After an uncharacteristic period of struggle, Juventus aim to get back on track in 2022-23, and they kick off their campaign by hosting Sassuolo on Monday.
While the Bianconeri finished fourth for the second straight season, their visitors slipped to 11th despite some typically enterprising displays – including a 2-1 win over Juve in October.
A season that started with the hasty departure of Cristiano Ronaldo for Manchester and featured the January arrival of £70m striker Dusan Vlahovic ended in mediocrity for Juventus, as they only had Champions League qualification to show for their efforts across a testing 12 months.
Max Allegri‘s return to the touchline could not halt Juve’s decline – losing both the Supercoppa Italiana and the Coppa Italia final to arch-rivals Inter – and having fallen below the high standards expected, changes have been plentiful this summer: Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa, Federico Bernardeschi and iconic captain Giorgio Chiellini have all moved on.
Meanwhile, re-signing favourite son Paul Pogba, plus bringing in Angel Di Maria, Filip Kostic and Bremer – the latter joining from city rivals Torino to replace Bayern Munich-bound Matthijs de Ligt – has sparked hopes of a revival among the Bianconeri faithful.
However, a flat note to end pre-season serves as a reminder that Juventus must bridge a big gap to the resurgent Milan clubs: having drawn with Barcelona and then lost to Real Madrid in the USA, they completed the holy trinity of La Liga by facing Atletico last week, in a fixture hastily switched from Tel Aviv to Turin.
A 4-0 hammering was not the ideal outcome at Juve’s training centre, but as Allegri fine-tunes his squad for the coming campaign, the portents for Monday’s opener are good.
Not only have Juventus won on 11 of the last 12 occasions they started their Serie A campaign at home, but they have also scored in 17 of their 18 matches versus Sassuolo – at an average of 2.4 goals per game.
Indeed, Sassuolo have won only once away to Juve in Serie A, losing seven of nine matches to date, but they did emerge victorious from their most recent visit last autumn, when goals from Davide Frattesi and Maxime Lopez helped them earn a 2-1 win.
The Neroverdi have established a reputation as one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Serie A, and despite some early difficulties, managed to finished 11th in Alessio Dionisi‘s first season at the club since succeeding the popular Roberto De Zerbi.
However, before getting the new league season under way with one of the toughest possible fixtures, Dionisi has had to deal with some turmoil in his renowned attacking department, which has proved so potent in recent times.
Gianluca Scamacca‘s exit for West Ham brought in a reported £35m, and his fellow Italy international Giacomo Raspadori is still expected to leave before the transfer slides shut. Nonetheless, the Emilian club have responded in recent days, as Andrea Pinamonti arrives from Inter via a successful loan spell at Empoli and Uruguayan youngster Agustin Alvarez adds depth up front.
With Raspadori still leading the line, though, Sassuolo slumped out of the Coppa Italia at the first round stage last week, losing 3-2 at Serie B side Modena. Already, their chances of silverware are already over for another year – hardly the perfect preparation for a trip to Turin.
Also set to be without first-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny due to a thigh injury, and with Moise Kean and Manchester United target Adrien Rabiot both suspended, Max Allegri has several stars sidelined for his side’s season opener.
Paul Pogba has decided to deal with his meniscus injury by taking a therapy route, which sees the maverick midfielder ruled out until next month but avoids surgery that could have threatened his participation at Qatar 2022.
In addition to Pogba’s absence, Allegri will be without long-term absentee Federico Chiesa, but Weston McKennie and Dusan Vlahovic are both nearing full fitness after injuries during pre-season.
The latter will therefore start, with Alvaro Morata having returned to Spain following a two-year loan spell – during that time, Vlahovic has been Serie A’s top scorer in home games: 27 goals in 37 appearances. Since 2010, only Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller have posted more assists in the top five European leagues than Angel Di Maria, who will support the Serbian striker up front.
Sassuolo, meanwhile, not only have Gianluca Scamacca’s exit to deal with, but fellow forward Hamed Traore is ruled out by a foot injury.
The visitors’ match-winning hero last time they visited the Allianz Stadium was Maxime Lopez, but the French midfielder is suspended for their first game of the new season.
Nonetheless, loyal captain Domenico Berardi remains at the club, and will seek to build on a tally of 15 goals and 14 assists in Serie A last term, while Agustin Alvarez – who scored 24 goals in 63 games for former club Penarol – should start at centre-forward. Recently-arrived Andrea Pinamonti is set to begin his Sassuolo career on the bench.
Juventus possible starting lineup:
Perin; Danilo, Bonucci, Bremer; Cuadrado, Zakaria, Locatelli, Fagioli, Kostic; Di Maria; Vlahovic
Sassuolo possible starting lineup:
Consigli; Muldur, Erlic, Ferrari, Kyriakopoulos; Henrique, Frattesi, Thorstvedt; Berardi, Alvarez, Ceide