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Juventus v Benfica: Champions League Q&A

The following is a Juventus Q&A session with Monica ahead of the Bianconeri’s Champions League match against Benfica. You can follow her here on Twitter.

Does Vlahovic need to improve his ability to link with the rest of the team? We’ve seen Milik come in and make more effort to get into receiving positions – is that something Dusan should be looking at too? (note that I have mixed feelings so genuinely curious to hear thoughts)

I agree that Vlahovic, much like other individuals, is not always supported in the most positive ways. However, I think Vlahovic does need to make more of an effort to involve himself in the match by dropping deeper to get touches and link up the play. In recent years we’ve been used to the likes of Dybala, Tevez, Mandzukic, Llorente, and Higuain dropping deep to help link the play forward from midfield to attack. Regardless of the caliber of striker or their characteristics we have seen this sacrifice and determination, especially when we have been lackluster in the midfield. Milik seems to be a great fit for Vlahovic because he is often the one who does this ‘dirty’ work. In summary, this partnership can be even better if they are both sharing these duties as we saw in some instances against Salernitana when Milik was subbed on. Not only will this improve their own link-up play, but by holding the ball up more consistently, the likes of Kostic, Cuadrado, etc. can be played in as outlets on the flanks to hopefully create more dangerous opportunities from wide areas.

allegri

Do you think Allegri will balance out more direct and positive play across from the start in time for Benfica or will we see more of the same sitting back inviting pressure in one half / until we go a goal behind?

I think there must always be balance. Juventus are clearly susceptible at the back, specifically at the wingbacks. However, this susceptibility seems evident regardless of the approach. It may be the case where we should just be going for it from minute one, knowing this vulnerability exists either way. I do believe if we are overly aggressive, we will get punished by Benfica. After the Salernitana performance and result, I do feel like Allegri may need to prove something and make a statement so it may be recency bias, but I think the play will be more positive from the start.

Benfica have scored 13 goals in 5 league games so far and 14 in 5 CL including qualifiers. All things considered, how should Allegri approach next week’s encounter & what formation will best suit us.

The Portuguese sides that are consistently featuring in Europe such as Benfica and Porto should be respected. Both have beaten us and knocked us out in European competition in recent years and always cause trouble for teams regardless of their stars being shopped every window. These teams play like underdogs that have nothing to lose and play with a lot of pace, especially on the counter attack.

Like the question above, I think the approach should be positive but tamed. Juventus have clear limitations when defending against the run of play, so I hope that we are not overly aggressive with a very high line. I personally do not think Allegri will do this but as mentioned above, we need a statement from both him and the team. I think a variation of a 4-4-3/3-5-2 will be deployed and I also think this would suit us best.

It is evident that Milik has been a positive acquisition for the squad and in partnership with Vlahovic. If Di Maria misses out, Milik is an absolute must in the lineup. Although, this would almost certainly mean we need to get the result with the starters as this depletes the gamechangers off the bench. If Di Maria is fit, I believe he should play off Vlahovic’s shoulder (like matchday 1) much like Milik does to avoid the seemingly inevitable isolation of our #9. I think the formation will also largely depend on Di Maria’s fitness.

Perin

Has Perin shown enough to keep Tek out even after he gets fit?

We have two reliable goalkeepers. Not every team can say this and some even struggle to find consistency with their starter. Each of them has strengths and weaknesses that we’ve witnessed over the years at Juventus. I personally feel they both have enough quality to be a starting keeper; however, I’d imagine it would be difficult for a coach to bench a goalie who is doing well and in form. I would not be shocked though to see Tek regain his position as we witnessed during Pirlo’s spell when Buffon was evidently outperforming Tek he remained the starter.

Do we need a trequartista? Would you convert Di Maria or Miretti?

I believe the idea of this role in football is not as valuable because these players are often those who do not track back or press. I don’t think it matters to label a player as such in modern football. Both Di Maria and Miretti have qualities to that of a trequartista. For example, Miretti is the one midfielder we have who plays in between the lines and links the midfield to attack which are almost certainly characteristics of a trequartista. Whereas Di Maria in the first matchday played similarly and played off the shoulder of Vlahovic like Dybala did while still providing the width of a winger.

