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2 Guys and a MIKE – Champions League Podcast April 11

The 2 Guys and a Mike crew analyze what transpired this week in the Champions League. They talk about Video replay, Conte’s reality check and is Barcelona reliant on Messi? They also discuss who will advance to the final at Wembley!

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Podcasts

 

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Juventus 0-2 Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich put on another excellent away performance to defeat Juventus 2-0 and advance to the semi-finals of the Champions League yet again.

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Antonio Conte stuck with his traditional 3-5-2, but Mirko Vucnic replaced Alessandro Matri, and was partnered with Fabio Quagliarella upfront. Paul Pogba and Simone Padoin featured in the starting lineup for the suspended Stephane Lichsteiner and Arturo Vidal. Kwadwo Asamoah also returned to Conte’s starting lineup, ahead of Federico Peluso.

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It was no surprise that Jupp Heynckes’ men continued to play in a 4-2-3-1, with Mario Mandzukic leading the line. Arjen Robben and Javi Martinez were included in the starting line up for the injured Toni Kroos and Luiz Gustavo.

It was an impressive performance by Heynckes’ men, as they make their third semi-final appearance in the last four seasons. It was a truly breathtaking away performance from the newly crowned German champions, as they thoroughly dominated the Italian champions.

Pressing

Juventus had a bright start to the match – it was a massive improvement compared to what transpired in the first leg. Matri and Vucnic were closing down the centre backs, while Asamoah and Padoin quickly closed down David Alaba and Phillip Lahm when they received the ball. In the opening 30 minutes, the Juventus midfield did a great job on Bastian Schweinsteiger. Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba and Vucinic occasionally dropped deeper to press the German midfielder, in which he had the worst passing rate of his career, at 64 percent.

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Unfortunately, Juventus was unable to sustain that pressure, and Bayern were able to impose their authority in the match. Five Bayern players completed more than 50 passes, and they began to assert their dominance as Conte’s men began to tire.

Heynckes’ men pressed intelligently, and once again stopped Juventus from playing. Bayern’s front four pressed the Juventus front three and Andrea Pirlo, but at times they would sit off and let the Juventus defenders have the ball.  There was no surprise that the Juventus defenders had the highest passing combination for the Italian champions, and this is what Bayern wanted. The German side sat off, and picked up the Juventus midfield three, which forced Juventus to play several long balls.

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Bayern’s pressing was effective and they created more chances in today’s match. Juventus’ inability to replicate Bayern’s pressing allowed the Germans to assert their dominance from wide areas and in possession. Schweinsteiger and Martinez were rarely picked up and they dictated the tempo of the match.

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Juventus’ right – Bayern attack down the flanks

Apart from Pirlo’s free-kick, Juventus rarely threatened in the final third. Pogba and Padoin combined well in the first half but they lacked the final ball. Asamoah failed to get the best out of Lahm, and often sprayed passes across the field. Vucinic also aimed to penetrate down that side, but not much came from it, as Bayern defended well.

Bayern’s wide players were nullified in the opening 30 minutes, due to Juventus’ pressure, but once Conte’s men tired, Lahm and Alaba surged forward, mainly down the right. Muller, Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery helped Lahm and Robben overload that right hand side. Ribery and Alaba also caused havoc on their flank, but with Ribery drifting centrally, the Frenchman often found himself connecting with Lahm and Robben.

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Juventus wingbacks played narrow when Bayern had the ball, and this often left Robben and Ribery going 1v1 with Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli. The only worry here was that Mandzukic was left alone with Leonardo Bonucci, but Bayern failed to exploit that area.

Muller

Thomas Muller played behind Mandzukic for the injured Kroos, and the 23-year-old midfielder had a quiet, but decent match. He didn’t do a great job pressing Pirlo in the first half, and casually tracked him. This could have led to Heynckes’ decision to press the midfield and let the Juventus defenders have the ball.

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Offensively, Muller did a great job in linking play with the wingers, and he received the ball several times in between the lines. When Juventus were pressing the German side, Muller was the key outlet in the midfield, and he often picked up the ball in between the lines unmarked. The German was unable to find the back of the net, despite having a few chances, but his all-around play was superb.

