Juventus hosted Cagliari on Saturday afternoon in a game which kicked off with the Bianconeri having already secured their second consecutive Serie A title and the visitors comfortably safe in mid-table. Here’s Adam Digby and Aaron Giambattista with the round up of events from Turin.
MATCH ANALYSIS by Adam Digby
Antonio Conte and his staff had attempted to focus the players for the final three matches of the season by discussing the records they had a chance to break should they maintain the winning streak until the end of the current campaign. Doing so would see them reach 92 points, surpassing the total earned by the 2005-06 side led by Fabio Capello.
After the huge turnover of players for Wednesday’s win over Atalanta in Bergamo, Conte again made heavy changes to his starting XI as he was forced to cover for the suspended Paul Pogba and Andrea Pirlo in midfield. That meant the Bearded Genius finally got a rest as newly crowned Fans Player of the Year Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio returned in midfield.
With a fully restored backline of Andrea Barzagli, Leo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in front of Marco Storari, Luca Marrone also kept his place after a good previous outing but moved in his natural midfield role. The same was true of Mauricio Isla and Emanuele Giaccherini – with the latter sliding over to left wingback – while Sebastian Giovinco joined Alessandro Matri in attack.
The visitors had an almost fully fit squad to choose from and were mathematically without a chance of either a European place or relegation, not a bad situation for a team who never knew where their home games would be held from one week to the next. Mauricio Pinilla returned to the lineup alongside Victor Ibarbo after his three-match ban was reduced to two on appeal earlier this week. They abandoned their 4-3-1-2 formation and mirrored the Bianconeri’s 3-5-2 with former Juve man Albin Ekdal starting alongside the highly regarded Radja Nainggolan in midfield.
After a sluggish opening it would be Ibarbo who shook the game into life, racing almost the length of the pitch following a Juve corner and finishing under Storari who could do very little to stop the flying Columbian. Despite Marchisio chasing him for the entire run, it was a halfhearted Barzagli challenge that allowed him into the box and the defender would soon be replaced by Martin Caceres as he seemed to be suffering with a muscular problem.
Nainggolan almost doubled that early lead as his angled shot flew across the face of goal before Juve’s first real attack of note saw referee Gianpaolo Calvarese choose to give the Bianconeri a corner despite Giovinco being felled at the edge of the box by Davide Astori. That chance was the first in a flurry from the home side as Matri had the first real shot on target, drawing a smart stop from Michael Agazzi in the Isolani goal.
Giovinco then had the crowd on their feet as his excellent free kick curled over the wall only to crash off the crossbar with the ‘keeper little more than a spectator. Nicola Murru made a great block on Matri before Pinilla forced Storari into making a superb stop but he was adjudged to be offside in what proved to be the last action of the first half.
As the game restarted, Giaccherini – once again making good use of his energy and drive – burst forward and was unlucky to see the talented Agazzi turn his low effort around the post. It was a sign of things to come as Juve, clearly inspired/scared to death by Conte’s words at the break were hugely improved in the second forty five minutes.
Marchisio made a smart cross to Vidal, who in turn headed back across goal, presenting the simplest of chances for substitute Mirko Vucinic to tap home the equaliser. The Chilean midfielder has ended the season in fantastic form, adding an assist to the five goals he has over the last six games, fully deserving of that pre-match award. He nearly doubled Juve’s lead just minutes later as he threw himself at another good cross from Giaccherini, missing by mere inches.
Marchisio then went one better, missing narrowly with a chested effort as he strove to connect with a ball from the impressive Isla, who drove an good effort just over the bar. In added time, Mirko almost came up big in a meaningless game as his shot missed by inches. The full time whistle meant just one thing; it was time for the Old Lady to collect more silverware, long may it continue.
LE PAGELLE by Aaron Giambattista
Marco Storari 5.5 - Could’ve done better on Ibarbo’s goal, he didn’t react too quickly. Otherwise rarely troubled by a Cagliari offense that has already reached salvation. Zero shots on target after his goal.
Andrea Barzagli s.v - Beaten very easily by Ibarbo for Cagliari’s only goal, and unfortunately pulled up with an injury in the action. Got a round of applause for a superb season as he subbed off.
’14 Martin Caceres 6.5 - Looked very comfortable coming on for Barzagli, had the experience to manage his role well. The defense adjusted itself with Caceres on and he was able to push up the flank a bit more than Barzagli typically does. A good 75 minutes from the Uruguayan, who looks to be confirmed for next year’s squad.
