Juve welcome basement dwellers Crotone tonight and the opportunity to regain any semblance of form could not come more gift wrapped. For our opponents are wretched, having lost 5 of their last 6 games and looking certainties for relegation.

After the horror show we painfully witnessed in Portugal mid-week, I am hopeful of finding a strong reaction, a demonstration of what the shirt means to these players. For the performance on the biggest stage made a mockery of the fine run of results we had ploughed through prior to the resumption of the CL. And yet…perhaps there are more like myself, who were unsurprised by the disjointed, listless, anaemic effort. For whilst that splendid run of results suggested improvement, I did not find any reason to conclude that we had finally begun to get it right.

No standout performances where we dominated from start to finish. No beautiful, even briefly appearing, team moves. We were functional, to a degree, close to showing some solidity where we had been wildly inconsistent, yet I saw and felt nothing of real progress of the new identity, the system all coming together to offer glimpses of a brighter future.

Still, we emerged from the defeat with a scoreline which thankfully did not reflect the game accurately. And I will try to be more positive to suggest that had we played well, and emerged with a 2-1 loss, that vital away goal, I would not be too unhappy.

Team news

At least 4 of those 5 would be in my own ideal starting XI, yet that is not to suggest we should be looking at the absentees as reason for concern, as we remain able to deploy a hugely superior side to Crotone.

Rumours suggest that old timer Santo Buffon will be back between the sticks. Let us hope that they do not have any microphones hidden with the goal line technology! The blasphemy laws the FIGC continue with are a bemusing anachronism, almost quaint, yet more ridiculous.

The two youngsters in the middle at the back, with Danilo and Sandro either side and the rest of the side pretty much picks itself. With Rabiot suspended, I would prefer to see a youngster given the chance than an unfit Mckennie, yet whoever features we have more than enough to trounce the visitors… Yet whenever I write this, even think this, we struggle, so I will predict a tough tie, with the presence of one of the greatest players of all time, proving enough to edge the result in our much needed favour.

I would also be surprised to see Kulu starting again in the ill fitting SS/ CF role. Its not at all playing to his or our strengths whereas having Morata up there achieves this (I am not buying the Morata fainting routine). As Adrian Manole mentioned recently, Pirlo has somehow managed to make astonishingly less of the young player of the year from last season, than any of us thought possible…

JUVE (4-4-2):  Buffon; Danilo, Demiral, De Ligt, Alex Sandro; Chiesa, Bentancur, Ramsey, McKennie; Kulusevski, Ronaldo

Some brilliant whispers were heard in a dream of Fagioli entering the fray. An injection of youthful class in the middle of the park. Against the worst side in the league. Why not eh? Will be very pleased to see this, though assume Pirlo will stick to the more seasoned pros given how vital points are. Still…the kid is top drawer, and by modern standards, if we are to continue to place more faith in the youth talents, this is precisely the kind of game and time, for the starlet to emerge from the shadows.

I dont understand why we stick to a 4-4-2 (in any ‘phase’) when we do not field a natural LM. If that is the focus, play Sandro and Frabrotta???

Its the same issue I have with Pirlo’s tactics, as has been paramount in my cynicism all season. Chiesa, a specialist RWF, often found as a LM. Danilo – who has excelled at RB/CB, often seen at LB. Kulu, another specialist RWF in a front 3, deployed as a SS/CF. Mckennie, a natural box to box, in the hybrid role roaming, tucking in, going out wide between the lines. And Rodrigo…

Bentancur is a player I have followed since our interest first abounded during his Boca days. He was a superb looking talent. Gliding forward with the ball at his feet, offering intelligent tackles, good pace, solid engine…he looked eminently capable. His progress for the Uruguay national side has been steady, and his development at Juve, even last season, perhaps especially last season, under Sarri was very promising indeed. For he looked our most consistent midfielder. And yet…he is one of many who has gone drastically downhill under Pirlo.

To see him expected to drop deep, to somehow replace Bonucci I suspect, to gather the ball and help play out from the back…is hideous. Its not his game. He has never been focused on that role. True enough, he plays in a double pivot for his national side, but has powerful players behind him and has scope to carry and get the ball up the field.

Under Sarri, he indeed was trialled a fair amount in the DM role, as part of a midfield three, yet vastly more used in a box to box role. And when in that more balanced deployment, he was proving valuable in creation in the final third, just needed to work on his shooting.

He is not comfortable playing so deep as sometimes the last man, dropping so deep that he has no opportunity to drive into space, instead is tasked with short, sharp passing when hounded by opponents and facing the wrong way his natural game flows, to invite and beat the press.

I am quite horrified by the amount of players out of position. Will lean more towards my belief that not only does progression in the CL remain very much in our hands and capabilities, but so does the scudetto.

Forza Juve

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