He too provides that quality and skill in the final third to create chances for the striker or himself as a trequartista would. However, both players are not formally positioned in a formation as a trequartista. Even Pogba has these qualities which we witnessed against Chivas. I don’t think we need a formal position or player in this said role as I think there are multiple players in various positions that can bring these qualities and creativity as opposed to others who offer different characteristics.

For example, Rabiot’s strength and grittiness in the midfield allows for Miretti to have more of this free role like a trequartista would but Miretti also tracks back and contributes defensively. Thus, most teams now require the entire team to track back and press.

Benfica sent Barcelona to Europa last season , if we don’t win at home against them can we suffer the same fate?

We can absolutely suffer the same fate. Benfica sent Juventus out of the Europa League during Conte’s stint and while obviously a different squad, they are still a historic side. As mentioned above, they are like most Portuguese sides such as Porto, Sporting, Brag, who play free flowing offensive football and will not hesitate to effectively hit teams on the counterattack after enduring pressure. It is an absolute must win at home because playing in Lisbon is not easy. We need to secure home advantage and take all 3 points. We of course mustn’t lose, but taking just one point will start to tip the scale out of our favour. The more points we drop, the more it becomes out of our hands, and we will have to rely on others to take care of our business for us.

Will this game decide Allegri’s future with the club?

It is difficult to say whether this game will decide his future. From a fan point of view, it absolutely should given the circumstances. With a loss we have 2 great teams at 6 points each (most likely) and us at 0, needing to play both teams once more. However, from the perspective of the club Allegri has a lengthy and expensive contract and we are not mathematically dead if we lose or tie. The pressure is on Allegri and the team, and this match SHOULD be decisive for his future. We absolutely must not lose. I think a draw can save his job for another matchday though (from the management perspective). A loss becomes complicated for Allegri.

Di Maria

Who will be the key player for us against Benfica?

If he plays, Di Maria will be key. His impact playing off Vlahovic and his creativity and class in the final 3rd easily makes him the most important player for us. I think Rabiot will be key for the added aggressiveness and strength required in the midfield, so I hope he is fit enough to play. If Di Maria doesn’t feature, Milik will be a key player for us in my opinion.

Regarding Rabiot: is he the most unfairly treated midfielder we have by fans (on Twitter) this season? In his previous Years he’s been mostly inconsistent with few exceptions but wouldn’t you say he’s been Juve’s best among established midfielders (along with the young Miretti)?

I touched on Rabiot a bit as I feel he is a key player for this midfield to be functional. This is not to say he is perfect of a world class player. Since the addition of Miretti to the midfield, they have both complimented each other well. Adding Paredes to this duo has also worked very well. Each of these players have characteristics that compliment each other to provide functionality to the middle of the park. Rabiot can provide the strength and grit in the midfield that allows Miretti to roam more freely. With Paredes, Rabiot is not relied upon to have the ball at his foot more than it needs to be. In between this you have Rabiot winning the ball back and make explosive runs with the ball. He doesn’t do anything in particular to make you consistently ‘WOW’, but his presence allows the others mentioned to ‘WOW’ us more.

Your prediction for the game

Juventus 2 – 1 Benfica

Your ideal starting XI?

Much depends on who is available. Di Maria and Rabiot should be included if fit. If they are not fit, it changes things, and I would replace them with Milik and Locatelli. Absolutely no Kean and McKennie in the starting 11 for me.

(4-3-3) Kostic, Vlahovic, Di Maria; Rabiot, Paredes, Miretti; Sandro, Bonucci, Bremer, Danilo; Perin.

If Di Maria is not fit: (3-5-2) Vlahovic, Milik; Kostic, Rabiot (Locatelli if Rabiot is also not fit), Miretti, Paredes, Cuadrado; Danilo, Bonucci, Bremer; Perin.

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Serie A obsessive, lover of 90's Italian defenders, bourbon and wide open highways.