Well, Gonzalo Higuain is hurt and won’t be making the trip to Spain. That really sucks because Gonzalo Higuain is a really good player.
The 4-3-3/4-3-2-1 formation was selected, but with the personnel selected it would essentially operate as a 4-5-1 if everyone is used to their strengths.
Gianluigi Buffon got every single vote, as he should. Neto started against Pescara to ensure Gigi would be ready to go this time around.
In defense, Patrice Evra was selected almost by default, as Alex Sandro would be used as a winger in the selected formation. A banged-up Giorgio Chiellini was still selected over Daniele Rugani, a questionable move seeing how we’re one center back injury away from being left without a natural back-up, and Giorgio having a history of re-aggravating injuries as of late. This is a big game, though, so if a banged up Giorgio should play, now is the time. Dani Alves was also selected, being the only RB on the Champions League squad.
The midfield three was as close to a unanimous decision as there could be. Claudio Marchisio, Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira got voted in almost every lineup with 97, 98 and 95 percent of votes, respectively. It’s pretty clear who our top midfielders are at this point in the season.
Up front is where it gets
scary fun. This would be a fun conversation as to how we should attack if Gonzalo was here, but that’s no longer an option, unfortunately. The next-best option as decided by the voters, was to have Mario Mandzukic up top, flanked by Juan Cuadrado on his right, and Alex Sandro on his left.
I’ve been a vocal advocate for extra rest before a Champions League game, and for the most part, I was impressed with Max’s rotation during the game against Pescara. By no means am I suggesting that this is what caused the injury, because freak things happen everywhere, but I was hoping that Higuain would have been substituted immediately following the third goal. It would take a miracle for Pescara to get back into the game at that point, and he could have used the rest having had to go back and forth from South America. Overall though, I give him a passing grade for rotation this time around.
For my team, I would opt for a 4-5-1 given the available personnel. Instead of Chiellini, I would opt for Rugani. I think he’s ready for games like this, and I certainly don’t want to see Chiellini have to pull up early or be out for any more future games this year. No changes to the big 3 in midfield. Up front, I think Mandzukic is in his ideal role with two wingers beside him. Cuadrado has been impressive when called upon this season, and I’m expecting a big game from him this time around as well. Alex Sandro has also looked good when asked to venture forward this season.
Anthony’s Starting XI (4-5-1): Gianluigi Buffon; Patrice Evra, Daniele Rugani, Leonardo Bonucci, Dani Alves; Miralem Pjanic, Claudio Marchisio, Sami Khedira; Alex Sandro, Mario Mandzukic, Juan Cuadrado.
BWRAO’s Starting XI (4-5-1): Gianluigi Buffon; Patrice Evra, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Dani Alves; Miralem Pjanic, Claudio Marchisio, Sami Khedira; Alex Sandro, Mario Mandzukic, Juan Cuadrado.