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Fiorentina 0-1 Juventus

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Courtesy of Flickr/Some rights reserved by calciocatania

Kwadwo Asamoah’s first half goal earned Juventus a vital victory in Florence, which sees them extend their lead at the top of the table to 14-points.

ImageVincenzo Montella was without Giuseppe Rossi, and the suspended Borja Valero, while Mario Gomez and Anderson were included in the starting XI.

Antonio Conte introduced Angelo Ogbonna into the back three, and Claudio Marchisio retained his place in midfield as Andrea Pirlo was serving a one-match suspension.

This was a performance that justified Juventus’ title credentials – Conte’s men created the better chances in the first half, and subsequently defended superbly as a unit to preserve a one-goal lead.

Juventus shape

One of the key feats to Juve’s success in matches against the top side’s this season is their pragmatic approach when the opposition sustains possession. Conte’s side relied on their imperious defending in his first title triumph – but considering the side has improved gradually, along with a congested fixture list, there’s no surprise that the champions have adopted this approach.

Conte instructed his men to sit off the Fiorentina centre-backs, while Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal closed down Montella’s full-backs. Likewise, Vidal pressed Alberto Aquilani’s movement in midfield, while Claudio Marchisio closed down Anderson. Fiorentina failed to develop a rhythm in midfield, due to Juventus’ high-press on goal-kicks.

Juventus approached the second half with caution, and preferred to sit deeper in their third and soak up pressure. This was evident in the latter stages when they dropped into two banks of four with Asamoah in line with the centre backs, while Mauricio Isla was introduced to patrol the right flank.

Although Montella’s men dominated possession throughout various periods of the match, his side was unable to unlock Juventus’ solid shape. Fiorentina didn’t create a legitimate goal-scoring opportunity until the second half, which exemplifies the significance of Juve’s work-rate and shape out of possession.

Fiorentina lack a game plan

While Fiorentina sustained majority of possession, their activity in the final third was poor – Montella’s side lacked a game plan. With Pizarro’s threat nullified, and the wide players properly tracked, Mario Gomez lacked service.

Anderson enjoyed a positive opening 15 minutes leading the press with Gomez, and driving forward with his penetrating runs from midfield. The Brazilian, however, was unable to maintain his high energy levels and his impact on the match decreased as time passed.

Distribution from midfield was often played into wide areas, and penetration from Aquilani and Anderson was non-existent, thus justifying Juve’s intent on sitting deep.

Pizarro shackled

Another key factor regarding Juve’s success was the containment of David Pizarro. Fiorentina’s deep-lyer failed to influence in the match, as Conte’s men negated his influence on the match. Vidal, Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente shared turns pressing the Chilean, with Llorente often closing down Pizarro when he aimed to pick up the ball in deep positions.

On two separate occasions, Llorente and Tevez dispossessed the Chilean at the edge of his box, but they were unable to punish the home side. Pizarro completed 32 of his possible 34 passes, but majority of his distribution was sideways within his third.

Conte’s decision to nullify Pizarro’s threat in midfield was successful, as Fiorentina struggled to dictate the tempo of the match in midfield, whilst lacking the tempo required to shift Juve’s back line out of position.

1-0

Juventus’ goal was constructed from a moment of brilliance opposed to a well-constructed attack. However, the warning signs were evident prior to Asamoah’s opener as Juve enjoyed freedom in wide areas.

Vidal and Lichtsteiner combined on the right flank, which led to a cross towards the far post, and Norberto Neto pushed away Asamoah’s deflected shot. Subsequently, Asamoah played a ball into Llorente, who cleverly turned his defender and earned a corner.

But in the final minutes of the first half, Asamoah received a pass from Giorgio Chiellini and evaded three Fiorentina challenges before striking a sensational shot past Neto – albeit a slight deflection. Asamoah was the key man in Juve’s attack, and the Ghanaian was involved in several key first half chances.

Second half

Montella turned to his bench in the second half by introducing Matias Fernandez and Rafal Wolski in midfield. The change saw Aquilani become the deepest midfielder, while Fernandez injected creativity in central zones. Still, Fiorentina encountered the same issues in midfield, but Manuel Pasqual became a constant threat on the left flank.

Pasqual delivered a great ball to Gomez in the box but he nodded it wide of the net. Later in the half, he combined with Juan Vargas and his cutback to Wolski led to Ryder Matos directing his header off the cross bar. Vargas dropped into deeper positions to retain possession, while Fernandez drifted into key areas to receive the ball, but Fiorentina couldn’t unlock Juve’s organized back line.

Juve produced a conservative performance in the second half, and their attack was languid. Marchisio was free to string passes together from deep positions but they were often misplaced, while Pogba and Vidal continuously conceded possession. Martin Caceres and Mauricio Isla were introduced in the latter stages of the half to ensure Juve maintained their lead.

Conclusion

A rather dull encounter signified the strengths Juve possess, as they contained Fiorentina’s threat in attack.

Conte’s men enjoyed a successful first half performance, but overall their defensive solidity, and intent on shackling Pizarro was beneficial. 

“We played the first half at a high level, then after the break we dropped back in part due to fatigue after international duty,” Conte said. 

“We allowed Fiorentina only one chance to score, rarely ran risks and held out pretty well.”

While Juve can be ruthless in attack, their defensive performances in key matches have been pivotal towards their success this season. Ultimately, the win practically guarantees a third consecutive Scudetto, along with ending Fiorentina’s Champions League aspirations.

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Posted by on March 10, 2014 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Lazio 1-1 Juventus

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Courtesy of Flickr/ mbah_pascal

Lazio held Juventus to a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico despite Gianluigi Buffon’s first half dismissal.

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Edy Reja made several changes to his starting XI. Miroslav Klose led the line with Hernanes and Antonio Candreva playing behind the German international. Luis Cavanda and Abdoulay Konko played as wingbacks, while Cristian Ledesma and Lucas Biglia formed a midfield duo.

Antonio Conte recalled Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente upfront, while Paul Pogba, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah took up their traditional positions in midfield.

Both sides created little from open play – Juventus pounced when opportunities were presented, while Reja’s cautious approach prevented Lazio from increasing their lead. A draw was a fair result.

Juventus play out of the back

Juventus found it relatively easy to move forward as a unit due to Lazio’s lack of press. Conte’s back three were free to push forward and play passes amongst one another because they were often in 3v1 situations against Klose. Occasionally, Hernanes joined Klose and pressed Conte’s defenders, but there was always a spare man, while Marchisio dropped into a deeper position to receive the ball.

