Serie A, Gameweek 2: Preview
Misfiring Paul Pogba could start on the bench while new defender Alex Sandro could make his debut as Juventus travel to Roma in the first big clash of the fledgling Serie A season on Sunday.
Rome: Misfiring Paul Pogba could start on the bench while new defender Alex Sandro could make his debut as Juventus travel to Roma in the first big clash of the fledgling Serie A season on Sunday.
Pogba`s first league outing of the campaign ended in disaster, for both the star midfielder and the Italian champions as he adjusts to life without former teammates Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo.
Juventus dominated throughout, failed to hit the target on nearly a dozen occasions and Pogba, who looked lost amid a new-look midfield, capped a poor performance with a ridiculously wide free-kick attempt that became a Twitter sensation for his detractors.
In the end the champions fell to a 1-0 home defeat against Udinese, so they can ill afford another reverse in a match that, this time last year, produced a bad-tempered affair which well and truly ignited the rivalry between the two sides for the rest of the season.
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact referee Nicola Rizzoli will take charge of Sunday`s afternoon fixture.
Having sent a player off from each side and sent Roma coach Rudi Garcia to the stands, he became a hate figure for Roma`s supporters and, as the affair escalated, was later sidelined by Serie A officials after admitting he could have handled the match better.
Pogba`s poor start could see him start on the bench in place of Simone Padoin while coach Massimiliano Allegri could give recent signing Sandro his debut.
Sandro has largely been used at left-back but his marauding runs and skill on the ball mean he would also fit nicely on the wide left position in midfield if Juve, as expected, deploy a 3-5-2 formation.
Sandro, unveiled in midweek, said he is raring to go.
"We meet Roma next week and, like all `clasicos`, it will be a tough game. But if the coach calls me up I`m ready. I`ve been ready to play for a long time," said the 24-year-old Brazilian.
Juventus on Thursday allowed Spanish striker Fernando Llorente depart the club for Sevilla after two seasons, arguably to the joy of the club`s other numerous strikers.
Allegri has an embarrassment of riches up front but after Mario Mandzukic missed several opportunities against Udinese, Argentinian Paulo Dybala could partner Alvaro Morata on what will be the Spaniard`s league opener.
Roma have not been inactive on the transfer market either, but coach Rudi Garcia has mostly been busy shoring up his defence following the departures of Jose Holebas (Watford) and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
Slovakian Norbert Gyomber (Catania), VfB Stuttgart defender Antonio Ruediger and Lucas Digne (PSG) have all signed on loan deals, but the club`s forwards have yet to find their feet, too.
The Giallorossi stumbled to a 1-1 draw at Verona last week when right-back Alessandro Florenzi hit a late leveller.
Roma last beat the champions in the league in February 2013, but Florenzi said: "It`ll be a tough game but we`ll be going out to win it and have what it takes to do that."
Elsewhere, on-loan Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli could feature on his return to AC Milan when the Rossoneri host Empoli at the San Siro.
Fans remain divided over the embattled Italian, who had a dismal season at Anfield, but Balotelli on Thursday pledged he was a new man and would prove his detractors wrong.
"I know a lot of people don`t believe in my comeback, it`s up to me to prove them wrong," said Balotelli.
Inter Milan had another on-loan Premier League striker, Manchester City`s Stevan Jovetic, to thank for a late winner against Atalanta last week and Roberto Mancini`s men are away to league new boys Carpi on Sunday.
Lazio, 2-1 winners over Bologna, are away to Chievo three days after failing in their bid to reach the Champions League group stages, while Napoli face Sampdoria in another top pick on Sunday.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Bologna v Sassuolo (1700), AC Milan v Empoli (1945)
Roma v Juventus (1700), Genoa v Verona, Chievo v Lazio, Atalanta v Frosinone, Udinese v Palermo, Torino v Fiorentina, Napoli v Sampdoria, Carpi v Inter Milan (all 1945)