Federico Bernardeschi will face a hostile reception when he returns to the Stadio Artemio Franchi tonight, having left Fiorentina for Juventus in the summer.
Words: Elio Salerno
A 7-0 mauling of struggling Sassuolo last weekend saw Juventus record a sixth straight win in 2018. Having already taken control of their Coppa Italia semi-final with Atalanta, a big win at the Allianz Stadium against the Neroverdi was ideal preparation for Max Allegri’s men as they step into their biggest week of the season so far. A heavy schedule of games and injuries to key players has forced Juve to dig deep into their squad and this Friday’s clash against Fiorentina will see subtle changes to the starting XI.
Juventus coach Max Allegri will have used the five days between games to assess his squad. The Old Lady were dealt a blow at the weekend with news that midfield engine Blaise Matuidi is set to miss around a month of action. The game against Sassuolo also saw veteran defender Andrea Barzagli pull out injured in the warm-up while his replacement Daniele Rugani was removed at half time as a precautionary measure, but both will be in the squad travelling to Florence.
In Thursday’s Press conference the Juventus boss confirmed the absence of Blaise Matuidi along with longer term casualties Juan Cuadrado and Benedikt Höwedes. Rumours had circulated that Paulo Dybala could be in contention for the first time this year, however Allegri confirmed that La Joya remains unavailable.
Gianluigi Buffon will continue in goal following his recent return and will hope to make it three consecutive clean sheets in the process. Three of the back four will remain from the game against Sassuolo, an improving Alex Sandro will keep his place at left-back while at the heart of defence will be the formidable pairing of Giorgio Chiellini and Medhi Benatia.
The only doubt remains at right back, Italian international Mattia De Scgilio has started the last three and is slowly proving he is a dependable option at the back; however his Coach has said he will look to rotate him here in favour of Stephan Lichtsteiner.
After another impressive display, midfield maestro Miralem Pjanic will attempt to continue his fine season and it is hard to imagine Juventus functioning the same without the Bosnian in the team. With two goals at the weekend taking his tally to six for the season, German international Sami Khedira will continue alongside Miralem Pjanic. The Juventus number 6 is not always a popular choice amongst the fans but for Mister Allegri he is Mr. Reliable in these games. There is a place available in the midfield three following the injury to Blaise Matuidi and it is Claudio Marchisio that is favourite to take his place. In what’s been another start stop campaign for the Italian, it was Marchisio that replaced his French counterpart after 20 minutes at the weekend, players and fans alike will be hoping this is the Italian’s opportunity to have a run in the team. Other options for the midfield include Stefano Sturaro or Uruguayan international Rodrigo Bentancur.
The frontmen pick themselves for this encounter. Following his hat-trick at the weekend, in-form Gonzalo Higuaín has now scored five goals in his last three games and will be raring to go. Alongside “Pipita” will be the ever present Mario Mandžukić and with the returning Douglas Costa unlikely to be risked from the start, it was confirmed by Max Allegri that Tuscan native Federico Bernardeschi will keep his place on the right of the Juventus attack. It will be a return to his old club for Bernardeschi and he can expect a hostile welcome from the Viola faithful as he steps onto the pitch at the Artemio Franchi.
Juventus expected XI (4-3-3) Buffon – Lichtsteiner, Benatia, Chiellini, Alex Sandro – Khedira, Pjanic, Marchisio – Bernardeschi, Higuaín, Mandžukić.
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