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For the most part, Reja’s men dropped into their half and focused on maintaining a compact shape in midfield. Conte’s backline were free to play forward passes into midfield, thus leading to Juventus’ superiority in possession.

Lazio without the ball

Despite sustaining a mere 38% of possession in the first half – with a man advantage – Lazio went into half-time with a one goal lead, containing Juventus’ main threats. Reja’s men dropped into a 4-5-1 without the ball, and encouraged their wingbacks to quickly close down Lichtsteiner and Asamoah.

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Lazio’s narrow shape limited space in central areas, meaning Pogba and Vidal struggled to influence the match from midfield. The main issue Juventus encountered was service to their strikers – Llorente was a peripheral figure in the first half, despite being involved in Juventus’ only legitimate goal-scoring opportunity, and Tevez found it difficult to receive the ball. Biglia and Ledesma protected the back four, while Lorik Cana and Giuseppe Biava also closed down the Argentine when he received the ball.

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Reja’s reactive approach was beneficial in the first half as Lazio nullified Juve’s attack. Shockingly, Lazio was in the lead at half-time courtesy of Candreva’s spot kick that was initially created through Konko’s magnificent through ball to Klose – which led to Buffon’s sending off.

11v10

Buffon’s sending off forced Juventus to reshuffle, and Conte sacrificed Asamoah, thus leaving him without a left-sided player. Juve became a 4-4-1, with Tevez drifting to the left and Ogbonna playing as a left back.

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The onus was on Juve to attack, but with Lazio maintaining a man-advantage, one would expect the home-side to dominate possession. Conte’s men tried to play through the middle, and with Tevez slowly growing into the match, Juventus’ buildup play improved. With Ogbonna playing as a make-shift left back, Marchisio drifted infield so Lichtsteiner could push forward to provide width.

There was no significant change in either sides approach for the remainder of the first half – Juve dominated possession but struggled to create legitimate goal-scoring opportunities, whereas Lazio sat narrow, defended deep, and opted to launch quick counters.

Tevez/Hernanes

The games most proactive players subsequent to Buffon’s sending off were Tevez and Hernanes. Both players flourished in different roles – Tevez worked off Llorente as an energetic second striker, whereas Hernanes sprung quick counter-attacks when Juventus conceded possession.

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Tevez’s influence on the match increased when Juve went down to 10 men. The Argentinian striker was positioned on the left, but when Juve won possession he moved into spaces on the field that Lazio’s defensive six wouldn’t drift into.

Now, Tevez linked play with the midfield, allowing them to move into key areas, but the Juventus striker also posed a goal threat around the 18-yard box. His main contribution was the buildup to Llorente’s goal – Tevez received Marchisio’s pass in space and distributed the ball wide to Lichtsteiner, and his back heel played in the Swiss wingback, thus leading to the cross that Llorente nodded into the far corner.

Hernanes offered a different threat – his quick nimble feet allowed the Brazilian to evade challenges and drive forward, and he was  the main outlet on the counter-attack. On two separate occasions Hernanes ran at the heart of the Juventus defence before playing balls out wide, but Candreva wasted both attempts.

The Brazilian summed up Lazio’s approach – he was disciplined without the ball, but crafty and direct on the break. Both men provided the invention that the match lacked, but their teammates were unable to make the difference.

Second half

Juventus continued to dominate possession for large portions of the second half, but their approach was slightly different. Conte instructed his men to utilize Llorente and play long balls into the Spaniard. There best chance stemmed from Bonucci’s direct ball into the striker, who held it up for Vidal, and the Chilean played in an onrushing Tevez, but his near-post shot was pushed away for a corner.

Majority, of Juventus’ attacks were now based on the counter, but their transitions were slow, and their passing around the final third was poor. Nonetheless, for a side that played with a man advantage for the entire second half, Lazio disappointed. When they managed to sustain possession in Juventus’ third, they failed to get behind or penetrate Conte’s organized side.

Apart from Hernanes’ involvement on the break, the home side was presented with two opportunities to win the match. In the span of four minutes, Klose got on the end of two Ledesma free-kicks: the first header led to a sensational save from Marco Storari, while the second attempt was offside, yet Storari caught the German’s tame effort.

Reja made two substitutions in the half, introducing Alvaro Gonzalez for Cavanda and Keita Balde for Candreva. Keita provided a pacy direct threat in the final moments of the match – here, he constantly ran at Lichtsteiner, and Klose played the Spanish-born Senegalese striker in on the break, but his curling effort hit the post.

Both sides were sloppy in possession, and they adopted direct approaches that nearly paid off. However, the match lacked guile, and creativity in the final third, but neither side was willing to gamble, thus leading to an uneventful second half.

Conclusion

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Juventus’ poor run of form at the Stadio Olimpico continues in a match that possessed two distinct features. Lazio’s reactive approach contained Juventus for large portions of the match, but their transitions were disappointing. Meanwhile, Conte’s decision to play through Llorente in the second half nearly secured maximum points.

“We knew Juve came forward with one striker who’d flick it on for the other, so we worked on closing down those vertical lines. There’s also Arturo Vidal who moves down the right and Andre Dias was ear-marked to close down whoever went down that line,” Reja said.

“Perhaps we should’ve done better on the counter-attack. Marco Storari also performed some extraordinary saves.”

Buffon’s sending off changed the course of the game, but the likelihood of this match being a spectacle was very low, based on Reja’s approach. The draw leaves Roma six points behind the league leaders, and they’ll ironically meet Conte’s men at the Stadio Olimpico on the final day of the season, where Juventus can avenge last week’s shortcomings.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Juventus 3-0 Roma

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Courtesy of: Football.ua

Juventus extended their lead at the top of Serie A to eight points with an impressive victory over Roma.

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Antonio Conte fielded his preferred starting eleven, as he welcomed back Andrea Pirlo from injury.

Rudi Garcia made no significant changes to his 4-3-3. Francesco Totti, Gervinho and Adem Ljajic led the line, while Kevin Strootman, Miralem Pjanic and Daniele De Rossi formed a midfield trio.

This fixture had no major tactical theme – Juventus’ approach without the ball nullified Roma’s main attacking threat.

Juventus without the ball

One of the most significant feats in this match was Juventus’ approach without the ball. Opposed to bringing the match to the away side, Conte instructed his men to sit deep in their half and minimize space between the lines for Totti to drift into.

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This approach was logical because it ensured there was no space behind the Juventus backline to attack on the counter and Totti would be unable to drag defenders out of position. Conte’s men sat in two compact banks of four, with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente sitting a few yards ahead of the midfield to maintain Juventus’ shape.

