With the Champions League dream over for another year, Juventus returned to domestic action on Monday evening as they travelled to Rome to take on Lazio. The Biancocelesti were also dumped from the Quarter Finals of European competition, having seen their Europa League hopes dashed by Fenerbahce last Thursday and both teams entered this clash looking to bounce back from those equally damaging disappointments.
MATCH ANALYSIS by Adam Digby
Juventini across the globe have lamented the loss to Bayern Munich, particularly as the 0-4 aggregate score line only served to highlight the gulf between the Bianconeri and the elite clubs of Europe. With many already looking forward to seeing Beppe Marotta and the management team close that gap, it was vital the players did not look beyond Vladimir Petkovic’s side as they themselves look to secure the best possible position in the league.
Antonio Conte, having made clear his views on the shortcomings of the current Juventus, made a number of understandable changes, bringing in Federico Peluso for the injured Giorgio Chiellini whilst restoring Stephan Lichtsteiner and Arturo Vidal following their suspensions against the German Champions. The coach selected a 3-5-1-1 formation, meaning Paul Pogba retained his place in midfield while Claudio Marchisio took up a role behind Mirko Vucinic in attack.
Lazio had seemingly had the measure of Juventus this term, not only holding them to a 0-0 draw in Turin but also eliminating them from the Coppa Italia thanks to a 1-1 away draw and 2-1 home win ensuring their place in next month’s Final. Petkovic was able to name a strong starting XI with both Hernanes and Miroslav Klose fit again in attack and one time Juve midfielder Antonio Candreva in excellent form.
As is customary with such heavyweight clashes, the two teams began cautiously and, although Lazio had begun impressively, it would be the visitors who landed the first blow. The game was barely seven minutes old when a ridiculous challenge from Lorik Cana on Vucinic left the referee with one of the easiest penalty decisions of his career. Vidal would make no mistake from the spot, his well struck shot beating Federico Marchetti and putting Juve into an early lead.
From there it seemed Conte’s selection was ideally suited to protecting the ball but Lazio would quickly regroup as Klose slipped in a wonderful pass which Ogenyi Onazi should have done better with. The Biancocelesti also looked threatening at set pieces and had two excellent chances from corner kicks which Juve, robbed of Chiellini’s dominant presence, struggled to clear effectively.
At the other end however, Marchisio was becoming a constant irritant for the home side, constantly harassing Hernanes and rushing the Lazio defence into mistakes. He formed a superb link between Vucinic and the midfield, a combination which caused panic in Michael Ciani in the box after a smart step over from the Juve man. Vidal seized on the mistake, lifting his shot over Marchetti from close range and hand the Bianconeri a two goal cushion at halftime.
Lazio enjoyed a period of dominance after the break with Libor Kozak, Klose and Candreva all playing well and looking to break the game open. Yet it was Michael Ciani who troubled Juve the most, a superb header forcing an equally excellent save from Gigi Buffon who had to be at his best to make the stop. That appeared to be the warning Juve needed to shut up shop and effectively kill off the game by maintaining possession and denying Lazio any further opportunities.
LE PAGELLE by Lars Pedersen
Gigi Buffon 6.5 - Didn’t have too much to do, but showed up when it mattered with a few good saves and a great one from Ciani’s second half header. I am a bit worried that his post-injury policy of always parrying rather than catching the ball might cost us at some point. But who am I to question San Gigi?
Andrea Barzagli 6.0 - Was uncharacteristically poorly placed on one or two occasions, but other than that had a quiet and efficient game.
Leonardo Bonucci 6.5 - A rock-solid performance. Did well alongside Barzagli and Peluso without being challenged all that much. Some good forward distribution as well.
Federico Peluso 6.5 - After his horror show against Sampdoria, Peluso has proven to be a decent sub for Chiellini as well as on LWB. Did well on the whole showing good spirit and grinta on several occasions.
Stephan Lichtsteiner 6.5 - Had a great first half pushing the makeshift left flank of his former team and running like a madman as he does. Put in some fine crosses and interacted admirably with the attackers. Like most Juve players he took his foot off the pedal in the second half and was subbed for the Padoin to save some energy.
’67 Simone Padoin 6.0 - Came on, did a job on the right flank. No more, no less.
Paul Pogba 7.0 - Did well again from box to box, especially defensively. Plays with a calm and grace that belies his tender age. Good decision making on almost every occasion on either side of the pitch.
Andrea Pirlo 6.5 - Andrea proved once again that the suggestions of him being finished after being dominated by an excellent Bayern midfield were, of course, daft. Did very well in the centre of the park, kept things ticking and added a few brilliant crosses and free kick routines. He may struggle against giants of Europe, but he still is one of the most influential players in a league boasting only one such at the moment.
