Two of Europe’s heavyweights go head-to-head in one of the ties of the round as Atletico Madrid welcome 2017 finalists Juventus on matchday one in the Champions League.
Maurizio Sarri takes charge of his first game in the competition after recovering from pneumonia, but facing off against Diego Simeone’s tactically-sound Atletico could give the Italian a headache.
Maurizio Sarri marked his first official bow on the Juventus touchline following his recovery from pneumonia with a stalemate away at Fiorentina on Saturday.
The game against Fiorentina over the weekend was expected to be a walk in the park but what ended up happening will have given Sarri some sleepless nights as three players are now practically ruled out of their Champions League debut this season after picking up similar muscular injuries.
Sarri will now have his focus elsewhere as Juventus begin their Champions League campaign with a mammoth clash against Atletico Madrid.
Even with all personnel fully fit, the Spanish side would ideally be tough opponents for Sarri’s men but the added absence of key players due to injuries now makes it an herculean task for the Old Lady.
Coupled with the fact that Atletico are coming from the back of a disappointing result after their 2-0 loss to Real Sociedad over the weekend, it makes the clash more “cumbersome” as both sides would be eager to make a statement and get back to winning ways.
As per Goal, Sarri would be without Douglas Costa, Danilo and Miralem Pjanic and the Bianconeri would have to improvise to come up with a decent squad Champions against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
Over the weekend, it all began with Douglas Costa’s injury inside the first ten minutes. The Brazilian winger walked off the pitch holding his right thigh, forcing Sarri to use Federico Bernardeschi.
The first 45 minutes had not concluded when Miralem Pjanic left the pitch with a similar injury. Rodrigo Bentancur took his spot in the lineup for the second 45 minutes, where the third injury would come. Danilo was the last player to leave the pitch with an injury with 30 minutes left in the game, which concluded in a goalless draw.
Juve’s injury woes include right-back Mattia De Sciglio, which means that coach Sarri will have to improvise to put up a fine squad against Los Colchoneros. Added to the four players mentioned above, let’s not forget that Emre Can and Mario Mandzukic were also left out of the 25-man roster for the competition’s group stage, which makes Sarri’s selection a bit tricky for this midweek’s game.
Emre Can would have been an ideal player to start against Atletico but surprisingly he’s not in Sarri’s Champions League plans and Sarri would have to look elsewhere.
Bernardeschi would likely be called upon to start the game as well as Rodrigo Bentancur. Of course, a certain Paulo Dybala still remains on the bench and it remains to be seen whether Sarri will opt to start the Argentine and perhaps go for a more attacking setup. Against an Atletico side though, the chances of that happening look rather slim.
New signing Adrien Rabiot is a candidate to start as well but Sarri via Sky Sports Italia claimed he wasn’t fit enough yet and he might most likely start on the bench and get some cameo minutes.
Former Arsenal man Aaron Ramsey, just like Rabiot was also an unused substitute against Fiorentina and is in line for a starting berth but given his lack of game time and fitness over the past weeks as well, he will likely not be considered in what could turn out to be a physically challenging match.
Sarri now faces the headache of sticking to the 4-4-2 formation he played against Fiorentina (via Whoscored) or tweaking his tactics to cover for the injuries and fit the available options at his disposal.
Atletico Madrid will be coming in full stride and they’ll be eager to come at a Juventus side that has not looked convincing so far this term, especially from a defensive perspective.
Sarri might ultimately rue his decision to leave out Emery Can and Mandzukic from his Champions League plans but he still has good options to call upon. Whether or not they will deliver and be equal to the task remains to be seen.