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Conte’s midfield trio sat in front of the back line, as Juventus became a 5-3-2, considering Stephan Lichtsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah sat deeper then usual. Vidal and Pogba pushed out wide when Roma’s fullbacks received the ball, to prevent them from pushing forward, and they diligently dropped deeper to ensure that their wingback wasn’t isolated against Roma’s front three – this meant Tevez and Llorente dropped into these central areas preserve structure in midfield.

Juventus’ approach out of possession was significant – Garcia’s men were left flabbergasted in possession, as the home side stifled their main attacking threats.

Roma struggle

Juventus’ reactive approach meant Roma enjoyed majority of the possession throughout the match. Apart from Tevez occasionally closing down defenders, and Juventus’ attempt to press from goal-kicks, Roma’s centrebacks, along with De Rossi, were free to push forward.

The issue that Roma encountered – besides Juventus’ great organization – was their slow ball circulation and a focal point in attack. Strootman retained possession well and Pjanic – who looked injured – attempted to penetrate, but the midfielders’ impact was minimal. Gervinho was caught offside when he broke into good positions, and was always put into 1v2 situations when he intended on isolating a wingback – and Ljajic drifted infield desperately looking for gaps to penetrate.

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Totti found it difficult to grow into the match, and he failed to create space for Roma’s attacker to run into. Whenever Totti dropped deep to receive the ball the closest Juventus centreback stuck tight to the Italian – Vidal also tracked his movement and closed Totti down when he roamed around the halfway line.

Ultimately, the only way Roma could create an opportunity to expose Juventus on the counter would be to press the Juventus backline higher up the pitch, or force them to concede possession in their third, and quickly commit men forward. Ljajic received a great chance early in the match when Totti dispossessed Leonardo Bonucci, but besides that effort, Buffon made routine saves to preserve his clean sheet.

Despite monopolizing majority of the possession, the away side rarely created legitimate goal-scoring opportunities because they couldn’t find openings in Juventus’ shape. The ball circulation was slow, their playmakers were nullified, and there was no space in the final third for Gervinho to attack.

Pirlo – De Rossi

Although Roma opted to drop into their shape and allow Juventus’ centrebacks to play from the back, Garcia instructed his men to press Pirlo. Totti was handed the duty to track the Italian maestro, and Pjanic occasionally stepped in when Totti was out of position. Garcia’s attempt to nullify Pirlo was logical, but as the game wore on, the Italian found it easier to receive the ball and build attacks from deep – this was down to fitness levels, and Roma’s lack of structure without the ball.

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On the other hand, De Rossi was free to play passes from deep – he often switched balls towards the fullbacks, but rarely played long diagonal balls or forward penetrating passes. De Rossi’s passing was conservative, and while his passing rate was phenomenal, it didn’t influence Roma’s attack. Here, De Rossi often dropped between the two Roma centre-backs to ensure a numerical advantage at the back, and help push Dodo and Maicon forward.

Although neither man dominated the match from midfield, both held pivotal roles – Pirlo helped Juventus get into better attacking positions as the match wore on, whereas De Rossi’s presence prevented Juventus’ strike force from isolating the Roma’s centrebacks.

Set-pieces

The home side’s threat from open-play was minimal, but they efficiently executed set-pieces. In fairness, Pogba and Vidal ignited attacks on the break, but their final ball let them down – however, Roma looked vulnerable defending set-pieces, and Juventus took advantage.

Juventus’ opening goal came from a simple Lichtsteiner throw-in that led to the Swiss wingback playing a pass into Tevez, who cleverly turned De Rossi, slid an incisive ball towards Vidal, and the Chilean beat Morgan De Sanctis at the near post. 20 minutes later, Pirlo tricked the Roma defence into thinking he’d play a ball into the six-yard box, and laid it off to Pogba, whose shot was blocked – Roma failed to clear their lines and Barzagli’s diagonal pass to Tevez subsequently led to the Argentinian striker whipping a ball across the six-yard box, which Bonucci couldn’t latch onto.

Bonucci doubled the home side’s lead minutes into the second half, when he broke free from Leandro Castan and guided in Pirlo’s free-kick at the far post. Roma further displayed their inability to defend set-pieces when Chiellini nodded back Pirlo’s free-kick at the far post and Castan handled the ball in the area, thus leading to his dismissal and a penalty, which Mirko Vucinic converted. Although Juventus’ influence from open-play was minimal, Conte’s men exposed Roma through set-pieces, and were rewarded with three goals.

4-2-3-1

Garcia opted to bring on Mattia Destro and Vasilis Torosidis for Pjanic and Dodo, as Roma moved to a 4-2-3-1.

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The move was logical as Roma now possessed a focal point in attack, but unfortunately for the away side, they struggled to get the ball into Destro – Pjanic’s departure deprived the away side of any penetration, as they were left with Strootman’s complacent passing and De Rossi in a deeper role.

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Garcia’s final attempt to alter the match saw Alessandro Florenzi replace Totti, but De Rossi and Castan were sent off within four minutes of his introduction. With Roma down to nine-men away from home against the champions, the match was over, and Juventus comfortably sustained their two-goal lead.

Conclusion

Juventus’ defensive solidity and set-piece efficiency merited three points – this was far from their best performance of the season, yet their defensive display was superb, as Conte’s men stifled Roma’s attack.

Roma dominated possession for large portions of the match, but the away side lacked invention, guile and penetration when they broke into Juventus’ half. Garcia’s men circulated the ball too slow, allowing Juventus to maintain their shape, while their set-piece defending was abysmal. Roma have overachieved by some margin this season – considering this is their first loss of the season – and if they can positively bounce back from this result, then the title race is far from over.

Roma’s overall performance wasn’t great – nor was it poor – here, they lost to a better side, executing a well-thought-out approach.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2014 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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AC Milan 2-2 Roma

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Milan came from behind twice to earn a draw against Roma.

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Max Allegri made two changes to the side that drew Ajax in the Champions League, as Urby Emanuelson and Andrea Poli were included in the starting eleven.

Rudi Garcia also made two changes to the starting eleven that defeated Fiorentina last weekend. Michael Bradley replaced the suspended Miralem Pjanic, while Mattia Destro was selected over Alessandro Florenzi.

This was far from a tactical spectacle – Roma took the lead twice, but individual errors, and Allegri’s substitution’s earned Milan a valuable point.

Pressing

Both sides approached the match in different manners when the opposition secured possession, which contributed to Roma’s early dominance. Milan replicated the approach used against Ajax in midweek – Mario Balotelli and Kaka closed down the Roma defenders, while Sulley Muntari and Riccardo Montolivo pushed out wide to press the fullbacks.