Arturo Vidal 8.0 - Man of the match with his two goals and an all-round great performance. A very convincing penalty and an excellent finish for his second, pouncing on Vucinic’ deflected pass meant for Marchisio won Juventus the game. A great, battling performance with some quality passing and running to boot, as we have come to expect from our warrior.
Kwadwo Asamoah 6.0 - Did well making himself available on the left, but as we have seen before, his end product leaves something to be desired. Would be interesting to see him play in his more natural, central position some time soon.
Claudio Marchisio 6.5 - Coped excellently with his more offensive role, linking up with Vucinic and the other attacking players. Wasted a few good opportunities, though, especially the rebound from a Pirlo free kick that he should have scored.
’89 Emanuele Giaccherini s.v - made a late appearance as Marchisio was subbed off.
Mirko Vucinic 7.0 - It was really a quiet night for Mirko, but he still proved crucial in Juve’s offensive play and was involved in both goals by winning the early penalty and seeing a delicious chipped pass aimed at Marchisio deflected into the path of Vidal instead for the second. Quieter after the result was secured but ever the lynchpin up front for Conte’s side.
’87 Fabio Quagliarella s.v. - A cameo appearance replacing Vucinic at the death.
Antonio Conte 7.5 - Did a great job nullifying a depleted Lazio side tactically with complete dominance in the opening phase of the game, showing that his experimental line-up with all four central midfielders on the field could be a future solution. So much so, in fact, that Petkovic opted to use two subs and change formation at half time. (Even) more importantly, the Mister managed to get a reaction from his players after the somewhat disappointing (if expected) Champions League exit at the hands of Bayern Munich mid-week. The game was practically over after 30 minutes, which meant that the Bianconeri relaxed in the second half with the upcoming game against Milan perhaps already on their minds. Could have been more adventurous with his subs, but if you expect that by now, you have not grasped Conte’s style yet… Not least thanks to the spot-on tactics, this game was never really a contest.
ANALYSIS WRAP-UP by Adam Digby
As we told you in the Scouting Report ahead of this game, the key to beating Lazio lies in the ability to shut down Hernanes. The influence of the Brazilian playmaker is arguably even more vital to his side’s play than Pirlo is to the Bianconeri and, by deploying six midfielders, Conte clearly made this a priority. That switch from the usual 3-5-2 formation stifled his influence but also gave Juventus the ability to put Marchisio in a position to cause maximum damage.
Anonymous against Bayern Munich, the 27 year old was the key man in this encounter and made his presence tell at both ends of the field. Having seen the penalty which Vidal converted to open the scoring, il Principino was then directly responsible for causing the mistake which led to his Chilean teammate doubling that lead. His dummy was superbly judged and is about as close a player can come to recording an assist without touching the ball.
He was also impressive when Lazio attacked, helping to close players down and displaying the kind of work rate that will have Juve’s strikers wondering if he will remain in this new role for the remainder of the season. Only Peluso (6) made more than Marchisio’s four tackles, highlighting his impact on the game and marking something of a return to form for the Turin native.
“People shouldn’t be disappointed or despondent. We reached the last eight in Europe and that’s an extraordinary achievement. We’ve remained at the top of the league from last year and if a team like ours gets depressed after going out against Bayern Munich, it means I really don’t understand anything about football.” – Antonio Conte
Aside from Marchisio, this system was made possible by the continued good form of Pogba who once again gave a performance which belied his tender age and clear lack of experience. The newly capped French international has slotted into the team seamlessly, able to cover for any of the regular starting trio, deputising here for Marchisio as he did for Pirlo last week against Pescara.
It was also notable that Klose shut down the impact of Leo Bonucci with the defender making just 35 passes, his lowest total of the season and fewer than any other Juve starter in this game. However, Barzagli (53 completed passes) and Peluso (52) picked up the slack as Buffon opted to give them the ball in order to start attacks and they did well, completing 92 and 85% respectively. The latter man, a cause for concern for many Juventini when the lineup was announced, did particularly well, adding four interceptions to those impressive tackle and passing totals as he constantly denied Candreva time and space.
The Bianconeri now need just seven points from the last six games meaning they could seal the title on May 5, a date with huge significance for both the club and coach Conte. While the week began with tears at a Champions League exit, it ends with fans remembering Ronaldo and that fateful day in 2002. That can never be a bad thing.
Lazio 0-2 Juventus – All Goals and Highlights Video