Why Manchester United Have It All To Do Against A Juventus Team Enjoying 'Best Ever' Start
Little over two weeks ago, Juventus went to Old Trafford and thoroughly dominated the home side, recording a victory that put them in firm command of Group H and reconfirmed their status as one of the favourites to win the Champions League this season. Too strong, too fast and too well organised for Manchester United, the Bianconeri have won both their games since that 1-0 win, but how have their fared as Jose Mourinho’s men prepared for their meeting in Turin?
Despite keeping a clean sheet in Manchester and boasting a formidable reputation for being miserly, the Juventus backline has been surprisingly porous this term. After 11 rounds of Serie A action they have managed just four shutouts, their form coming in stark contrast to the three Champions League nights where the Old Lady has yet to concede a single goal.
A major part in those domestic woes has been Giorgio Chiellini’s absence, the Italy international pulling out of the starting XI against Empoli after feeling a tight muscle in the pre-match warm-up and then being rested altogether for the game with Cagliari. He should return to the pitch against United, and Max Allegri will be relying on him to tighten things up, expressing his dissatisfaction with what he saw during their latest outing.
“We have to defend better, as we concede too many goals and risked letting in an equaliser at the 85th minute,” the Coach told Sky Italia after the win over Cagliari. “Defending like this is tiring and we have to work harder as a unit to prevent these situations. This just isn’t good enough. Even after the first goal we didn’t add a second and drifted out of the game. We can’t always assume that we’ll score two or three goals.”
Arguably the most impressive unit at Old Trafford, the Juventus midfield has been hindered in recent weeks by injuries to Emre Can and Sami Khedira. The latter returned to the squad this weekend and was an unused substitute, while the former Liverpool man underwent surgery to address a thyroid issue.
That has meant playing with only three available players for the last four matches, Allegri with no option but to start Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi and Rodrigo Bentancur every time. They have done well but have shown signs of fatigue over the last two matches, something that will need to be monitored closely.
There is every chance Khedira will start on Wednesday however, with Juve able to withdraw both Pjanic and Matuidi early on Saturday as the team were winning comfortably.
Just like midfield and defence, Juve have had problems in attack, guilty of wasting chances and not killing games off despite being firmly in control. Even against United, they gifted the opposition a lifeline and were fortunate to see Paul Pogba’s effort slam back off the post to preserve their narrow lead.
It was a similar story against Genoa and Cagliari – who did both manage to grab an equaliser – and Empoli when they went 1-0 ahead last weekend. However, against the latter pair, the Bianconeri simply had too much quality, eventually scoring just enough goals to win the two games.
More bad news for United comes in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo. Following a slow start to life in Turin, he has been unstoppable since his red card against Valencia, registering five goals and four assists in his next eight appearances.
The latest of those came as he laid a goal on a silver platter for against Cagliari (shown above), much to the delight of his Coach. “He has always been a leader and above all an extraordinary player, as you saw from the assist he put on [Juan] Cuadrado’s foot,” Allegri told media outlet DAZN. “These are different players who in the decisive moment always come up with a goal or a great pass.”
While any Juventus supporter can tell you the ride has not been smooth, complaining about anything this term is most certainly worthy of a “first world problems” tag. Having picked up 31 points from a possible 33 in the league, the Bianconeri are enjoying their best ever start to a Serie A season and have won each of their three Champions League outings.
They have a very good defence that hasn’t quite clicked into form yet and can field a player as good as Cristiano Ronaldo who is just beginning to fire. Juventus Stadium is a daunting place to visit and the size of the task facing Manchester United simply cannot be understated, particularly given their own issues this term.
Probable Juventus XI: Wojciech Szczesny; Joao Cancelo, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Rodrigo Bentancur, Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi; Federico Bernardeschi, Paulo Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo