And we thought that Marko Pjaca’s season-ending knee injury was going to be the only injury-related piece of information we would hear about from Croatia’s set of games over the international break.
According to just about every major Italian sports outlet — namely La Gazzetta dello Sport and Tuttosport — Juventus striker-turned-winger Mario Mandzukic is suddenly a serious doubt for the trip to Naples over the weekend due to an injury he picked up during international duty with Croatia. Mandzukic reportedly did not train with the team on Friday afternoon due to an inflamed knee, setting off understandable alarms everywhere as to whether or not he would be available to play against Napoli this weekend (and probably on Wednesday in the Coppa Italia, too).
So, happy, happy times.
Mandzukic, who has been one of Juve’s most-used players since Max Allegri went to the 4-2-3-1 back in late-January, played all 90 minutes in Croatia’s 1-0 win over Ukraine last Friday. He did not play in Tuesday’s friendly loss to Estonia, the same game in which Pjaca injured his knee.
The main question now if Mandzukic is unable to go or not risked on Sunday is what direction Allegri will go with his starting lineup. Obviously in a game of this magnitude both Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala — if he is healthy, of course — are locks to play up front. Does Allegri go with a two-man attack and have Juan Cuadrado start on the bench? Could Allegri have both Cuadrado and Dybala play in a supporting role with Higuain as the lone target man up front? Maybe a 4-3-3 with Dybala (or even Alex Sandro) and Cuadrado out on the wings?
There are options even though Juve’s striker numbers seem to be shrinking by the day. Maybe it’s a good thing Juve doesn’t have another Croatian forward around because they might be injured in the next day or two, for all we know. At the very least it sounds as though Mandzukic’s injury is not all that serious, so maybe this time next week we’re talking about Mr. No Good playing in a game again.