Juventus will hope to avoid another slip-up when they welcome a resurgent Atalanta to Juventus Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Bianconeri will be coming into this game having suffered a surprise 3-1 reversal to Genoa. Although the Grifone had beaten AC Milan at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris earlier this season, it was nonetheless a shocking result for Massimiliano Allegri’s side. During that match, Juventus conceded three goals. That is the first time since 2013 that the Bianconeri have shipped three in Serie A, and the first of Allegri’s tenure.
The loss cost them more than just three points. Both Dani Alves and Leonardo Bonucci suffered injuries in that fixture, meaning that the team now are missing two more defensive options. Fortunately, Giorigio Chiellini has returned to action and will link up with the also-recovered Mehdi Benatia and youngster Daniele Rugani. Paulo Dybala has slowly returned to the fold, but this game comes too soon for him to start. Rather, Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic will be again partnered up front. Although last season’s Capocannoniere and the Croatian have struggled to link-up due to their similar playing styles, it’s a simple matter of necessity rather than choice. Still, the odd pairing has shown some signs of promise and on the flip side, it has given the reportedly marginalized Mandzukic more game-time.
Meanwhile, Atalanta haven’t lost a match since going down 1-0 to Palermo. At that point, Gian Piero Gasperini’s men had won just one in five games and his job was on the line. Surely, La Dea supporters must be happy that their club decided to keep their faith in the ex-Genoa manager. Gasperini faced the same bad start at Inter, but was sacked before his project could take root.
Atalanta have earned 28 points so far, which is their highest total at this juncture in quite some time. 25 of those have been in their past nine games, where they have won eight and drawn once. They come into this game on an eight-match winning streak, including victories against Roma, Inter, and Napoli and find themselves in fifth spot. Youngsters like Ivorian midfielder Franck Kessie have garnered plenty of buzz due to his impressive performance that belie his 19 years.
It’s an impressive feat fora team who barely escaped the drop a few seasons back. Normally, Atalanta are very happy with a mid-table finish, but this time around, they’re being touted as the “next Leicester City”. Atalanta, of course, will downplay comparisons to the Foxes, but no one expected Claudio Ranieri’s troops to win the league title, either. Can they do what would be absolutely unthinkable in Serie A?
Time will tell. But one thing is certain: they would take a huge step by beating Juventus this Saturday.