Despite a summer managerial change, Juventus continue to dominate Italian football and already seem odds-on to retain their Serie A crown in 2014-15 – which would be a fourth consecutive Scudetto.
Massimiliano Allegri took over from the vastly successful Antonio Conte ahead of the new campaign and is starting to impose himself as the Bianconeri’s new chief.
Although continuing the Turin club’s dominance domestically will be important for the former AC Milan boss, making an impression in the Champions League is a real priority – something that Conte failed to do in his three years in charge.
Juventus have superstars all over the pitch, with their defensive triumvirate of Gianluigi Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini key to their recent success and Carlos Tevez giving the side bite in the final third.
However, the Italian champions’ driving force is the sheer quality in their midfield.
International stars Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio are the heartbeat of the Juventus team – but Allegri has a number of dilemmas to solve if he is to get the best from the talented quartet.
Conte’s success at the Turin club was built on a tried and tested 3-5-2 formation, but the new manager has experimented with four at the back in an effort to stamp his authority on the side.
Whether it is three of four at the back, Juventus have a solid defensive platform but the contrasting formations will have a real influence on the make-up of the side’s midfield.
Getting all four of the afore-mentioned midfield stars on the pitch at any one time is difficult but not impossible.
In a 3-5-2 formation, only three of the four midfielders fit into the team; to get them all in a striker needs to be replaced.
This is still an option, as either Pirlo or Marchisio are comfortable in a more advanced role, but with Spanish strikers Fernando Llorente and Álvaro Morata vying for a place alongside Tevez in attack it is not ideal.
Moving away from Juve’s three at the back system seems foolish given its success in recent times, but switching to a back four may well be an effort by Allegri to house all four star midfielders in his starting line-up.
In the 3-2 Champions League win over Olympiakos in Turin recently, Juventus fielded a bespoke 4-4-2 formation, with a diamond in midfield.
Marchisio has the versatility to operate from the right flank while Pogba is relatively comfortable starting from the left.
While neither are natural widemen and would prefer to play centrally, to get all four star midfielders on the park this is necessary.
There is a question of width with Marchisio and Pogba on the flanks as both will look to move infield to get involved in play.
Although right full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner gets forward at every opportunity, is playing essentially central midfielders on the wings robbing the side of width?
Meanwhile, intelligent opposition will surely look to expose Juventus in wide areas and create two-on-one situations if they use Marchisio and Pogba on the flanks.
Juve continued with a back four in the 7-0 demolition of Serie A basement boys Parma at the weekend but sterner tests await for the Italian champions.
As such, it will be very interesting to see if Allegri continues with four at the back or reverts to the club’s staple three central defenders; getting the best from his star-studded midfield will be utmost in his thought process.