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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
1. Fabio Quagliarella
2. Andrea Pirlo
3. Claudio Marchisio