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However, there was more emphasis on limiting Maicon’s freedom to push forward, as Muntari successfully nullified his attacking threat.

On the opposing end, Roma occasionally pressed high up the pitch in the early moments, but for the most part, they allowed Milan’s centre backs space to play out of the back.

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Roma opted to press the midfield, and limit their impact on the match, thus leading to Allegri’s men conceding possession in the opening minutes.

Yet, there was a common feat in regards to the way both sides pressed.

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Neither side focused on pressing the holding midfielder, thus handing Nigel De Jong and Daniele De Rossi the freedom to string passes together. This benefited Milan, as De Rossi struggled to grab a stranglehold of the match, whereas De Jong periodically dictated the tempo and triggered attacks. There was no surprise that both men were the most proficient passers in the match.

1-0

Based on Roma’s dominance in the opening period, there was no surprise that they took the lead. But, once again, we witness a goal created because half space was penetrated efficiently – similar to Walcott and Hazard’s goal this weekend.

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The space behind Zapata is the half space Ljajic plays the ball into.

Dodo intercepted Mattia De Sciglio’s pass and surged forward, evading De Jong’s pass before playing the ball out wide to Adem Ljajic. Ljajic drifted centrally and played the ball into half space for Strootman to latch onto.

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Strootman attacked the half space to receive the ball and delivered a cross into the six-yard box, and Destro tapped in Roma’s opener.

Emanuelson

Roma admirably pressed Milan’s midfield in the first half, which led to their slow start, but as the half wore on, Allegri’s men located an additional route of attack.

One of the issues Roma endured in the first half was protection for Maicon. Occasionally, Bradley would tuck in and prevent Milan from overloading the right flank, but for the most part, Ljajic and Gervinho failed to track back.

Majority of Milan’s attacks in the first half were off swift transitions led by Kaka.

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The Brazilian often drifted into key positions to receive the ball, and played quick passes to the left side of the pitch. This was down to Maicon’s narrow positioning, Roma’s lack of numbers at the back, and belief that Emanuelson could get the better of the Brazilian in 1v1 situations.

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Emanuelson’s ambitious runs into Roma’s third pegged Maicon back, and his delivery from wide areas were somewhat threatening. Specifically, his ability to drift past Bradley and Maicon, forced Morgan De Sanctis to make a key save, which led to the corner that Roma conceded from.

Emanuelson’s threat down the left was significant in the first half, as majority of Milan’s attacking threat came through him.

Roma break down the left

Garcia’s men started the second half in fine fashion – they enjoyed their best moments in the opening 15 minutes of the half, but were unable to put the match out of reach. The recurring theme in those opening minutes was exploiting the space behind De Sciglio.

The Milan fullback lacked positional discipline for large portions of the match, and he was a liability from a defensive standpoint.

  • 48th min: Poli’s poor back heel falls to Bradley, who pushes forward and plays a long ball into the left channel for Destro to run onto. Destro holds off Zapata, turns him, and plays the ball to Bradley, who finds Maicon, but Zapata cleared his cross.

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  • 49th min: Subsequently, Strootman picks up a loose ball and plays in Gervinho down the left flank, but Gabriel jumps off his line and commits a reckless challenge in the box, to earn Garcia’s men a penalty – which Strootman converted.

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  • 54th min: Dodo dispossessed De Sciglio and played Gervinho forward into open space on the left flank. Gervinho drove at the Milan defence but his ball to Ljajic was intercepted.
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Ljajic begins his run at half as Gervinho attacks the space behind De Sciglio.

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This is the end of Ljajic’s run as Gervinho plays him in.

  • 58th min: Dodo intercepts Balotelli’s final ball, and plays a pass to Gervinho in acres of space on the left. The Ivorian attacks Zapata, and Ljajic makes a run behind him and receives a disguising pass. Ljajic plays the ball across the box to Gervinho, but Emanuelson makes a lovely tackle to prevent a shot.

Milan pushed higher up the pitch in the second half, but this provided Roma with space to penetrate on the counter, however Garcia’s men were poor in the final third.

Roma change

Garcia made a pivotal player swap in the 63rd minute by sacrificing Destro for Francesco Totti – who appeared for the first time since October. This change played a significant factor in Roma’s dominance, and it allowed Milan some breathing space.

It’s undeniable that Totti is arguably Roma’s best attacker, but Destro’s contribution to the match provided Roma with the platform to threaten Milan in wide areas. Destro’s physical presence occupied the two centrebacks, while Totti often drifted into midfield.

During the final half hour, Allegri’s fullbacks were cautious with their forward movement, and Milan’s centrebacks sat deep – so Totti’s movement didn’t drag Milan’s backline out of position. Suddenly there was no space for Roma to penetrate out wide, and their centre backs were rarely tested.

4-3-1-2

Allegri reacted quickly to Garcia’s decision to introduce Totti. Alessandro Matri replaced Poli, and Milan became 4-3-1-2 with Kaka roaming behind the two strikers.

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Allegri goes 4-3-1-2 allowing Kaka freedom in the final third.

Now, Milan competed in midfield, and Balotelli had more freedom to drop deeper and link play. Prior to Matri’s inclusion, Balotelli struggled against the two Roma centrebacks, but Allegri’s switch allowed the Italian striker freedom in attack.

Roma’s midfielders became sloppy in possession, and lost control of the match, as Montolivo and Muntari constantly closed them down and broke into tackles.

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Eventually, Milan gained control of the midfield, Balotelli became a more prominent figure, and Kaka roamed around the final third with a purpose.

Kaka

The Brazilian was the most influential Milan player on the pitch. In the first half he was restricted to the left flank, but he drifted centrally to receive the ball and initiate quick counter attacks.

However, when Allegri went 4-3-1-2 he was given more freedom to express himself. The one key component to his success against Roma was his positional awareness. Kaka dropped deeper into midfield to help build attacks, located pockets of space effortlessly, and drifted from flank to flank to link play with the fullbacks.

Kaka was the lynchpin behind Milan’s best chances in the final 15 minutes of the match. His nonchalant run into the final third, led to Balotelli laying the ball off to Muntari, who dropped his shoulder, bet Dodo, and levelled the match. While, his incisive penetrating ball into Montolivo, led to Balotelli’s spurned opportunity in injury time.

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This isn’t the Kaka the world grew to adore, but Allegri’s tactical change surely provided glimpses of his brilliance.

Conclusion

Roma have been brilliant over the course of the season, but their overachievement has led to a sense of complacency. By no means did they produce an outstanding performance, but they were the superior side for large portions of the match, and failed to take their chances – frankly, it’s been a recurring theme in their last five or six matches.