Set Pieces

In the first half, Schweinsteiger delivered a splendid ball from a free-kick, and no Juventus player cleared it. Daniel Van Buyten got his head on the ball and it went wide of the net.

Schweinsteiger delivered the same ball in the second half and Juventus once again was unable to cope with the German’s delivery. Martinez attacked the ball this time, and Buffon saved his header, but Mandzukic headed the rebound into the net and ultimately ended the tie.

Considering the aerial presence that Juventus possess, one wouldn’t expect them to be vulnerable from set-pieces. They were fortunate not to concede in the first half, but against an elite side like Bayern Munich, teams can’t afford to make defensive mistakes of this nature.

Second half

Conte’s men failed to press in the second half, and Bayern continued to hold spells of possession for several minutes at a time. Juventus pushed forward and attacked, but left space in behind them for the Germans to capitalize on.

Juventus was unable to retain possession, and the German side strolled through the second half with ease. Heynckes’ side created numerous chances, but only Claudio Pizarro was able to add to Mandzukic’s opener.

Conte’s substitutions had no effect on the Bianconeri’s shape, as they were simply, like-for like changes. Juventus found themselves stretched on numerous occasions and they struggled to create chances in front of goal, due to another great display from Brazilian defender Dante.

Conclusion

Over two legs Bayern displayed that they were the superior side, producing two fantastic performances, against a strong Juventus side. They pressed better, created more chances and were worthy winners in both matches. They head into the semi-finals along with Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, and their domestic rivals, Borussia Dortmund. Although cup-ties of this magnitude can go either way, if the Bavarians can replicate performances of this quality, they can be considered favourites to do what they couldn’t in Munich last season.

Juventus’ European run has come to an end, and Conte will have learned more about his men through this experience. They were second best over two legs, against an elite European side. It was a successful run considering it was their return to European football, and experiences like this will only strengthen this side going forward. Conte will be disappointed in players such as Pirlo and Marchisio who were unable to showcase their talent on the big stage, against elite midfielders.

“I think that the best team went through, which they proved in both legs. This side has been working together for a long time and always reaches the latter stages. They were created to win, so I don’t think it’s absurd to say this is the best Bayern team of all time,” Conte said.

“When we were paired with Bayern, I said this was an opportunity for us to face an extremely strong side and understand the gap that separated us from the superpowers. This was an opportunity for us and we were basically newcomers to the Champions League after so many years out. We reached the quarter-finals, which in my view was something extraordinary,” he said.

Three Stars

1.    Bastian Schweinsteiger

2.    Javi Martinez

3.    Franck Ribery

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Match Recaps

 

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Inter Milan 1-2 Juventus

Juventus avenged their first league loss in the Antonio Conte era by defeating Inter Milan in the Derby d’Italia, courtesy of goals from strikers Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella.

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Andrea Stramaccioni lined his side up in a 3-4-1-2 with Rodrigo Palacio and Antonio Cassano upfront. Ricky Alvarez played behind the strikers, while Javier Zanetti and Alvaro Pereira operated as wingbacks. Walter Gargano and Mateo Kovakic played in the midfield.  Walter Samuel made his return to the starting lineup, while Yuto Nagatomo, Esteban Cambiasso and Fredy Guarin started on the bench.

There wasn’t much of a surprise in Conte’s team selection, as set his side out in their traditional 3-5-2. Quagliarella and Matri started upfront, as Mirko Vucinic was unavailable due to flu symptoms. Kwadwo Asamoah and Simone Padoin played as wingbacks, with Stephan Lichsteiner being rested for Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final clash against Bayern Munich. Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal formed a midfield three.

As we’ve seen many times this season, Inter Milan put in a sub par first half performance, but half-time changes allowed Stramaccioni’s side to get back into the match. Poor defending was the catalyst to Inter’s downfall, and on the day the better side in Juventus picked up a deserved three points.

