They may have lost Paul Pogba to Man United but Juventus are in a better position than they were last year to make a push for European honours. Sometimes letting go of one piece can allow the whole to be strengthened.
On paper the Juve squad is so strong and deep that yet another Serie A title seems a foregone conclusion. Nothing is ever written in stone but only very brave men would bet against them domestically. In fact, a second string side would probably be favourites. Therefore, their aspirations must exceed domestic dominance and a decent Champions league run. The goal must be to win it all and satisfy legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon’s own personal dream by winning the Turin team’s first Champions league since 1995/96 and third overall.
At the very top in Europe there are only four or five. Juventus have been knocking on the door politely for a few years. This season they must beat the door down with a battering ram. The main competition are Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich with Man City, PSG and Atletico Madrid part of the second tier. They are on par with or just behind those four on paper. They supersede Man City on talent and Man United aren’t even in it.
Strength in depth
Just about every position is loaded with quality and experience. At the back alone there is the big Italian three of Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli, and Leonardo Bonucci who are all world class. Then there is the supporting cast of Medhi Benatia, Alex Sandro who is a fine left back, only one of the top attacking fullbacks in history in Dani Alves, the underrated Stephan Lichtsteiner, and Patrice Evra. Not bad for a mix of experience, youth and just pure talent.
In midfield, they may have lost Pogba but Miralem Pjanic is no slouch for a replacement. Sami Khedira, the up and coming Marko Pjaca and Claudio Marchisio who is out until December aren’t so bad either. That said they are weakest in midfield but have three of the best in Serie A in their ranks. Pjanic will also likely get the hype that escaped him while at Roma once more see what he can do. They may start missing Pogba considerably less.
How Juventus could line up this season in Italy and Europe: 3-5-1-1 and 4-3-1-2
BuffonChielliniBonucciBarzagliAlex SandroMarchisioPjanicKhediraAlvesDybalaHiguain BuffonSandroChielliniBonucciLichtsteinerMarchisioPjanicKhediraDybalaMandzukicHiguain
Dybala, the baller
Gonzalo Higuain may have been the big money signing but they have one who is even better already on their books. The best Juventus player last season, Paolo Dybala is poised to have another year that can catapult him as an instantly recognised name, even by fans of the English league. One would hope that Massimiliano Allegri finds the right balance from his trio of attackers. Domestically he should stick to the 3-5-2/3-5-1-1 where Dybala floats just behind Higuain or Mario Mandzukic. In the targeted Champions league, his preference for a back four could mean an alternation with a 4-3-1-2 formation with Dybala supporting Higuain and Mandzukic. Expect there to be possible alterations in the business end of the competition where they can shift to 4-4-1-1 with the likes of Kwadwo Asamoah replacing Mandzukic or, conceivably, Alves pushing further forward into right midfield and Lichsteiner occupying the right fullback position against the Barcelonas and Bayern Munichs of the world.
The chubby looking Argentine Higuain was bought for a price above the odds to score goals and plenty of them and there is no doubt he will do so if fit. His suitability to high pressure situations remain a significant question mark that is sure to be answered at some point this season.
There is quality all around but if the Old Lady are to firmly join the elite then the prodigiously talented and younger Argentine in Dybala is the special talent that could make the graduation a reality. The time is right after another star has left and the spotlight will shift to him and Higuain. Dybala brings everything you want. Skill, technical ability, off the ball movement and footballing intelligence are qualities the youngster has in spades and Juve must hope he breaks out fully this year for he is that potential difference maker.
Juventus will bid to become the first Italian team since Inter Milan in 2010 to lift European football’s highest trophy. They have the squad to do it. Question marks are the fitness of Marchisio, age on their defense and wingbacks with the exception of Alex Sandro, and the big game jitters from their expensive front man. The rest of Europe? Beware.