As for Milan, although they dropped points, this was still a positive result. They showcased their resilience, and Allegri’s changes ignited a late resurgence that should’ve led to three points. In hindsight, while Milan can use this as a confidence boost heading into the derby, Roma’s dropped points sees Juventus extend their lead at the top of the table to five points.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Juventus 3-0 Napoli

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Juventus sit one point behind league leaders Roma after a convincing victory over Napoli.

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Antonio Conte made two changes to the side that drew Real Madrid in midweek. Angelo Ogbonna joined Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli at centre back, while Mauricio Isla made an appearance as a right wingback.

Rafa Benitez assembled his side in a 4-2-3-1 with Gonzalo Higuain leading the line ahead of Jose Callejon, Marek Hamsik and Lorenzo Insigne. Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami formed the double pivot.

Two moments of individual brilliance may have put the match out of reach, but Juventus were terrific in and out of possession.

Juventus’ great start

Conte’s men started the match in a positive manner, which has been a recurring theme throughout the early part of this campaign.

Shockingly, it only took two minutes for the Bianconeri to take the lead. From an initial short corner, Pirlo squared a pass to Isla, and the Chilean’s deflected shot fell to Llorente – who was marginally offside – and the Spaniard tapped the ball into the net. Three minutes later, Pirlo received his cleared corner kick at the edge of the box, and the Italian received time and space to deliver a cross at the far post to Paul Pogba, who nodded the ball across goal to Bonucci, but Pepe Reina made an excellent save to deny the Italian.

It was an ideal start for Conte’s men – they created two legitimate goal-scoring opportunities, took the lead, and pegged Napoli into their own half, during the opening 10 minutes.

Napoli shape

To an extent, Napoli’s shape without the ball was the cause for Juventus’ first half dominance. In Napoli’s away matches against top-sides this season, Benitez’s men have been cautious, and focused on attacking teams on the counter. Here, they dropped too deep, and failed to limit Juve’s activity in the final third.

Higuain and Hamsik dropped off near Pirlo, allowing Bonucci, Barzagli and Ogbonna time on the ball. Benitez’s men allowed Juve’s centrebacks to push forward, and their wingbacks to advance higher up the pitch. Occasionally, Higuain and Napoli’s wide men would press Juve’s defenders, but that left Pirlo as a free outlet to receive the ball.

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Another odd feat was Napoli’s defensive approach towards the Italian maestro when he had the ball in Napoli’s half. No pressure was applied on Pirlo as he was allowed to spread passes to the advancing wingbacks.

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Coincidentally, Kwadwo Asamoah and Isla was Pirlo’s preferred outlet going forward. Napoli’s two banks of four were organized, but their shape lacked structure.  There was space between the lines for Juve to exploit and their press was non-existent, which allowed Conte’s men freedom to express themselves.

Juventus shape

Unlike Napoli, Juventus’ shape without the ball was simple, yet effective. Similar to Napoli’s approach, Tevez and Llorente preferred not to press Napoli’s centrebacks, as they stuck close to Behrami and Inler – preventing the midfield duo from receiving the ball. This left the Napoli fullbacks as the free outlets out wide, but Vidal and Pogba closed them down admirably, while Asamoah and Isla tracked Insigne and Callejon’s runs.

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Napoli failed to get the ball into Higuain, who was left isolated against Juventus’ three centrebacks, whereas Hamsik was unable to find space between the lines. Conte’s men nullified Napoli’s attacking threat by winning individual battles across the pitch, and limiting Hamsik’s space in the final third.

Another interesting feat was the dissimilarity in cohesion between both attacks. Juventus was fluid, their passing tempo was quick, and their utilization of wide areas was pivotal. Napoli struggled in wide areas against Arsenal at the Emirates a few weeks ago, and Conte’s men created their best chances from this source of attack, as they focused on isolating their fullbacks – while they may be great going forward, their defensive abilities are mediocre.

  1. 25th minute: Tevez received a pass from Pirlo between the lines and flicked a ball behind Christian Maggio to an unmarked Asamoah, but the Ghanaian’s shot hit the side netting.
  2. 38th minute: Vidal received a cross-field ball from Asamoah, and he played a defence splitting pass to the oncoming Isla. The Chilean delivered a sensational cross to Llorente, but Reina denied him at the near post.
  3. 65th minute: Pirlo spreads a pass to Isla on the right flank, and the Chilean squared the ball to Tevez on the edge of the box. Vidal’s movement led to Raul Albiol’s slip, and Tevez slipped the ball into the Chilean midfielder, but he scuffed his shot at the near post and it hit the side netting.

Juventus received several opportunities to increase their lead from wide areas, but great goalkeeping from Reina, and poor finishing kept Napoli in the match.

Napoli improve

There was a gradual lift in Napoli’s performance during the second half. Opposed to the first half, their work ethic improved when they lost the ball, as they instantly swarmed the Juventus defenders. Napoli pushed higher up the pitch, attempting to squeeze Conte’s men in their own half, and this led to their superiority in possession.

Nonetheless, Benitez’s men encountered the same issues in the second half, as they were unable to get behind the Juventus backline. But with Juventus sitting deeper, Hamsik’s movement enabled him to find gaps to exploit. Similar to the first half, Hamsik was forced to drop near the halfway line to receive the ball, and help Napoli push forward.

Hamsik passing vs Juventus

The Slovak international was neutralized in the first half, as he’s unable to influence the match from a deeper position. With Juventus 10-yards deeper, Hamsik found pockets of space to receive the ball and he attempted to overload wide areas, and penetrate in the final third.

  1. 63rd minute: Ogbonna failed to clear Pablo Armero’s cross and it fell to Hamsik – who snuck behind Pogba – but the Slovak’s shot towards the near post hit the side netting.
  2. 77th minute: Hamsik found space on the left flank, and played a splendid ball to Insigne – who made an intelligent run behind Barzagli – but Buffon saved Insigne’s shot at the near post.

Also, it’s key to point out Insigne’s attacking threat throughout the match. Whilst Napoli lacked invention and creativity in the final third, the Italian winger looked like the only player capable of snagging an equalizer. In the first half, he had two shots outside of the box that flashed inches of wide of the post and cross bar. Early on in the second half, he nearly beat Buffon with a promising curling free kick, but once again Buffon made a vital save. Insigne’s movement allowed him to get into great positions to threaten Juventus – the Italian was Napoli’s main attacking threat throughout the match but he was unable to beat Buffon when the opportunity was presented.

Benitez’s men improved in the second half with Hamsik and Insigne leading the charge, but Napoli’s standout performers lacked that extra bit of quality around the 18-yard box.