Pattern

Quagliarella’s early wonder goal set the tone of this match, more so Juventus’ approach. Conte’s men were content with sitting back and allowing Inter Milan to attack them. Inter was able to get into the final third, but they lacked a final ball, and ultimately, a goal poacher to bury their chances.

The Old Lady eventually asserted their dominance on the game. Efficient pressing, along with intelligent midfielders finding spaces to receive the ball allowed, Juventus to provide more going forward when they had the ball.

Pressing

Both sides pressed in different manners throughout the game, but there was a constant pattern that allowed Juventus, solely in the first half to dominate. Both sides played with three at the back and two strikers.

Juventus handled this situation in a tidy manner compared to Inter, as Quagliarella and Matri pressed Andrea Ranocchia and Walter Samuel, leaving Cristian Chivu as the spare defender. Vidal joined the front two and applied pressure on Chivu, which forced the Inter defenders to often lob the ball back to Juventus or concede possession in their own third.

Cassano and Palacio also pressed the Juventus back three, but Alvarez didn’t join in and press the third Juventus defender, nor did any other Inter player. This caused an open outlet for an available Juventus defender, most often Barzagli to push forward and play balls to the strikers or Pirlo. Juventus was free to start plays from the back; meanwhile, Inter struggled to move into the Juventus third as a unit.

Midway through the first half Kovacic, who was often closed down by Vidal, dropped deeper to provide an outlet for the defenders. Conte’s men were content with Kovacic picking up the ball in deep areas, due to Juventus’ cautious approach to the game.

MVP dominate midfield

In Marchisio, Vidal and Pirlo, you have three of the finest midfielders in world football, and they displayed why in the first half.

With Inter having three men in the central area the midfield battles across the pitch were set. Gargano-Marchisio, Kovacic-Vidal and Alvarez-Pirlo all competed in the midfield zone, and MVP came out on top.

Alvarez often left Pirlo free, and although he sporadically got goal-side of Pirlo, he allowed the Italian maestro to spread forward and diagonal balls across the pitch easily. Pirlo was free to get forward and this also created a numerical advantage in the midfield. Gargano was unable to deal with Marchisio’s movement, and Juventus always had a spare man in midfield to receive the ball. Kovacic was quiet in the first half as Vidal kept tabs on the Croatian youngster.

Juventus was the better side in the first half and it was relatively down to their midfielders being allowed time on the ball and their ability to find space in the midfield.

Alvarez

Alvarez started behind the two strikers and was unable to make a significant impact in the match.

Alvarez’ role on the field was unknown; he was doing a poor job in picking up Pirlo, which allowed Juventus to dictate the midfield. He often drifted out wide when Inter had the ball, as he is a natural wide player, but even then he failed to run at defenders or create overloads with Zanetti.

There was no link between the midfield and the strikers in the first half, and it forced Cassano and Palacio to drop deeper to pick up the ball. It was a difficult night for the Argentinian winger and it was no surprise that he only lasted 45 minutes on the field.

Second half substitutions

As he did in the meeting earlier this season, Fredy Guarin made an impact coming off the bench. For a short period he picked up Pirlo, but he also balanced the numbers in the midfield when Juventus had the ball.

Guarin shortly moved out wide to help Inter press the Juventus defence, but his presence benefitted Kovacic. Kovacic was now provided cover and the Croatian midfielder made surging runs through the midfield, which led to Palacio’s goal, courtesy of a Pirlo giveaway.

With Inter becoming a 4-3-3 and the threat of Guarin getting behind Asamoah, Conte brought on Peluso, who is more of a defensive minded wingback. Stramaccioni decided to bring on Esteban Cambiasso, and this allowed Kovacic to grow into the game. He continued to excel in a deeper position as he did midweek against Serbia..

With Inter Milan pushing for a winner, Conte was content with the result so he brought on Paul Pogba, and his side became a 5-3-1-1. The wingbacks moved forward with caution and Conte had four midfielders (Marchisio advanced) to slow down the tempo of the game and retain possession.

Rocchi and Giovinco were the final changes in the match, which saw Inter playing with four strikers, while Conte opted for Giovinco. They were both predictable final changes but neither had an influence on the match.

