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Martusciello defends call to start Higuain over Dybala for Juve

Gonzalo Higuain, Juventus, River Plate
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Juventus stand-in boss Giovanni Martusciello defended Maurizio Sarri’s decision to start Gonzalo Higuain over Paulo Dybala at Parma.

For Saturday’s Serie A opener at Parma, Martusciello and Sarri sprung a surprise by benching Dybala for Higuain. It caused quite the stir, with the latter struggling to make much of impact for Juventus.

In all fairness, though, the Bianconeri didn’t provide Higuain with enough service to test the Parma defence. Although he didn’t let this get him down, and instead focused on link play to create space for Cristiano Ronaldo to work with.

Captain Giorgio Chiellini then poked home a close-range first-half goal to seal Juventus a 1-0 win at Parma.

But Dybala’s omission wasn’t the only surprise as Sarri left out all of the club’s summer signings. So the likes of Adrien Rabiot, Matthijs de Ligt and Danilo all had to contend with the bench instead.

But Martusciello, who took Sarri’s spot on the bench while he recovers from pneumonia, defended the decisions.

“This is a team full of champions,” he told Sky Sport Italia.

“Choices must be made and today we opted for the more experienced players, but it’s a long season with many tournaments and we’ll need everyone.

“I think the choice was made because Higuain has more experience in that centre-forward role. Taking a gamble in the first game of the season would’ve been unnecessary, while Pipita had also been doing very well in training over the last few days.

“Right now, Higuain is on the same level as Dybala, they are interchangeable and it depends on how various players and their characteristics combine.”

While it was only a 1-0 win in the end, Juventus had the measure of Parma and could’ve scored more goals. A VAR review, in fact, harshly ruled out a Ronaldo goal for being narrowly offside.

Nevertheless, Sarri’s men began the defence of their Serie A crown with three points.

“In the first-half, it was a good performance against a tough Parma side on their own turf,” added Martusciello.

“Above all, we did well to avoid the situations on the counter-attack where Parma are very strong. There was a dip in intensity after the break and that made it a more even game.

“The first match of the season always has question marks and we could’ve done better with the first-half chances, but overall that is fine.”

Juventus will now prepare for next Saturday’s showdown with Napoli in Turin.