Verdict: Both teams to score
Best odds: 3/4
The last international break of the year is finally over and clubs around the world are preparing to resume business as usual this weekend. Juventus are set to welcome Cagliari to the Allianz Stadium in Turin on Saturday evening, in a game which will be a part of the eighth round of the 2020/21 season in the Serie A.
It’s been a tough start to the season for the defending champions. Juventus are currently in fifth place with 13 points, which seems extremely low for a team that previously won the Serie A title in nine consecutive seasons. They sacked Maurizio Sarri from the post of the head coach and replaced him with former midfielder Andrea Pirlo, and it’s quite understandable that the 41-year-old appears in need of time to adapt to the pressures and expectations as he returned to his old club in a new role.
The Old Lady are one of the three teams, along with AC Milan and (surprisingly enough) Sassuolo, who are yet to lose a game in this campaign, but they managed to win only three of the seven matches they’ve played so far, drawing the other four.
Juventus are also competing in Group G of the Champions League, where they sit in second place with six points at the moment. Only Barcelona sit above, being the only team to have beaten Juventus in the first half of the stage, while Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros seem destined for a scrap for third place with a point apiece.
Pirlo will be without his stalwart defenders, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci for this game, which means Merih Demiral is likely to play alongside Matthijs de Ligt, providing that the young Dutchman is ready having just returned from injury himself. Midfielder Aaron Ramsey is out, while Adrien Rabiot and winger Federico Chiesa face late fitness tests following knocks they picked up on international duty.
Fullback Alex Sandro is back in contention after a long injury absence.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be leading the attacking line, probably joined by Alvaro Morata and Dejan Kulusevski.
The visitors enter the weekend from the 11th place and will travel to Turin with 10 points to their name. Just like Juventus, the Sicilians have won three of their seven league matches so far, but they also lost as many and drew only once.
Cagliari play a very attacking brand of football under Eusebio Di Francesco, scoring a lot at one end but also conceding often at the other. So far, they’ve scored 14 goals in the league – the most in the lower half of the table and more than the likes of Hellas Verona, Lazio and Sampdoria, who all sit above them. In fact, they’ve scored only one less than Juventus. On the other hand, they’ve conceded 15 – only Benevento in 16th (20), Torino in 17th (16) and Crotone at the bottom (17) have seen the ball in their nets more times.
There can be very little doubt that Cagliari will see the Juventus trip as a motivating trip, and their attacking players will likely seek to take advantage of the home side’s problems at the back.
Fullback Charalampos Lykogiannis is currently struggling with a muscle strain and he probably won’t be ready to play. If that proves the case, Fabio Pisacane should take his place in the starting XI.
Apart from that, Di Francesco’s injury problems are mainly with squad players such as defenders Luca Ceppitelli and Alessandro Tripaldelli, winger Zito Luvumbo and midfielder Paolo Farago.
Forwards Joao Pedro and Giovanni Simeone are likely to be the main attacking threat, having scored 10 goals between them this season, all in the Serie A.
Juventus simply cannot afford to be dropping any points at this point. They are four behind AC Milan who top the table, and another setback could prove extremely costly, with several clubs, including the Rossoneri, likely believing that this could finally be the season to overthrow the Old Lady. They will therefore be looking to win this game by any means necessary, and if you’re betting on the winner, it’s probably them.
But as has been said above, Cagliari play attacking football will likely seek to cause as much trouble for De Ligt and Demiral as possible. There should be plenty of chances at both ends, and we should see some goals.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best odds: 3/4
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