Juventus traveled to Rome to play against the team that had eliminated the Bianconeri from the Coppa Italia. On paper this was going to be a tough match, add to that the hangover from the recent Champions League exit and this could have been a game in which Juventus dropped points opening up the scudetto race once again. In reality, with Napoli drawing against Milan, and with Juventus playing a makeshift Lazio squad, this game was over in less than 30 minutes.
Conte went with a 3-5-1-1 with Marchisio playing behind Vucinic. The choice of formation could have been because Conte only had 3 forwards at his disposal. With that being said, Conte himself said during his post-match interview that it would be a "crime" (delitto) to leave Pogba out given his current form. From what I saw today I can't but agree with Il Mister. Now, if leaving Pogba out will be a crime I don't know what selling Vidal this summer would be called. The Chilean had a game to remember. With Lichtsteiner's support, King Arthur did whatever he wanted to, making Stankevicius look silly at times.
Juventus started slow. Petkovic decided to try what had worked so well for Bayern Munich. Lazio's wingers were instructed to push Juve's wingbacks and Lazio's fowards and midfielders were instructed to press Peluso, Barzagli and Bonucci into making mistakes. This approach made Juve nervous with players missing simple passes and giving away unnecessary throw-ins. It was not a bad approach for Lazio, the problem was that they do not have the quality of the Germans. Whereas Ribery and Alaba terrorized Juventus' right side, Vidal and Lichtsteiner destroyed Candreva and Stakevicius. After 8 minutes and from a play originating from the right, Vucinic was fouled by Cana in the box. The resulting penalty was coolly converted by Vidal. The goal changed the match completely. Juventus grew in confidence while Lazio were shell-shocked. After a few misses by Vidal and Marchisio in which Marchetti appeared to be having one of those games, Vidal was able to score a second one. Vucinic setup Vidal in an identical goal to the one Marchisio scored against Celtic a few weeks ago. Vidal came in from the left this time and was able to beat Marchetti for the second time in the evening.
At the start of the second half Lazio tried to get the goal that will open up the game. Fortunately for us the few chances Lazio created were missed right in front of goal. If anything, the game could have finished 3-0 had Marchisio scored from a deflected Pirlo free-kick.
So now Juventus sit atop of Serie A with the same 11 point lead they had before the Christmas break. Remember that such a lead was only decreased to 5 points and then increased again. Now consider that our players are in better form, and only have one competition left to play for. What I am trying to say is that Scudetto number 31 is just around the corner (anyone that says 29 can just ban themselves from this blog). Only 7 points separate us from being champions once more and that is provided that Napoli don`t drop any more points. Be excited ragazzi, this is quite an accomplishment.
Buffon 7.0 He had a few good stops during the match and was very sure of himself when called upon.
Barzagli 7.0 Uncharacteristically missed a header in the box. Rock solid at the back otherwise. Had the second highest %passes - number one was Giaccherini with 100%, so much for numbers.
Bonucci 6.5 Was very nervous at first but grew into the game. His long passes were not as accurate as we have grown accustomed to.
Peluso 6.0 His sliding tackles in the area are a huge cause for concern. He also suffered Lazio`s pressing at the beginning of the match
Lichtsteiner 7.0 Along with Vidal he owned the right hand side. His contributions decreased in the second half but the rest of the team was not into it anymore.
Vidal 8.0 Scoring two goals should be enough to earn him an 8. Making more clearances than Peluso (third behind Barzagli and Bonucci) and with the highest number of shots blocked should have earned him an 8.5. Minus 0.5 for that unnecessary yellow.
Pirlo 7.0 He had a good game but didn`t seem like a game changer to me. Not that this is a bad thing, the team needs to stop relying on Pirlo and is starting to do so. His freekicks were very good.
Pogba 7.0 He had a solid game. Some of his touches and technical displays are a treat to witness.
Asamoah 6.5 He is slowly recovering his form of old. He is cutting in more and occupying the area where a central midfielder would be when attacking. This suits his qualities as a CM. A memorable mistake was after being beautifully setup in the box he chose to pass to Marchisio instead of shooting.
Marchisio 7.0 Showed great understanding with Vucinic in this position. His goal scoring abilities are not what they were last year (yes I mean the free kick rebound). Mostly I think he is tired after almost a full two years of playing week-in and week-out (remember he played the Euros as well).
Vucinic 7.5 Created the first penalty and setup the second goal. His input decreased during the second half but Juventus were in cruise control by then.
Conte 10.0 Because I can.
Things I think I think
- What is with all this Conte hate? No really, why all the hate he is receiving over the last few weeks. He has won one Scudetto undefeated, he led the team to a Coppa Italia final, and on his first stab took Juve to the Champions League quarterfinals. This is after the team finished in 7th place TWICE.
Juventus are about winning games and obtaining tittles, not about giving players a chance. As far as I am concerned, if Isla is not playing it is because he is not as good as Padoin. Conte is the same coach who changed our formation to include Vidal, and then changed it again to include Bonucci, and then he changed it again to include Pogba. I think Conte has shown remarkable flexibility to provide good players with playing time.
We went through the same story last year with Elia vs. Pepe and Giaccherini. Now, it is not like Elia is doing much while Pepe is sorely missed by all fans.
What I am saying is that Conte has demonstrated that he knows what he is doing why not trust him. He sees the players in training and has medical reports that we don't. To question his coaching decisions after what he has achieved is shortsighted. He is not perfect, but he is easily one of the top-10 coaches in Europe at the moment and he is learning and improving every day.
- Pogba and Vidal are looking impressive at the moment. Next year one of Marchisio or Pirlo will see more of the bench. Not like that should be a problem, those two could have used some rest this season.
- Football aside, what happened in Boston is truly sad. It puts our issues with football and other matters in perspective. Wishing all those injured during the bombings a quick recovery. RIP for all the victims of this despicable act.
- Milan haven't lost a game in Serie A since last January. This weekend they travel to Turin. My theory is that they have done all of this hard work so that Juventus can take away their impressive run from them. Ok, maybe not quite true, but Juventus are 7 points away from winning the scudetto, let's make it 4 by next Sunday.