Juventus V Atletico Madrid
Champions League – Game 6 [9th December 2014] – Juventus Stadium
Juventus did not get the result they wanted on Friday versus Fiorentina, settling instead for a 0-0 draw where neither side greatly threatened the opponent’s goal. Though Carlos Tevez didn’t start, he was brought on as a substitute, so he didn’t get a great amount of rest. Knowing the hard worker he is, that doesn’t really matter.
While Max Allegri opted for the 3-5-2 on Friday, he obviously prefers the 4-3-1-2 in Europe and will likely use it even in spite of the lack of depth at left back. Right now, Simone Padoin seems to be preferred, but Patrice Evra could very well start depending on how Allegri’s thinking evolves in the next few days.
In the middle, the standard duo of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will be starting. Bonucci had an excellent game versus Fiorentina, and Chiellini is suspended for the next Serie A match due to yellow card accumulation, so he will likely be throwing everything he has at Atletico.
Of course, Stephan Lichtsteiner is to start at right back. Per usual, he will probably serve as a reference point in the attack, though Guilherme Siqueria is no pushover and could cause problems for Lichtsteiner. Juventus will need to attack from all areas in this game, and not stick to the sometimes redundant method of getting Lichtsteiner pinned near the corner flag, forcing him to send in a cross.
The beauty of the 4-3-1-2 is that it allows Allegri to field four midfielders. With the embarrassment of riches in Juve’s midfield, it’s always hard for a coach to pick which one to sit. Now, Allegri really doesn’t have to. Sure, Roberto Pereyra is on the bench, but that’s called depth. Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, and Claudio Marchisio should be in the center midfield trio. Meanwhile Arturo Vidal will probably start a bit more advanced, though as we have seen Vidal in that role merely becomes more involved in linking and build up play – for better or for worse – while also committing to the dirty work he is so famous for in midfield.
Finally Carlos Tevez is a lock to start as a striker. Alvaro Morata is rumored to be preferred to Fernando Llorente for the start, but that rumor has floated around before several games this season, only for Llorente to then start. For now, we will say Morata, but don’t be surprised if Llorente is there too. Both strikers have their positives and minuses, with Llorente being particularly useful in Champions League and in hold up play. Still, Morata offers far more mobility and creativity, and he’s not so bad at holding up the ball either. Perhaps Max just flip flops between choices, hence the constant rumors about which of the two will start. Either way, both usually play in games, with whoever doesn’t start eventually coming for the starter.
4-3-1-2 : Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Padoin; Pirlo, Pogba, Marchisio, Vidal; Tevez, Morata
Andrea Barzagli (Heel), Luca Marrone (Thigh), Martin Caceres (Thigh), Kwadwo Asamoah (Undergone knee surgery) and Romulo (Due to undergo surgery)
Atletico Madrid, like Juventus, have improved since the last time these two sides met. Atletico are only in third place in La Liga, and though they are very much alive in the title race they aren’t in the driver’s seat. That said, they have won 10 of their last 11 matches, and have only lost three times all season. Even more impressive, they seem to basically just win, or very rarely, lose. This isn’t a side that draws much. Even versus Juventus, when it seemed things would settle in a draw, they peeled off a 1-0 win.
Knowing that, and knowing that Diego Simeone’s teams are always very tough – as witnessed by their ability in tactical fouls, and in one on one challenges – it’s unlikely that Juventus can win 2-0.
Of course, last time, Atleti faced Juve’s 3-5-2, whereas now they will face the more attacking 4-3-1-2. Plus, they are missing Cristian Ansaldi and Joao Miranda. Their midfield will be especially crucial in this match, as Juve’s new model sees more men in the middle when Juve are attacking. This often happens in the opponent’s final third though, so Juve will have to get through Tiago, Gabi, Arda Turan, and one of the best midfielders in the world, Koke. It will be quite interesting to see these four matched up against Juve’s four.
Out wide, Atleti have the advantage, at least on their right side. Juanfran isn’t the greatest defender, but going up against Simone Padoin could yield plenty of chances for him to cross the ball to his attackers, something that has netted him several assists this year. Padoin is a hard worker, but not a natural left back, so Juanfran could exploit him.
Mario Mandzukic is noted for his strength, and Giorgio Chiellini relishes playing against both well-known strikers, and large strikers. Think of his famous duels with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Last time out, he had a decent match against Juve’s three man backline. Now, he will have a more traditional four man backline to face, so his hold up play could be useful with one less centerback to clog up space.
Atleti could very well just settle for a draw and spend the entire game frustrating Juve. They are certainly the toughest team Juve has faced so far this season, and last time out they eeked out a victory. Now, they are facing a more attacking Juventus side that’s much more in rhythm than they were in the first match. Furthermore, they are playing at Juventus Stadium.
4-4-2: Moya; Juanfran, Gimenez, Godin, Siqueira; Koke, Tiago, Gabi, Turan; Garcia, Mandzukic
Cristian Ansaldi, Mario Suárez and Miranda