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Andrea Barzagli Makes Timely Comeback as Juventus See off Palermo

Published by Bleacher Report on Sun, 15 Mar 2015

Juventus travelled south on Saturday evening, the Old Lady keeping an appointment at the Stadio Renzo Barbera in Sicily. An impressive Palermo side awaited, last seasons Serie B title winners looking to claim another major scalp in what has been an excellent first year back in the top flight.The Rosanero had already claimed wins over Milan and Napoli this term, Beppe Iachinis side entering the game in the top half of the table, and Massimiliano Allegri was under no illusions as to what his players should expect.Theyre in a comfortable league position and will be able to play without any pressure in front of a full house, the Juve coach told reporters at his press conference, per the clubs official website. Being up against us will give them extra motivation and theyve also chalked up 26 points on home soil.Allegri also clearly had his mind on the forthcoming Champions League encounter with Borussia Dortmund, heavily rotating his side ahead of Wednesdays crucial clash. Already without the suspended Paul Pogba and with Andrea Pirlo still missing through injury, the Bianconeri boss opted to leave out regulars Patrice Evra, Arturo Vidal and Alvaro Morata.In their places came Fernando Llorente and Paolo De Ceglie, while Stefano Sturaro was given his debut in the side. Andrea Barzagli made his full return from injury, starting in defence alongside Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini as Allegri once again reverted to the 3-5-2 formation.That switch was perhaps no surprise given the quality Palermo possess in attack and the number of absences in the central midfield area. In that pre-match briefing, Allegri also noted the ability of Paulo Dybala, adding that the Argentinian can only get better, a frightening prospect given that he has registered 12 goals and seven assists already in 2014-15.Earlier in the week, the Turin giants confirmed that Martin Caceres was likely to miss the rest of the campaign, a statement on their official website revealing the Uruguayan had fractured the malleolus bone in his left ankle. Likely to miss the remainder of the season, the return of Barzagli could arguably not have been timed any better.Since arriving from Wolfsburg back in January 2011, Barzagli has been the cornerstone of Juves incredible defence, his calming influence the perfect complement for the more emotional members of the clubs back line. His disciplinary record highlights his impeccable time, as he quickly approaches 150 appearances for the club with just 12 yellow cards to his name.After making his first on-field appearance since the World Cup on Monday, the 33-year-old managed the entire 90 minutes on Saturday. He looked every inch his dependable self, turning in a display that showed why the Juventus supporters refer to him simply as The Rock.According to statistics from WhoScored.com, Barzagli averaged 1.6 tackles and 2.9 clearances per game last term, figures he would comfortably surpass at the Barbera. The same source shows that he made four tackles and six clearances against Palermothe first figure a team-highas the Bianconeri controlled the match comfortably.Barzagli also made a perfect intervention from Andrea Rispoli shortly afterMorata had given the Old Lady the lead, stealing the ball away just as the Rosanero midfielder was about to fire a shot towards goal.Helping the reigning champions see off his former club, the defender and the Bianconeri took a huge step toward a fourth consecutive league title. Speaking to Sky Italia shortly after the final whistle, Allegri rightly seemed happy with the performance of his returning central defender.Barzagli was a little tired at the end, which was understandable after eight months out, noted the coach (h/t Football Italia). We are very happy to have him back.Having him once again fully fit and available for selection is clearly a huge boost for Juventus, and he could play a major role as their attention turns to European action and that impending clash with Borussia Dortmund.Read more World Football news on BleacherReport.com
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