To be or not to be? That was the question as Juventus welcomed Atletico Madrid into a terriffic atmosphere at Juventus Stadium in Turin. The Old Lady had everything to play for with both the first, second, and third place in the group still a possibility. The job was done, in the end, and the team qualified for the Champions League knockout stages from the second place. Credit to Allegri and the players for that, but I don't feel like jumping in the "we did better than last year" bandwagon. Not just yet...
Atletico Madrid — or better said Diego Simeone — came to Italy with one thought and one thought only: Get the draw and nicely finish top of the group. This was obvious after pretty much the opening whistle, as they put 10 men behind the ball, easily absorbing Juventus' attacks which were more slower and predictable than you would normally expect. The only player whose task wasn't just defending was Mario Mandzukic. There was a better thing for him to do — become Andrea Pirlo's shadow throughout the game. He acquitted himself of it perfectly.
At the end of the day, Juventus just faced the Spanish champions and last year's Champions League finalists. Atletico mostly managed that after some fantastic defensive displays and you can't take it away from them. What you can do — and really, I can do that because Article 10 of Human Rights Act 1998, freedom of expression, allows me to — is question the mentality of our team. Basically, accepting a biscotto while leaving the impression you are not even trying to get a goal is simply not the way Juventus will close the gap between them and the top teams in Europe.
Playing the last game of the Champions League group stages with the fear of not repeating the disastrous performance of the previous year shouldn't be the aim of a team who have something to prove on the scene of top European football. Qualification was a matter of the utmost importance, but in all honesty, Juventus couldn't have fail a second year in a row. Seeing Allegri making no substitutions to bring something positive in the game was agony. It is said that thinking in cents can only bring you cents, while thinking in dollars brings you dollars. Juventus didn't stick to the latter.
Preparing for the tricky Sampdoria game is next in the agenda but hoping for a good Champions League draw is at the back of the mind. The Gods of football will decide who the next opponent in Europe will be and relying just on luck for such a thing is not really wise. Things are not terribly bad, but what's really irking is the attitude. I wish I'm wrong and everything will work out for Juventus, but personally, I haven't seen what I expected. Juventini, feel free to disagree with me, but don't ask for the head of this writer.
It was a very spirited start to the game with both teams dangerously bringing the ball in the opposite box in the first minute, only for the defences to clear it away. A few more moents into the game, Carlos Tevez was brought down 20 yards out in a central position and it looked like the perfect spot for Pirlo to give Juventus the lead early on. His free-kick, however, was struck straight at the wall.
Seven minutes on, a very poor clearance from Leonardo Bonucci allowed Koke to break free one-on-one with Gigi Buffon, but the veteran goalkeeper pulled a miraculous save to make sure the scoreline would stay the same.
Two minutes later, Paul Pogba delivered a good cross from the left side of the pitch, but Fernando Llorente couldn't really deflect the ball enough to cause problems for Miguel Moya and the goalkeeper pushed the ball behind for a corner kick.
On the 20-minute mark, Bonucci played a good ball for Llorente inside Atletico's box and the Spaniard set it up for Tevez with a nice touch, but the Apache's shot was blocked by Diego Godin. An appeal for a handball was quickly waved off by referee William Collum.
Jose Maria Gimenez also tested Buffon shortly afterwards but his header from near the penalty spot was tipped over the bar. Juventus dominant possession did little good for them as they hardly created a good chance to score. Llorente came close in the 32nd minute when Pogba delivered a beautiful cross with the outside of his boot but the Spaniard didn't find the target with his header.
The last piece of action of the first half saw Mario Suarez getting a rebounded ball outside the Juventus area and then delivering a good shot at the far post, which was parried away by Buffon after a quick reaction.
In a second half o little action, Juventus controlled the game as they did in the first half but again, couldn't create a proper goalscoring opportunity. The first bit of good attacking from the hosts came in the 54th minute when Arturo Vidal linked nicely with Llorente and Tevez to set-up Pogba whose shot from just outside the area was blocked by the defence.
The slow pace of the game carried on and beside saving a long range effort from Vidal on the hour mark, Moya didn't have too much to do. Pogba tested the Spanish goalkeeper again with a long shot but the ball eventually ended up in the keeper's hands, after an initial poor save.
Vidal's shot which was easily saved in the 75th minute was the last notable action of the game, as neither of the teams felt like pushing for a goal in the final minutes. As no substitutes were made by the two managers, referee Collum blew the final whistle after a minute of injury time.
Buffon: 6.5 Pulled a great save to deny Koke early on and had decent interventions when needed. Not the busiest day at the office for him.
Lichtsteiner: 5.5 Didn't make his presence felt enough when it came to attacking and should also have been closer to Koke at that chance inside 10 minutes.
Bonucci: 6.5 Had a shaky start but then regained his usual composure and put in a solid performance.
Chiellini: 6.5 Didn't have too much to do defensively and had a good game overall. Also helped in the build-up play as much as he could.
Evra: 5.5 Another poor performance from the Frenchman. Misplaced too many passes and couldn't get in a decent cross all game.
Vidal: 6 Not at his usual best, again, and also risked being sent off in the first half. Had a good attempt at goal in the second half, but didn't link-up well enough with the forwards.
Pirlo: 5.5 Quiet evening for the master. Had a couple of free-kicks but didn't find the target with any of them.
Pogba: 6 Made a decent display but couldn't really make his powerful presence in midfield count.
Pereyra: 6 Was given very little space by the Atletico midfield and backline but it was a decent performance from the Argentine despite not coming up with anything dangerous.
Tevez: 6 Very active in attack but also coming deep to lose his marker and pick-up useful balls. Didn't make the impact required in such games though.
Llorente: 5.5 Had two chances in the first half after crosses from Pogba but couldn't convert either. Shaky performance overall.
Allegri: 6 At the end of the day, Juventus advanced in the last 16 and that was Allegri's aim, but you can't just be satisfied with the way Juventus presented themselves in the game. Not making any changes throughout the game also seemed very weird.
- Juventus 0 - Atlético Madrid 0: Initial reaction and random observations
- UEFA Champions League Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. Atlético Madrid
- UEFA Champions League: Juventus vs. Atlético Madrid — Full match coverage
- Juventus vs. Atlético Madrid: You choose Max Allegri's starting lineup
- UEFA Champions League Preview: Juventus vs. Atlético Madrid — Taking care of business