Tevez

Although he didn’t add to his six goals in 11 matches, Tevez continued to shine for the Bianconeri. He was arguably the man of the match as he produced another fantastic display behind Llorente. Tevez found space between the lines to receive the ball and link play with his teammates, he made intelligent runs into space to open up holes in the backline, and he swiftly dribbled past Napoli defenders with ease.

The Argentine has settled well in his role as the second striker as his movement in the final third to allow runners to attack behind him, and his ability to play intricate passes in tight spaces has seen Tevez develop into a significant cog in Juventus’ attack. Tevez became a nuisance towards Napoli’s backline, and Inler’s foul on him – which led to Pirlo’s fantastic free kick goal – displayed the threat the Argentine poses in the final third.

Pirlo and Pogba added two goals in seven minutes to put the match out of reach, but Tevez continued to display why he’s currently the best striker in Italy.

Conclusion

Juventus move within one point of league leaders Roma, but more importantly they displayed that they’re still favourites to lift their third consecutive Scudetto. They nullified Hamsik’s threat in the final third and their overall shape without the ball was impressive for large portions of the match. On the other hand Napoli’s poor shape, and work ethic without the ball allowed Juve’s wingbacks, Tevez and Pirlo space to thrive in. 

“We needed more possession and to be more dangerous, but above all to show the character and quality we knew we had,” Benitez said. 

“We know Pirlo has quality, but we can’t play an entire game just for one player. We knew it could be difficult, but we know that in future we can play as we did in the second half,” he added. 

Napoli improved in the second half, and although they’re undergoing a transitional period, their performances in big matches and Hamsik’s minimal influence shouldn’t be overlooked. Napoli’s role in the title race is unknown as the season is long, but this match highlighted the contrast in quality between the two title rivals.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Juventus 2-2 Real Madrid

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Courtesy of Football.ua

Real Madrid secured a berth in the Champions League knockout round as they earned a valuable draw in Turin.

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Antonio Conte introduced Leonardo Bonucci  to his starting eleven for the suspended Giorgio Chiellini, while Kwadwo Asamoah slotted in at left back for Angelo Ogbonna.

Carlo Ancelotti made a few changes to the side that defeated Juventus at the Santiago Bernabeu a few weeks ago. Gareth Bale and Xabi Alonso made their first starts in the Champions League this season, while Raphael Varane’s inclusion in the back four, pushed Sergio Ramos to right back.

This match showcased a recurring theme that’s been displayed by both sides this season – Juventus dominated the opening 45 minutes, but Real Madrid’s energetic pressing led to a vast improvement in their second half performance.

Juventus Shape

Conte’s men mirrored the approach utilized at the Bernabeu, by dropping into a 4-5-1 without the ball. Claudio Marchisio and Carlos Tevez were instructed to prevent Sergio Ramos and Marcelo from pushing forward, but they sat narrow alongside the midfield three to minimize gaps. They had a fairly easy time coping with Madrid due to the lack of cohesion in Ancelotti’s attack. Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo were higher up the pitch, while Modric and Khedira sat close to Alonso in a deeper position.

With Madrid’s full backs monitored, and their midfield unable to find gaps in central areas, Conte’s men didn’t face many issues on the defensive end. Khedira didn’t offer any attacking threat going forward, and Vidal admirably tracked Modric, when he attempted to dribble forward. In particular, Vidal was superb in midfield, breaking up play with his combative tackles, intercepting passes and quickly leading the transition from defence to attack.

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Similar to the fixture two weeks ago, Madrid was stifled in midfield, and this was down to Ancelotti’s approach and Juventus’ shape.

Pirlo vs. Alonso

Ancelotti was pleased to welcome back Alonso to the side, seeing as they missed a player of his stature in midfield. Like Pirlo, Alonso sits deeper in midfield, but he tends to play diagonal cross-field balls to build the attack. It’s a key element in Madrid’s game that they’ve lacked during his absence, as no other midfielder in Ancelotti’s squad possesses his passing range.

The key feat in both approaches was the ability to nullify the prolific deep-lying playmakers. At the Bernabeu we witnessed Karim Benzema press Pirlo for a small portion of the match to some effect, but allowed the Italian to dictate the match in the latter stages, prior to Giorgio Chiellini’s sending off. And once again Benzema was handed the duty to track Pirlo when Juventus had possession of the ball.

Nonetheless, one of the main components that led to Juventus’ superiority in midfield was Pirlo’s freedom and Conte’s intent on nullifying Alonso. Benzema’s defensive work on Pirlo didn’t improve, and once again the Italian maestro was free to facilitate passes into the channels and wide areas.

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However, Conte was weary of Alonso’s threat, and instructed Llorente to close him down whenever he received the ball.

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The contrast in forward passes is evident between the two deep-lying playmakers, and it was down to the work ethic of both strikers.

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It was strange seeing Bonucci given time on the ball considering his proficient range of passing, and for the most part Juventus had two exceptional passing outlets available going forward. Ancelotti’s defensive tactics were once again naïve, and it led to Juventus’ first half superiority. Alonso’s impact on the match was limited, and this is an approach most sides will take if they encounter Madrid in the latter stages of this competition.

Space in wide areas

Although Juve’s attacking approach was logical, they enjoyed space in wide areas due to Madrid’s shape. The initial aim was to drop into two banks of four without the ball, which explains why it was odd to see Ancelotti’s men defend with seven men – leaving the three attackers higher up the pitch.

With Madrid already outnumbered in midfield, Ancelotti’s men couldn’t afford to leave their fullbacks without sufficient protection. Initially Asamoah was cautious about surging into advanced position – which was logical based on Madrid’s threat on the counter – thus handing the onus to Caceres to get forward. The Uruguayan took advantage of the space behind Ronaldo, and was one of Pirlo’s favored passing option aft. In the second half, it was Caceres’ cross that found Llorente in the box, which saw Conte’s men equalize.

Juve’s superiority in midfield was clear in the first fixture, and the spare man was often Paul Pogba, as Khedira failed to track his runs. Pogba produced another decent outing on the left side, specifically on the break as he freely attacked space. Specifically, there were two separate occasions – besides his outside foot cross that deflected off of Pepe – that led to legitimate goal-scoring opportunities.

  1. Vidal did well to sustain possession and played a scintillating ball to Pogba, who drove forward and played a pass to the oncoming Tevez. Tevez looked up and delivered a quality cross to the back post towards Marchisio, but Iker Casillas denied the Italian midfielder.
  1. Llorente received a flick-on from Vidal, and dropped deep with the ball to play a pass to Tevez on the flank. Tevez drove at the defence, and played an incisive ball into the box for the advancing Pogba. Pogba received the ball, forcing Varane to come across and make a last-ditch tackle on the French midfielder, thus resulting in a penalty.