Leonardo Bonucci 6.5- Very little to do for Leo all match. Without Pirlo in the lineup, he played the regista position a bit more than normal and did well in that role.
Giorgio Chiellini 6.5 - Physically dominated his flank, intercepting the most amount of passes on the team and claiming the 2nd highest amount of tackles. Cagliari didn’t threaten too much, and he imposed himself in their absence.
Mauricio Isla 6.0 - A quieter display than the one against Atalanta, and his rust showed, but the game was positive overall, if only that he managed a full 90 minutes. Nearly scored a goal with a screamer. It’s a shame Juventus waited to play him until the Scudetto was sealed, but that’s in the past.
Claudio Marchisio 6.5 - Great to see him back in his normal role as a “mezz’ala” in center midfield, and Claudio felt as well, looking a lot more comfortable. Ran the midfield well in the first half, aside from being easily beaten on Ibarbo’s goal, in the second half he was looking to break forward in attack. A key man in the 3 man midfield.
Arturo Vidal 7.5 - In the first half, Vidal looked like the only Juventus player who cared that a football match was on show, tackling and playing with energy and grinta. Another dominant display, and again, King Arturo was decisive in attack, providing a golden assist for Mirko Vucinic to bury. Has been unstoppable in the Spring, which shows both the folly of selling him but also continually interests certain buyers and their deep pockets.
Luca Marrone 6.0 - His passing and playmaking ability is why he’s been used as a vice-Bonucci, who often sprays passes from deep in defense, and that’s why he was chosen as vice-Pirlo today with Pogba and Pirlo both suspended. Nothing terribly illuminating, but did not look out of depth at all.
Emanuele Giaccherini 6.5 - Got a bit of playing time in a role that Cesare Prandelli used him against Spain in Euro 2012, which was his Azzurri debut. In the first part of the game, his crossing was simply poor, but he improved as the match went on. Giac was hit-or-miss when taking a man on, but managed to create danger from the left flank. Could’ve had a goal.
Alessandro Matri 5.0 - Scored a beautiful goal against Atalanta to secure 3 points, but against his former club, did not manage the same performance. Matri’s revival started against Cagliari a few months ago, when he bagged a brace during a poor period of form for Juventus, but was starved of service today and his few actions weren’t terribly impressive.
’71 Fabio Quagliarella 5.5 - It’s kind of sad- in his brief substitutions on the pitch, regardless of the game importance or score, Fabio will always try his best, probably to impress Conte. Same thing today- neither team seemed to care much about the scoreline, and despite subbing on, Quags tried to get a goal. Had a solid block on a set piece.
Sebastian Giovinco 6.0 - Played a very stereotypical Mirko Vucinic game today- created space with his energy and dribbling, without ever really creating a good chance for himself. Nearly scored a great goal on a free kick.
’52 Mirko Vucinic 6.5- Came on and scored a tap-in from a great Vidal assist. Tried to threaten the goal further but was largely unsuccessful. A great impact sub from Conte.
Antonio Conte 6.0 - Practiced a fair amount of rotation and aside from an Ibarbo golazo, Juventus looked comfortable if a tad unmotivated. Cagliari didn’t ever threaten the Bianconeri much, which is testament to both their lack of desire and mediocre form as much as Juve’s casual dominance.
ANALYSIS WRAP-UP by Aaron Giambattista
Cagliari have to be one of the most boring sides of Serie A this season, though their stadium situation of course has filled the newspapers. Their team looks like one “just” good enough to stay in Serie A, but do little more. Last week saw them “battle” Torino in one of the most boring Serie A stalemates in recent memory, with both teams tacitly agreeing to a draw.
So not surprisingly, this wasn’t a terribly exciting game. Both sides seasons are done, Cagliari satisfied with their safety, and Juventus celebrating another Scudetto. There was a bit of rotation which led to some reserves attempting to prove themselves, but this was another game where neither objected to a 1-1 draw.
Conte’s already thinking ahead. After the trophy presentation, he said the Scudetto is done, now it’s time for vacation, and Marotta surely agrees. The season hasn’t quite finished, but if there’s one thing we can take from Juventus-Cagliari, it’s that the planning for Juventus 2013-2014 has already begun…