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Juventus v Spezia PREVIEW

Much furore abounded after the abject performance against Verona. Pirlo showed signs of cracking in the post match interview. More mainstream pundits have begun to pose the same concerns many here at ZJ have long whined and rambled with the tactics, the selection, the absence of any identity or style all raised.

It was not so much the result, for Verona are a half decent side, well organised and often take points off ‘bigger’ teams. It was all about the performance, same as with the Porto game. For 2-1 away to Porto isn’t an appalling result, but the way we played was awful, absolutely limp, no hunger, no drive, no cohesion, no plan it seemed. And we often show this. With many poor performances papered over due to the results.

Unlike many others I am not of the opinion that no manager could win the league with this squad. Far from it. For it is much of the same squad which won the league last year, admittedly at a crawl in the final stretch, but this was with a manager who had lost the dressing room. A manager who was asking them to play football they did not appear to enjoy at all. And still, they won. Just.

That same squad has been trimmed of a fair amount of dross – De Sciglio, Rugani, Costa, Khedira – and in their places have come McKennie, Kulusevseki, Chiesa, Morata. It takes some reasoning beyond my ken to consider the team is weaker than last season. To me, it is considerably stronger, and they have a manager the players like, respect.

Contrasting this squad with Inter’s or any other in the top flight of italian football leads me still to conclude we have by far the strongest squad in the league.

It is often noted by the commentators when we face other teams, such as Ac Milan earlier, and they have plenty of injuries, and to look to their bench showed no proven quality, just kids. And to look at ours showed a bench of internationals.

Ac Milan had their run of wretched selection issues, but remain 2nd, playing much better football than us, with a squad nowhere near as strong.

When we are missing key players, most of whom would instantly raise the standard of the side, we are still able to put out a first XI of full internationals. That side deployed against Verona were not fledgling, inexperienced kids. They were seasoned professionals with a young CB who most the world have come to know as the strongest up and coming CB in the game (until this campaign!) and alongside him another young gun in Demiral, who has a season in Serie A behind him and is a regular for Turkey. No slouches either of them.

That performance (against Verona) echoed the same flat, stale form we have seen throughout the season. We play better with our better players, obviously, yet even with them, we rarely dominate a game, we rarely play well for more than brief patches and they have come ever more few and far between. The amazing thing is when we do play on the front foot, in flashes, we look superb, then it stops and vanishes.

The complete lack of enthusiasm, energy, organisation, flowing moves, crosses to make use of one of the greatest headers of the ball in history, cohesion…has been all too common this season.

Still, the blame is not all on Pirlo. He is learning on the job, and it is mainly the system he deploys and placement of players in what I consider unnatural roles…which continues to bemuse and horrify. Despite my moaning, groaning and eagerness to cast aspersions all over the management structure, we remain with a chance to get through to the next round of the CL, a coppa italia final and the potential to assure ourselves of CL football for next season. All of this remains with our grasp.

To continue to allow this rare and slender hopefulness to blossom, we have to win this game against Spezia. Anything less than victory, with all the rest of the sides above and just below us facing relatively easy ties, will be very depressing indeed.

Our opponents are enjoying a fairly comfortable season, with survival the main aim which they are on course to achieve. They have beaten Sassuolo and AC Milan recently then were smashed in Florence and salvaged a draw against Parma in their last outing. Their form is haphazard, at best.

Team selection is a tricky routine. The same absences persist –

Though there seems a slim chance that Morata may well get the nod to be included in the squad. Fagioli is another apparently poorly, and yet may well also find space on the bench.

One change close to assured is for Danilo to feature from the start, the brazilian has been one of the few stand out performers through this muddled campaign and given the visitors focus their attacks down the right, Pirlo may opt to start the RB at LB/LCB. With Freddy B in front of him to help blockade that flank, though likely offer very little of value going forward.

Which would leave Chiesa on the right, expected to play RWB rather than his natural RWF role, and asked to drop deep to support Demiral defensively.

I have little idea what the midfield will look like centrally. Some say Mckennie remains carrying a knock. Others suggest Bentancur will get a much needed break and the american will come into his place. What seems most important is that Ramsey is included. Whilst I have seen him often appearing lost and in a role too far away from other colleagues on the field, his form has been the best we have seen at Juve. And he is fit. We have to make use of him whilst we can. The welshman is by far our most technically gifted attacking element from midfield. His quality much higher than what we have seen so far since his pricy acquisition.

Kulu is ear-marked to continue operating in a roaming CF/SS across the centre and right up top and dropping deep to help link the play to…Ronaldo, mainly.

At this stage of the season, all that matters is the victory. Which is not just expected, its imperative to avoid any further sinking into a battle we may not have the form to win, to ensure a top four finish.

Related viewing>>>

And if you missed it…one of the best fan interviews with a journalist I have seen, Guido knows is stuff. Brilliant work from Roman

(quick note on the adverts below…which I have only just noticed. Some quick research reveals they come as standard with the free disqus system. They bother me. Moreso to consider others assume its me making money from the site, which is not the case at all. They are disqus generated and disqus revenue makers. To remove them costs $11 per month. I would be happy to chuck in some gold to the cause, and will probably ask some of you to do the same via a fundraiser to get a year subscription of the comment system absent of the ads. Any thoughts? The community is going well, its a lot of effort, but I am very appreciative of those who have made the move over here and the newcomers. Its my favourite niche for juve chat, with new writers coming in now regularly, to keep the reports fresh)