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Transfer Rater: Douglas Costa to Man United

Football Whispers
 By Mina Rzouki

With the protection of Matuidi, Juve can quiet Torino's impressive attack

Massimiliano Allegri is backing him, his teammates continue to dub him extraordinary, yet Gonzalo Higuain's form convinces few and concerns many. Short on confidence and seemingly match fitness, the Argentine has been ditched by his national team and forced to play second fiddle to an extraordinary Paulo Dybala at Juventus.

However, with the Derby della Mole coming up, Higuain just might rediscover his form. A player who struggles to perform on the big stage, he is a different beast altogether when playing in a city derby. Magical for Real Madrid against Atletico, the striker scored three goals against Torino for Juve last season in only two games. Will the match on Saturday between the two teams unleash the predator within?

Torino have proved to be a tricky opponent under Sinisa Mihajlovic. Organised, efficient and ambitious, they boast individual quality and cohesive team movements. Undefeated in the opening five Serie A rounds, the team have already netted 10 goals, making them the fourth best scorers in the league this season. Interestingly, they are not a side that shoot often but when they do, they score.

Boasting the clinical efficiency of Andrea Belotti and the creativity of Adem Ljajic, Torino have enough to make Juve's vulnerable back line suffer, especially in light of absences. However, in Blaise Matuidi, Juventus have a reliable and experienced player who has proved excellent thus far this season.

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A player who usually prefers to play within a three-man midfield, the Frenchman has taken to Allegri's tactics like a duck to water. Tactically intelligent, aware of his positioning and how to provide for the team, the player's understanding of the game is what has helped him integrate so easily. Providing strength, physicality, important tactical runs and the outlet for a pass, Matuidi was one of the best players on the field against Fiorentina.

An insanely accurate passer of the ball, he is hard to dispossess, difficult to mark and decisive in his actions. It's incredible how quickly the player has adapted to a new league and a new team, so much so that newspapers and TV stations are clamouring to discuss the player they already deem irreplaceable for the Turin giants.

Covering ground intelligently, Matuidi, like Sami Khedira, allows Alex Sandro to push forward, safe in the knowledge his teammate will plug the holes. When Juventus are in possession, you often see the box-to-box midfielder making timely runs into the box in a way Arturo Vidal once did, distracting the opponent and creating space for his teammates. He was especially effective in doing that against Sassuolo.

Aware and alert, he alongside a terrific Miralem Pjanic, a player who is thriving this season, should cause Torino a little pain. The Bosnian playmaker is playing with the consistency he lacked at the start of last season. Excellent at taking control of the game, he's proving more and more valuable off the ball, making interesting runs and contributing to the defence impressively well. Only centre-back Mehdi Benatia has intercepted the ball more times than Pjanic this season.

Blaise Matuidi during his Juventus debut against Cagliari.
After arriving from PSG in the summer, Blaise Matuidi has already been labelled as irreplaceable in Juventus' midfield.

Bullish, confident and elegant, Pjanic is living up to his potential this season and is deserving of all the praise. While Dybala has been the man to watch in all the games, few have really paid attention to how many key passes and how accurate Pjanic is in his actions. Providing more assists than any other Juve player this season, he is one of the reasons why Juventus have been so impressive offensively this season.

Juan Cuadrado is just behind Pjanic in terms of assists but actually ahead in key passes. The Colombian is one of the most frustrating players in world football only because he is blessed with so much talent yet struggles to be decisive despite his overwhelming quality. Incapable of using his talents in a way that would destroy the opponent, the player's inconsistent displays have forced Juve's management to look for replacements and potential buyers.

And then he goes and produces a superb display against Fiorentina, leaving many to wonder why we have to wait so long for such brilliant performances.

Playing with intelligence, Cuadrado immediately identified the vulnerabilities the Viola had at the back and continued to deliver perfect diagonal crosses for Mario Mandzukic to exploit. His movements, the accuracy of his passes and his relentless decisive running made all the difference, putting in a performance worthy of his talent. If he can perform like this with consistency, he can be the best in the world, yet one cannot help but think he'll soon succumb to his vices.

Against Torino, Juventus will need to be at their best to earn the three points they require to keep up with an extraordinary Napoli. If they continue to avoid calamities at the back and prove efficient going forward then it will give them the confidence to play a perfect game against Olympiakos on Wednesday in the Champions League.

Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.


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