Juventus were exceptional in the first half, and a few top-class Casillas saves prevented Conte’s men from increasing their lead. Nevertheless, Madrid’s shape without the ball was bizarre, yet beneficial to Juventus, who penetrated space in wide areas.

Madrid press

Ancelotti’s men enjoyed a great start to the second half, and that was down to their work rate without the ball. Opposed to the first half, where Juventus was allowed to freely play out of the back, Ancelotti instructed his men to press higher up the pitch. Madrid’s front six squeezed Juventus in their own half and forced them to either play long balls or concede possession in their own half.

Conte’s men were unable to sustain possession and break past Madrid’s press, which ultimately led to Ronaldo’s equalizer. Luka Modric pressed Caceres, Ronaldo cut off the passing lane to Andrea Barzagli, Karim Benzema was near Bonucci and Alonso closed down Pirlo. Caceres played a poor pass into Benzema, and the Frenchman ran towards the Juventus defence, before playing in Ronaldo, who solemnly chipped Gianluigi Buffon.

Ancelotti’s men posed a sufficient attacking threat when they pressed high, as they won the ball in key areas in the final third, and began to dictate the match.

Second half

There’s been a recurring theme in the way both sides perform in the final 45 minutes of matches, and it was displayed in the second half. Madrid have produced more adventurous displays in the second half, while Juventus endure massive energy dip in their performance levels.

There was an overall improvement in Madrid’s second half performance, and the success of their high press proved to be beneficial. Juventus began to drop deeper into their third when Madrid had possession of the ball, and Modric was more inventive with his passing.

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The Croatian midfielder began to push forward into attacking positions, as he picked out positive passes between the lines and in wide areas.

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Also, Ramos began to push forward in the latter stages of the second half, as Tevez failed to track his runs. There were two separate occasions that saw Ramos fouled by Bonucci at the edge of the box, and his shot being blocked in the 18-yard box, after beating Asamoah in a 1v1. Madrid posed a larger threat on the break – Ronaldo and Benzema were receiving balls between the lines and Ancelotti urged his men to play Ronaldo into 1v1 situations. Juventus did have their chances in the second half, but a lack of penetration in the final third and quality in their passes, prevented them from nicking a winner.

Conclusion

Casillas’ brilliance in the opening 45 minutes, along with Madrid’s improved second half display secured first place in Group B. Both sides looked threatening on the counter, but all four goals were down to defensive miscues, highlighting how vulnerable both sides were without the ball.

Ancelotti’s initial tactics were questionable, but once again Madrid produced a positive second half performance to earn a point. Their defensive shape, and their overall build up play between midfield and attack still needs grooming, but Madrid continue to find ways to win during this significant transitional period.

“I’m leaving here feeling satisfied with my team’s second-half performance,” Ancelotti said. 

“The reaction was very good on our part. After the break we were much better in terms of courage and aggression,” he added. 

On the other hand, Juventus are in a favourable predicament ahead of their final two matches. Conte will be disappointed with their second half dip, but progression is still attainable. Two wins and they’re in. It sounds straightforward, but Conte’s men will need to improve on both ends if they want to achieve maximum points.

“We deserve more points than we have, but when you face a team like Real Madrid, who have players that can turn the match around in a few minutes, there’s not much you can do,” Conte said. 

“My team played a great game tonight – we played very well especially in the first half, just like we had planned to. It’s the sixth game in 18 days for us and it’s normal to be a little tired,” he added.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Real Madrid 2-1 Juventus

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Real Madrid remains undefeated in the Champions League, as they fortuitously snuck past Juventus at the Santiago Bernabeu.

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Antonio Conte introduced Martin Caceres, Angelo Ogbonna and Arturo Vidal to his starting eleven, following Sunday’s defeat to Fiorentina.

Carlo Ancelotti made four changes to his starting eleven that defeat Malaga this weekend, introducing Iker Casillas, Alvaro Arbeloa, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric.

Conte got his tactics right, but an error from referee Manuel Grafe, allowed Real Madrid to sustain control of the match, despite a late scare.

Juventus’ Shape

It was always going to be interesting to see how Conte approached this match without the ball considering they haven’t played with four defenders in over year. Yet, Juventus’ shape proved to be pivotal, as they prevented Ancelotti’s men from creating multiple clear-cut opportunities in the first half.

Juventus dropped into a 4-5-1 with Llorente isolated up top alongside Sergio Ramos and Pepe. Tevez kept his eye on Arbeloa, while Marchisio played closer to Caceres to prevent overloads. Pirlo, Pogba and Vidal had little to do from a marking perspective – as Madrid’s midfield trio sat near the halfway-line – so they focused on maintaining a compact shape to limit Madrid’s activity in the final third.

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Many questioned Conte’s tactics heading into the match, but Juventus’ shape without the ball was excellent. Their midfield trio stifled space in midfield – in particular, Vidal made several tackles in his own third, preventing Madrid from penetrating.

Juventus’ work-rate and organization without the ball was superb – frankly, they went into half time down a goal, due to two mental lapses and Ronaldo’s composure in front of goal.

Madrid press

While Madrid often dropped into a defensive shape when Juventus had possession of the ball, Ancelotti encouraged his men to press the Bianconeri on goal-kicks, hoping it would prevent them from playing out of the back freely.

This was a logical approach from Madrid, but the quality of the press was poor, and Juventus broke past it with ease. Madrid’s front three pressed Juventus’ back four, so there was always a spare man available, and long-balls were often distributed to Llorente, who admirably controlled the ball and laid it off to his teammates. Bluntly, Madrid dropping into their shape was more effective than their high-press, as it often got Juventus into dangerous areas on the pitch.

Another feat in Madrid’s press was Benzema’s tracking of Pirlo. In the early moments of the match, Benzema dropped deeper into midfield to press Pirlo – which led to a few fouls – but it was shocking to see the French striker abandon this feat. Madrid’s aim to press Conte’s men higher up the pitch failed, but it was shocking to see them allow Pirlo to play freely, considering they had two men free men upfront when Juventus had possession.

4v3

Despite Madrid’s great start to the match – based on Ronaldo’s goal – Juventus were the better side for larger portions of the first half. Conte fielded four ball-passing midfielders in his side, while Tevez impressively roamed around the final third and worked the channels.

