Atletico Madrid Juventus FC Champions League match ended in a 2-2 draw.
The Most Important Game so far
This was another very emotional game with highs and lows (like Cuadrado’s performance). Juventus games are not for fans with weak hearts and hypertension. We again saw a team that implemented a mix of Allegri’s and Sarri’s tactics. The starting lineup was practically the same as the other ones with one exception, Cuadrado replacing the injured Douglas Costa. Cuadrado playing up front was a big surprise because all the big media outlets in Italy were predicting Bernardeschi would start next to Higuain and Ronaldo. Only an hour before the game, Sky Italia announced that it was actually Cuadrado, our only backup full back. Everyone at that point was praying for Danilo and Sandro staying fit throughout the game.
This sums up well how we all felt at the end of the game.
Before analyzing the game, let’s have a look at some odds. This provides a perspective of how betting experts predicted the game result. According to bet365, the odds were in favor of Atletico Madrid to win the game. The possibility of a tie game was higher than seeing Juventus win. The bookies predicted though that the first half would most likely end in a tie. The odds were very low for having a goalless game. The two teams are very tactical but at least one goal was predicted. It was forecasted that only one team would score. So that means, according to the bookies, Atletico was more likely to be that only team to score and win the game.
Yet again, we saw two different Juves in each half. The first half was very tactical where Juventus kept most of the possession (56%) with 319 passes (vs 243 for Atletico) and a 93% successful pass rate. But that does not paint the full story. Atletico had more shots (8 vs 5), more shots on target (4 vs 2), a higher number of corners (5 vs 3) and more duels won (23 vs 12). These duels were mainly won in midfield because Atletico was pressuring high. Whenever they did not have the ball, the Atletico players retreated into their own half letting the Juve players keep possession and allowing them to make mostly horizontal passes. Looking at the figure below, we see that the tackles attempted by both teams were mainly in the Atletico half. It was a battle between midfielders who tried to dispossess the ball from the opposing team.
Once Atletico regained possession, their players would attack at a fast pace with their two forwards running towards the center and the two full backs trying to gain territory on the sides. Sandro and Danilo were quite busy and needed support from Matuidi and Khedira. Out of their 8 shots, 4 came from Joao Felix and the other 4 from their defenders. That means that since the beginning, Atletico was relying on scoring from counters and from set pieces. Juventus’ shots were mainly from outside the box by the two forwards Ronaldo and Higuain and the two midfielders Pjanic and Matuidi. Juventus could not break the Atletico defense in the first half.
In the second half, things started to get interesting. The deadlock was broken with two great goals from Juve. The first came three minutes in the second half from a quick counter, an impressive pass from Higuain to Cuadrado and an amazing shot by the Colombian.
Alex Sandro, who has been impressive so far this season, provided a beauty to Matuidi who positioned himself between the two Atletico center backs and headed the ball into the net. At this point, Juventus was dominating the game and many Juventini (not all because some know the drill) thought that this game was in the bag.
But oh boy were they wrong! Two set pieces (AGAIN!!) allowed Atletico to tie the game. According to Opta, out of 12 goals, Juventus conceded 9 from set pieces in Europe. 2/3 of the goals conceded so far this season are from set pieces (two in the Atletico game and two in the Napoli one). There is no hiding, we have a problem with set pieces.
In the second half, Juventus still held the ball more with 52% possession, but again, had less shots (6 vs 11) with a higher rate of shot accuracy (67% vs 36%). The tackles attempted were dispersed everywhere on the field since both teams played a more open game tactics in the second half.
Juventus almost scored a third goal through individual brilliance by, who else, the worst nightmare of Atletico Madrid.
The best player of the game was without doubt Kieran Trippier who was effective both on attack (one assist) and defense (clearance off the line). From the Juventus side, the player with the highest rating is…
But, how come? Cuadrado has been one of the most criticized Juventus players for his inconsistency, his missed passes and the fact that he falls way too easily when challenged (most of the time refs do not give him a foul and consider it overacting). So why, according to stats, was Cuadrado the best Juventus player? Cuadrado scored an amazing goal and that was his only shot on target (so 100% accuracy). He successfully dribbled twice out of 3 attempts, he had a 91% pass accuracy and he successfully tackled twice. According to Opta, all Cuadrado Champions League goals (4) were in away games.
As I mentioned before, set pieces are becoming a nightmare for our defense. This needs to be corrected urgently. It seemed that the Juve players did not know how to position themselves, leaving areas where Atletico players could jump without being covered. Three players have been impressive in that department: Szczęsny, Bonucci and Sandro. Wojciech Szczęsny made some impressive saves (6 in total) that kept Juventus in the game, mostly in the first half. Bonucci had a solid display again and he filled in well as a captain (I’m still not over it by the way). De Ligt is still not performing at the expected level.
Sandro has been crucial defensively and offensively. He was ever present all along the left flank. Defensively, he cleared 4 balls, blocked 1 shot, made 3 interceptions and 2 tackles. On the offensive side, not only did he provide support to Matuidi and Cristiano but he also gave a measured assist that allowed Matuidi to score the second goal.
Midfielders were not impressive except for Matuidi with his second goal. Passing was more horizontal than vertical because of the way Atletico occupied their half. There were some moments where fast passes between Juve players allowed them to clear the ball while keeping possession.
Unlike Atletico where all their players tried to score, Juventus’ shots mainly came from the three forwards with Cuadrado scoring a beauty as we discussed earlier. Higuain was not always present but he provided a weighted assist to Cuadrado. He could have passed to Ronaldo on one occasion but instead decided to shoot himself and missed an opportunity to score the third goal. All CR7 fans and some Juventini were really upset at Higuain for not providing another assist to Ronaldo. They forget though that Higuain is a striker and would take the chance if he is close to goal. No one could guarantee that his pass would reach Cristiano or that Cristiano would score.
This brings us to Cristiano Ronaldo, the worst nightmare of Atletico Madrid. Out of his three shots, two were on target in the first half and the third one was off target, but it would have been an amazing goal in the last minutes of the game. He also provided the crucial pass to Sandro that led to the second goal. He was also booed during the entire game because of all the goals he has scored against Atletico and all the heartbreaks that he has caused. The last match one was obviously a memorable one where he scored a hattrick for us last season. It’s important to mention as well that he had a 100% dribble success rate. Oh man! If only Ronaldo scored that goal.
Sarri’s Thoughts on the Game
Sarri started to implement the famous Sarriball and we saw a different display compared with last year’s. Juventus dominated the game and the draw felt like a loss because Juventus could have easily won the game. Juventus still need a lot of work on set pieces. What were Sarri’s thoughts on this?
My Final Take
I’ll be honest with you, I was disappointed because I really felt we could have won this game. Before the game though, if you asked me if I would be happy with a draw, I would have replied, “absolutely”. Now that I have seen how well Juventus played, I am disappointed that we did not win the game. Let us remember though this is our toughest game in Champions League. Getting a draw is still a positive sign of how Juventus is evolving. We are still in the first month of the season and I’m sure we’ll improve at a faster pace (if players stop getting injured). A lot of people will try and downplay how well Juventus is doing so far but let them talk.
Cheer up fellow Juventini, the future is bright, the future is Black and White!
Fino alla fine.