Not long to go before Maurizio Sarri officially undertakes his first match in charge of Juventus.
The former banker returned home this summer following a season in charge of Chelsea which, despite becoming tumultuous, ended with Europa League success.
Sarri couldn’t have picked a more daunting challenge; although they’ve won the last eight Serie A championships, which is pressure already, Juve are desperate to end a 23-year European Cup drought.
Fortunately, the powers that be in Turin have provided him with a squad deep with talent. It’s now up to him to make the best of it. Since establishing himself as one of Europe’s most proactive managers at Napoli, the 60-year-old Neapolitan has been set in his ways.
He’s utilised at least four different systems – including 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1 and 4-3-2-1 – but 4-3-3 has by far been his most favoured. Sarri is certainly set to shape his Juve side in that formation. Given the calibre of players under his tutelage, and their sheer number, the Bianconeri could realistically field two impressive teams. From a mixture of the pair, Sarri will hope to write another chapter in the club’s historic story.
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We will have to wait until August 24th, when Juve open their Serie A defence at Parma, for Sarri to unveil his first competitive line up. So, even now, we can’t say for certain what his best team looks like.
Pre-season gives us some indication even, though skipper Giorgio Chiellini has been missing through injury and left-back Alex Sandro is yet to return after being part of Brazil’s recent Copa America success.
Both are certain participants and should feature in a back-four that includes big summer recruit, Matthijs de Ligt, whose imminent central defensive partnership with Chiellini is tantalising. As for who is running up and down the right flank? That should be Joao Cancelo (unless he’s shipped out).
Sarri’s prefered midfield triumvirate, which includes a metronomic deep-lying playmaker behind two energetic central midfielders, is likely to eventually consist of two new boys, Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey, plus his ‘new Jorginho’ in Miralem Pjanić, which subsequently puts Juve’s engine up there with the best around.
Going further up the field, expect to see marquee player Cristiano Ronaldo cutting from the left, which is where Sarri feels he can cause the most damage. On the opposite flank is Federico Bernardeschi, with Mario Mandžukić in the middle. But given the depth of this Juve team, Sarri’s first XI, especially across the front line, could still be subject to change.
The ‘B’ Team
A sign of a top squad is having two quality players in every position. Juve, heading into the 2019/20 campaign, can lay claim to having exactly that. The returning Gianluigi Buffon, who previously served this club imperiously, will provide cover for Szczesny, with Mattia Perin waiting in the wings.
Mattia De Sciglio, who has featured prominently in pre-season, and the exciting Luca Pellegrini, likewise, slot in at full-back. Riches at centre-back has long been a staple of Juve and this current incarnation is no different; beyond De Ligt and Chiellini are Leonardo Bonucci, Merih Demiral and Daniele Rugani, though the latter has been linked with an exit.
Ramsey is yet to fully recover from an injury he sustained last season, but it’s been no issue with the presence of Blaise Matuidi, who is also being mooted for a transfer.
Rodrigo Bentancur and Emre Can, another of Juve’s free acquisitions, will be hoping to impress Sarri and stake a first-team claim. Sami Khedira as well. Further up the field is ex-golden child Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain, the former of whom has been strongly linked with a move away as part of a swap that includes Manchester United marksman, Romelu Lukaku.
Meanwhile, if Moise Kean does say goodbye, then it could open the door for Higuaín to secure regular game time once again. Another player kept in reserve is Juan Cuadrado, who has proven to be useful whether starting or not.