This ultimately left a 4v3 battle in midfield – with Benzema’s press on Pirlo a forgone conclusion, the 34-year-old was allowed to spray passes out wide and over the top of the Madrid defence. More importantly, Juventus always had a passing option available, which allowed Conte’s men to play quick incisive passes through midfield, guiding them into advanced positions.

However, it was Pogba who thrived in midfield, as Madrid failed to track his runs down the left side.

  • In the 12th minute, Pogba ran down the left side of the field unmarked – behind Khedira – and received a long ball from Marchisio. Pogba waited for Ogbonna to make a decoy run to drag Khedira out of position, and he played a lovely ball towards Llorente, but Casillas punched it away.
  • In the 16th minute, Pogba made another direct run from midfield, while Tevez and Llorente linked play to break free from Madrid’s defenders. Once again, Pogba’s run wasn’t tracked due to Juventus’ numerical advantage in midfield and he played a lovely ball into Llorente, who nodded down the ball for Tevez, but it trickled into Casillas’ hands.
  • Five minutes later, Pirlo played a pass to the advancing Caceres on the right flank, and the Uruguayan defender distributed a lovely ball into the advancing Pogba, who nodded the ball on goal. Casillas did well to make the initial save, but Llorente quickly got his foot to the rebound, to deservedly level the score line. Once again Pogba made a run down the left side unmarked, but it’s key to note that Ronaldo failed to track Caceres’ run – a flaw in Ronaldo’s game – and the initial ball came from Pirlo, who would’ve been pressed in that zone by Benzema 10 minutes prior.
  • A minute into the second half, an unmarked Pirlo played a clever ball – from a deeper position – over the top of the Madrid defenders to an unmarked Pogba, but Casillas was quick off his line to punch the ball away.

Juventus’ numerical advantage in midfield allowed them to settle into the match, and Pogba was often the spare man who guided the Bianconeri forward. Unfortunately the match didn’t end 11v11, but Pogba was the key cog in Juventus’ midfield prior to Giorgio Chiellini’s sending off.

Madrid struggle

Besides Ronaldo’s brace, Madrid was extremely disappointing for majority of the first half.  The main issue was the distance between midfield and attack, as Madrid’s midfield trio often sat alongside each other in deep positions. In fairness, Juve’s shape without the ball was compact, and they maintained an organized shape while shifting from side-to-side.

Benzema had limited involvement from an attacking sense, while Ronaldo looked bright when he received the ball on the flank and drifted centrally – avoiding several Juventus challenges.

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Di Maria was Madrid’s most lively player in the first half, who relished taking on the inexperienced Ogbonna, as majority of Madrid’s attacks came from that side. Ronaldo and Di Maria rarely dropped deep into midfield to receive the ball, so Madrid’s midfield trio had issues moving forward as a unit, along with facilitating their front three.

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As you can see, forward passes from Madrid’s midfield was a rarity, and Ancelotti’s men to lacked penetration in attack, as they didn’t possess a genuine link between the lines. Juventus made the most of their possession, where as Madrid were unable to move forward in unison.

Madrid’s midfield was poor in the first half – their deep positions often left Madrid’s attack disjointed, and their three attackers were deprived of quality service.

11v10

Chiellini’s second half dismissal hindered Juventus’ chances of mounting a comeback, as Conte was forced to replace Llorente with Leonardo Bonucci. Llorente started the match slow, but he slowly began to link with Tevez, and his ability to hold up the ball to allow midfielder runners forward was beneficial. However, Conte was confident that his side could still find openings in Madrid’s defence, so he opted to maintain a back four.

Madrid began to push forward as a unit, and Modric began to shine. Juventus became a 4-4-1 without the ball, but as time wore on, energy levels dipped, and Modric was able to slyly tiptoe past challenges and drive forward.

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Madrid was patient in possession and their best opening came in the 60th minute when Arbeloa’s overlapping run led to a cross in the box, which Benzema scuffed from six-yards out. Khedira also missed a golden chance to the put the match to bed, but his audacious attempt at a chip, fell into Buffon’s hands.

Kwadwo Asamoah replaced Pirlo and played on the left flank, while Pogba joined Vidal in midfield. Tevez stayed upfront, and although he was outnumbered 2v1, his runs into the channels were pivotal as they allowed Conte’s midfield to get higher up the pitch. Juventus competed despite Chiellini’s dismissal, but there was a vast improvement in Madrid’s attacking impetus – yet, they struggled to get behind Juventus’ backline and created minimal chances.

Final 25 minutes

Ancelotti made three attacking chances in the final 25 minutes, introducing Isco, Gareth Bale and Alvaro Morata. It was evident that Madrid was looking for a third goal, but Ancelotti’s chances affected the balance in Madrid’s shape.

The introduction of Sebastian Giovinco also benefitted Conte’s men. His mobility and pace troubled Madrid’s backline – Pepe and Modric were forced to foul the Italian, while his penetrating run from half forced Casillas to make a fingertip save. With Isco and Modric pushed forward, Madrid lacked a competent shield in front of their backline. Tevez and Giovinco’s movement off the ball began to drag a few defenders out of position, and Madrid looked vulnerable on the break.

Frankly, better decision-making and confidence from Giovinco could’ve resulted in a Juventus equalizer, but Ancelotti’s men hung on once again. Madrid made three attacking changes in the final 25 minutes aiming to score another goal, yet Ancelotti’s alterations disrupted their overall balance, and Juventus looked the more threatening side in the final third.

Conclusion

This was a match of two halves – Juventus dominated the midfield, while containing Madrid’s main threats, but Chiellini’s dismissal resulted in an improved Madrid second half performance.

Madrid was far from impressive on the night, but Ronaldo’s goals bailed them out once again. They’re still a work in progress, and will head into this weekend’s Clasico full of confidence. The lack of a natural link between midfield and attack, along with their inability to penetrate is worrying, as a referee’s error and two mental lapses guided them to three points.

“Tonight we only lost due to a couple of small details, a couple of things that did not go our way,” Conte said.

“We played at the same level as Madrid and we could even have won. Now everything is certainly more difficult but we proved we can be competitive against any opponent. Last year we were outclassed by Bayern while this season we played a great game against a team who are more or less at the same level as the European champions. So I don’t think we are in crisis as many said on the eve of the game – quite the opposite actually,” Conte added.

Unlike last season’s Champions League exit, Juventus were not outclassed – coincidentally, they were the better side prior to Chiellini’s dismissal.  The Bianconeri have earned two points in three matches, meaning they’ll need close to maximum points if they intend on progressing to the knockout round. However, Conte’s tactical alterations looked promising, and he may have found a solution to his formation dilemma in Europe.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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