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AC Milan 0-2 Juventus

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Courtesy of Flickr/ All rights reserved by shakatak11

Despite being the inferior side for large portions of the match, Juventus’ clinical finishing proved decisive in their road victory at the San Siro.

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Clarence Seedorf was forced to make a few changes to his starting XI that defeated Sampdoria last week. The Rossoneri were without the suspended Sulley Muntari and the injured Mario Balotelli, so Nigel de Jong and Andrea Poli slotted into midfield. Also, Christian Abbiati, Urby Emanuelson and Daniele Bonera featured in Seedorf’s back line.

Antonio Conte was without the suspended Arturo Vidal, while Giorgio Chiellini was sidelined due to injury. Claudio Marchisio and Martin Caceres slotted into Juventus’ rather predictable XI.

Great teams find ways to win even when they’re not playing particularly well, and ruthless finishing enabled Juventus to replicate this feat.

Milan’s approach without the ball

One of the peculiar feats regarding this year’s Milan side has been their tendency to perform against the top-sides, yet underachieve against lesser opposition. Despite the vast gap between both sides in the table, Milan was expected to raise their game at the San Siro, and their approach without the ball was pivotal towards their dominance for lengthy periods.

Seedorf instructed his men to press Juventus’ back line when they played out of the back. Giampaolo Pazzini, Kaka and Adel Taarabt pressed Juve’s back three, while Poli man-marked Andrea Pirlo. With Milan’s fullbacks quickly closing down Juve’s wingbacks, Conte’s men were unable to build attacks from midfield, and Milan were able to dominate possession.

Milan negated Juve’s midfield by stifling Pirlo, and ensuring that distribution from the back was limited – without Vidal’s energy in midfield, Juve struggled to compete in central areas.

Midfield battle

The biggest surprise was Juve’s poor display in midfield. The aforementioned absence of Vidal was clearly a massive loss, and with Pirlo shackled, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba were expected to carry the weight. Pogba, however, was languid in midfield, thus producing arguably his worst performance this season, whereas Marchisio’s runs from midfield were promising – it was vital in the build up – but his overall impact was minimal.

In stark contrast, Milan physically imposed their authority in midfield. De Jong was fielded higher up the pitch, aiding Milan in retaining possession through pressing in Juventus’ third, whereas Riccardo Montolivo produced an extraordinary performance. He recovered the most balls in midfield (12), while his five interceptions and four tackles in midfield typified his overall impact.

Milan attacks

With Seedorf fielding Poli as his no.10, Milan’s creativity came from wide outlets. The movement from Milan’s wide men created space for Milan’s fullbacks to push into advanced positions, despite early pressure from Juve’s shuttlers. Ultimately, there were three elements to Milan attack.

  • Fullbacks push forward: Emanuelson and Ignazio Abate’s advanced positions posed a threat for a short period. Buffon comfortably saved Emanuelson’s shot from outside the box, and later on, Taarabt overloaded the right flank with Abate, but the Juventus goalkeeper easily coped with his cross. Emanuelson continued to push forward throughout the half, and his ball into the box evaded Pazzini, and fell to Poli, but the Milan striker skied his shot over the net.
  • Direct balls into Pazzini: Over the course of the first half, Juventus’ back three failed to cope with Pazzini’s movement. In the 8th min, Pazzini nodded down a long ball to Kaka, but his shot flashed wide of the net. Minutes later, Taarabt’s ball from the right flank were flicked on by Kaka towards Pazzini, but his header flew over the net. Towards the end of the half, the Italian did well to hold up the ball and turn on Andrea Barzagli, but Buffon comfortably held his tame effort.
  • Kaka direct runs: Pazzini was behind Kaka’s first legitimate goal-scoring opportunity, as he beat Leonardo Bonucci to a loose ball and drove towards goal, thus leading to Kaka forcing Buffon to make a key toe save, and his rebound was cleared off the line by Bonucci. The Brazilian tormented Juventus later in the half, when he drifted infield from the left flank, but his curling effort was pushed aside by Buffon, and Poli blasted the rebound over the net. Lastly, his direct running from the left created space for teammates as well, as he squared a pass to Montolivo, whose effort was also saved by Buffon.

Milan created an abundance of chances to take the lead, but a terrific showing from Buffon, along with woeful finishing prevented Seedorf’s men from taking the lead.

Juventus goals

While Milan struggled scoring goals, Juventus’ ruthless finishing signified the difference between both sides. Fernando Llorente’s opener stemmed from a simple long-ball that Adil Rami couldn’t clear, in which it fell into space that Marchisio ran into. The Italian located Tevez in the box, while Stephane Lichtsteiner’s forward run enabled him to latch onto the Argentine’s clever forward pass, and complete his cross for an unmarked Llorente to tap the ball into an open net.

Juventus found more space in midfield in the second half, and it was evident when Tevez received time to fire a venomous shot off the crossbar to secure three points. Tevez, in general, displayed his significance to the side – his creativity created Llorente’s opener, and his goal-scoring prowess led to his fantastic strike for Juve’s second.

In truth, he epitomizes a striker fit for Conte’s system. His willingness to press Taarabt in Milan’s third, thus creating a chance that Lichtsteiner shockingly missed, along with using his strength to easily brush aside Rami and force Abbiati to make a save illustrates what he offers Juventus. The Argentine’s remarkable goal was his 15th in 26 Serie A appearances, and it’s fair to say that not only was Tevez the best striker in the match, but he’s possibly the best in the league.

Conclusion

Usually matches between two top-sides – disregarding the Milan’s position in the table – are decided by the narrowest margins. Although, Milan produced a positive performance, their inability to beat an impressive Buffon haunted the Rossoneri.

The win puts Juventus in pole position to claim their third consecutive Scudetto, and this match indicated the significance of Llorente and Tevez’s arrival. The strike duo has formed an unparalleled partnership this season, as they combine superbly within the final third, while providing flexibility, consistent performances, and goals.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 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.

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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 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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