Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 13/25
Juventus are set to welcome Bologna to the Allianz Stadium on Sunday evening in the eighth round of the 2022/23 season in the Serie A. Both teams will have a lot to play for and given the bout of unexpected results the Italian top flight delivered ahead of the international break, it might prove interesting to watch.
Things have rarely gone as wrong for Juventus as they have recently. Their summer transfer window was widely described as a highly successful one and with Massimiliano Allegri in charge, they were expected to mount a strong challenge for the Scudetto at least.
But nothing of the sort has happened. The Old Lady are winless in their last five outings in all competitions, and if their form doesn’t improve promptly, Allegri could find himself in serious trouble before the month of October is much older.
Their last triumph was a 2-0 one at home over Spezia. Since then, they’ve drawn 1-1 away to Fiorentina, lost 2-1 away to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, drawn 2-2 at home against Salernitana, lost 1-2 at home to Benfica, and suffered arguably the greatest shock of them all by losing 1-0 away to Monza.
It was Christian Gytkjaer who scored the winning goal for the hosts, but Angel Di Maria who picked up a straight red card in the first half to tilt the balance Monza’s way.
Di Maria is obviously unavailable through suspension for this match, while midfielder Paul Pogba and winger Federico Chiesa remain out of action with long-term injuries.
The international break has, however, allowed goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, defender Alex Sandro and the midfield duo of Adrien Rabiot and Manuel Locatelli to recover from their respective injuries, and they are now back in contention.
Sandro will likely be on the bench with Allegri choosing a 3-5-2 shape and Filip Kostic and Juan Cuadrado the likely starters as the two wing-backs. Szczesny, Rabiot and Locatelli should, on the other hand come straight into the lineup, with the former replacing Mattia Perin in goal and the latter two pairing up in the middle of the park.
Upfront, Arkadiusz Milik could be the man to partner Dusan Vlahovic, who scored an important goal for Serbia against Norway a few days ago to help his country earn promotion to the elite section of the UEFA Nations League.
Bologna recently sacked Vlahovic’s compatriot Sinisa Mihajlovic and replaced him with Thiago Motta. Interestingly enough, the only win the team has achieved so far came under the command of Luca Vigiani, the Under-19 coach who took over from Mihajlovic until Motta’s appointment. That in itself speaks volumes about the reason for Mihajlovic’s sacking.
The last six matches Bologna have played consist of a 1-1 draw at home against Hellas Verona, a 2-0 defeat away to AC Milan, a 1-1 draw at home against Salernitana, a 2-2 draw away to Spezia, a 2-1 win over Fiorentina at home, and a 0-1 home defeat at the hands of Empoli.
Filippo Bandinelli struck in the 75th minute of that match to cause dismay at the Renato Dall’Ara.
With just six points to their name, Bologna are currently in 16th place and it looks Motta faces a challenge to get them further away from the relegation zone in time to avoid a desperate struggle in the final stages of the campaign. Verona are below on five, followed by Monza in the zone on four, and the last two spots are shared between Cremonese and Sampdoria, both on two points.
The one shining light in Bologna’s ranks this season has been striker Marko Arnautovic, whose goals account for six of the seven the team have scored combined this season in the league. So much so, that the Austria international has been named the Serie A Player of the Month for September.
The 33-year-old is set to lead the line again against Juventus and will surely represent the biggest threat for the Bianconeri’s defence, but Musa Barrow, his usual partner upfront, is unavailable through injury. His place is likely to be taken by either Joshua Zirkzee or Nicola Sansone.
Arnautovic, as good as he’s been, is one man and all his efforts are unlikely to earn Motta’s side anything from this game. With a number of players returning to boost Allegri’s ranks, Juventus are expected to win but not without a fight.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 13/25
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