Juventus manager, Massimiliano Allegri has said the criticism of the current stopgap back-line at his club is unfair after his defenders were “crucified” following the draw with Parma.
Despite leading Serie A by nine points from Napoli, Juve suffered a blip by their standards last week when exiting the Coppa Italia with a heavy defeat by Atalanta before Parma forced a 3-3 draw in Turin.
Regular centre-backs Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini were all absent at Allianz Stadium last Saturday, and none will be fit to face Sassuolo this weekend even though Barzagli is back in training.
Boss Allegri offered special support to his recent recruit from Lazio, Martin Caceres, who received negative reviews from some quarters as he played alongside Daniele Rugani and Leonardo Spinazzola in a game which saw Parma’s Gervinho score two late goals to deny Juve a seventh straight home league win.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Allegri said: “Caceres is a great buy. He had a great game against Parma, but the defenders need to work with the rest of the team to do well.
“Collectively we defended badly and we have to improve the defensive phase.
“Yet we have 60 points and the best defence in the league. We experienced some discontent against Parma, but the defence did well and were crucified.”
Further discontent on a freezing night in Piedmont stemmed from Paulo Dybala’s confinement to the bench and subsequent strop come full time.
The Argentinian has been out of form and, after Allegri chose not to introduce him as a substitute against Parma, he stormed down the tunnel at full-time instead of lingering to applaud the fans.
Allegri said: “Dybala has an important responsibility: to wear the number 10 shirt and the captain’s armband when Chiellini isn’t there. He is intelligent, and he apologised. Case closed.”
The former Palermo forward is doubtful for Sunday’s meeting with Sassuolo, as is Federico Bernardeschi, although Allegri said one of the pair would have to feature.
Mattia De Sciglio should replace Spinazzola in the back three and Wojciech Szczesny has been given the nod in goal after understudy Mattia Perin conceded three against the Gialloblu.
Sassuolo boss Roberto De Zerbi, whose side are comfortable in 11th place and unbeaten in three, said of his opposite number: “I really like Allegri, I respect him.
“He knows how to manage players and knows how to improve them. Look at (Joao) Cancelo. He is not the same player that he was at Inter Milan.”
Alfred Duncan is suspended for the clash with the leaders while Leonardo Sernicola and Marlon Santos are injured.