After the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti in 2016 however, he fell out of favor and saw his playing time limited consequently deciding to ask to be sold to revive his career elsewhere.

The arrival of the pair will take some of the burden of Paulo Dybala’s shoulders in attack, as the Argentinean was the main offensive threat in the bianconeri’s starting eleven. Given Gonzalo Higuaín and Mario Mandzukic don’t offer a lot of creativity and Juan Cuadrado is an extremely inconsistent player, Juventus’ attack could suffer if the former Palermo player was marked off the game, as it happened during the Champions League final in Cardiff.

Following the injury of young starlet Marko Pjaca in February, that forced him to miss the rest of the season, Maximiliano Allegri didn’t have many attacking alternatives on the bench. With these two signings Juventus probably has the biggest firepower in attack they’ve had since 2006, when the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Trezeguet, Pavel Nedved and Mauro Camoranesi were at the club.

The same improvement however wasn’t made in midfield, an area of the pitch which Juventus needed to upgrade since 2015 when Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo left the club (while Paul Pogba did so in 2016). The past summer Miralem Pjanic arrived from Roma, but no other high profile players were signed in that position following those important departures.

Claudio Marchisio has struggled with an ACL injury since the end of the 2015-2016 season and has yet to return to his best physical shape, while Sami Khedira has been fairly inconsistent and is probably one of the weakest links in the starting XI. Blaise Matuidi arrived from PSG but it remains to be seen if he has the quality to solve Juventus’ problems in midfield or if Marotta should have gone for a higher profile signing, like Corentin Tolisso or Steven N’Zonzi, who were both linked to the club during the past few months.

Another midfielder that arrived this summer, although the singing had already been secured in January, is Rodrigo Betancur, the young Uruguayan sensation that was involved in the deal that sent Carlos Tévez back to Boca Juniors. He is very highly rated by Allegri and was linked to several top clubs in Europe, including Real Madrid, but is still very young and lacks any sort of European experience under his belt. Tomas Rincón was sold after only six months at the club, as was Mario Lemina, who maybe could have been given another chance after showing very promising signs in his first season at Torino.

The defense was the only line of the team that suffered any significant departures, as both Dani Alves and Leonardo Bonucci were sold following speculations of a fight with Allegri during half time of the Champions League final. It remains to be seen who will replace them on the pitch, for the right back position the main candidate is Mattia de Sciglio, a favorite of Allegri who coached him at Milan when the defender showed very promising qualities a few years ago, although his level dropped considerably the past couple of seasons. Another alternative will be fellow new signing Benedikt Howedes, who can play as full back on any side or as center back. To replace Bonucci the favorite is Daniele Rugani, who is finally ready to become a starter after two seasons in the bench, although the experienced Andrea Barzagli still remains an option as is Mehdi Benatia, who was fully signed after a season on loan.

Juventus’ also failed to sign two players who were heavily linked during the summer in Balde Keita and Patrick Schick. Although neither of them were needs for the current squad, they are highly rated youngsters who could have helped the bianconeri in the future when the likes of Mario Mandzukic or Gonzalo Higuaín decline or leave. Wojcieceh Szczesny arrived to be Gianluigi Buffon’s back up following the departure of Neto to Valencia.

The bianconeri are undoubtedly still the biggest favorites to take the Serie A title for the seventh time in a row (already an all-time record in the country), but this season they might encounter some bigger obstacles than in recent years. Both Roma and Napoli continue improving and looking to reduce the differences even further, while Milan is looking to be back at the top after years of mediocrity following a very intense summer in which they signed the likes of Hakan Calhanoglu, Leonardo Bonucci, Ricardo Rodríguez, Frank Kessie and André Silva among others.

The challenge for the bianconeri will be to establish themselves as the fourth biggest team in Europe, and finally lift the Champions League title after two finals in the past three years. To reach at least the semifinals again would be an important achievement and maintaining the club’s name up there with Europe’s elite will guarantee the ability to attract world class names in the following seasons and will help keep the likes of Paulo Dybala, Miralem Pjanic and Alex Sandro at the club.

By: @Hernan1897

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