Maurizio Sarri Insists Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala Are Weaker Without Gonzalo Higuain

​Maurizio Sarri has said that the absence of Gonzalo Higuain was telling during their last-gasp 2-1 victory over nine-man Genoa on Wednesday.

After Leonardo Bonucci’s strike was cancelled out by Christian Kouame’s sliced effort at the Allianz Stadium, it required a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty deep into injury time to hand Sarri a crucial victory that keeps his side top of Serie A.

Cristiano Ronaldo

One of the noticeable absentees from the match was midfielder Miralem Pjanic – who missed out through a muscle problem – but Sarri insisted it was striker ​Higuain who left the biggest hole in his ​Juventus side, as he recovers from a head injury. Offering tactical insight into his reasoning, Sarri admitted his side operate better with two archetypal strikers.

“Higuain is the only striker available who has the characteristics of a real centre-forward, the others are more atypical,” he said post-match, via ​Football Italia. “Despite dominating possession, we always risk not having enough presence in the box without Gonzalo.

“In terms of characteristics, I think this team is suited to playing with a man behind the strikers, rather than three upfront. This is a system that rather penalised ​Paulo Dybala and ​Cristiano Ronaldo.”

Douglas Costa,Federico Bernardeschi

Federico Bernardeschi played in the hole against Genoa, but the Italian has struggled for form this season and was substituted for Douglas Costa, who naturally plays as a winger. Normally, with everyone fit, Dybala slots into the attacking midfield role, but the Argentine has been forced to play up top with Ronaldo due to Higuain’s absence.

Sarri admitted he is seeking to find solutions until the 31-year-old returns to action, with the Brazilian slotting into that role an option until Higuain’s return.

“Douglas Costa has played as a trequartista too, especially at Shakhtar Donetsk,” he said. “He’s only been back for two days, so we didn’t have time to test him in that role.”


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