Quagliarella-Matri

For all the talk of Juventus needing a world-class striker, Quagliarella and Matri surely made a claim for why that’s not needed in Serie A. The two strikers were lively throughout their time on the pitch.

They caused the Inter back three all sorts of problems offensively, as well as defensively with their pressing. Quagliarella and Matri dropped deep to hold up play for the midfielders to join the attack, as well as make runs in behind them. Not to mention they were involved in both Inter Milan goals. Juventus face a Bayern Munich side full of confidence, but the problem they face might be based on which striker starts at the Allianz Arena Tuesday night.

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Conclusion

Juventus was superior in the first half, and while Stramaccioni’s substitutions changed the game, poor defending cost the Nerazzuri three points. The difference in front of goal in the encounter earlier this season was Diego Milito, and his goal poaching abilities were missed.

Defensive issues along with injuries have haunted Inter Milan all season and their league position shows that. With Champion’s League qualification hopes diminishing before their eyes, it’s possible that Stamaccioni’s men might also miss out on the Europa League as well.

It was another impressive victory for Conte’s men as they’re set to claim their second consecutive Scudetto. With all eyes on European success, it’ll be interesting to see how the Bianconeri approach their first leg encounter with Bayern Munich.

Three Stars

1.    Fabio Quagliarella

2.    Andrea Pirlo

3.    Claudio Marchisio

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2013 in Match Recaps

 

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Manchester United’s junk is Juventus’ treasure

Today instead of analyzing the MOTD on a mediocre web stream, I opted to sit back make a peanut butter sandwich and enjoy Juventus take on Udinese. With Lazio drawing earlier at Palermo 2-2, Juventus had the opportunity to go 5 points clear at the top of the Serie A table.

And they did.

With a few key starters out of the line up such as Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio, Juventus was still able to blitz Francesco Guidolin’s side 4-0.

In short, it was a pretty poor game. Udinese failed to trouble Gianluigi Buffon and Juventus was below par in the final third for large portions of the match.

It ultimately took two moments of brilliance from 19-year-old Paul Pogba to separate the sides. Pogba was by far the best player on the pitch, and these two strikes determined the outcome of the match.

After watching those goals, you wouldn’t believe that Pogba is a former Manchester United player.

Well he is.

Pogba left United for Juventus over the summer to pursue 1st team football. Lets face it with a midfield of Pirlo, Marchisio and Arturo Vidal he was never going to start many games. Although he hasn’t seen much playing time this season (17 appearances in all competitions), whenever he’s called upon, Pogba has delivered.

Sir Alex Ferguson shared his insight on Pogba’s departure over the summer,

“It’s a bit disappointing because I don’t think he showed us any respect at all. To be honest, if they carry on that way, I’m quite happy that he’s away, from me, anyway.”

Playing with players of Pirlo, Marchisio and Vidal’s calibre will only see Pogba improve, and he already looks capable of starting for Juventus in this fantastic midfield.

Despite sitting in first place in the Premier League, Ferguson is in desperate need of quality midfielders. It’s fair to say Pogba can easily walk into that midfield beside Michael Carrick as a starter. Instead Ferguson has to rely on injury prone Anderson, veterans in Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, Tom Cleverley and Darren Fletcher who’s sidelined for the rest of the season.

That midfield is surely capable of rolling over the large amount of inferior sides in the Premier League, but over the years it has been their downfall in Europe.

With Real Madrid to play in the round of 16, time will tell in whether Ferguson’s midfield can thrive against elite sides.

Nevertheless, a move to Turin has been successful thus far for Pogba. With world-class players, great leaders and a great coach in Antonio Conte, Pogba’s success is in his own hands.

As for Ferguson, it looks like he got it wrong again.

Like Giuseppe Rossi and Gerrard Piqué did earlier in their United careers, Pogba has slipped through the cracks and moved on to something better.

Ferguson might have trouble sleeping at night knowing that he’s lost another gem.

Tyrrell Meertins

Follow @TEEWHYox

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2013 in Videos

 

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