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Halfway There: Looking back on Juventus' 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund

A 2-1 result leaves everything up for grabs, but aside from the result there were plenty of encouraging signs for Juventus fans.

Don't worry, Paul Pogba's got this
Don't worry, Paul Pogba's got this
Lars Baron/Getty Images

The final score read 2-1 in Turin, and in terms of chances the difference could have been more. While Juventus at times struggled to pass the ball out from the back, any ball to the strikers caused massive problems for the Borussia Dortmund defense. Sander Ijtsma (@11tegen11 on twitter) created an expected goals (ExpG) model based on where and how a shot is taken, for example, if it is a header, or assisted by a cross or through ball. Each shot is given a decimal value representing the likelihood of a goal being scored. The data for this does not include defensive positioning, so underrating of 1-on-1 chances like Marco Reus' goal happens.



Juventus- Borussia Dortmund Expected Goals

The Germans were as expected in terms of philosophy, throwing bodies forward in an aggressive press and trying to either quickly hit the striker (with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang providing frequent support) or get Marco Reus cutting infield. Juventus produced something of a classic Italian performance, sitting deep and breaking with assurance and pace, making sure your opponent cannot hurt you while knowing all the while that you can hurt them. Combined with Italian teams going 5-for-5 in advancing from the round of 32 in the Europa League, it was a week to have the old-timers smiling.

Of course, there were mistakes, like Giorgio Chiellini's tragic attempt to use his right foot. But with the result so finely balanced — Spanish statistician Mister Chip says it's the most balanced, with the first-leg winner advancing 283 times in European competition, and the second-leg host overturning the deficit 278 times — the tie will be won at Signal Iduna Park.

2-1 very balanced


A first leg final score of 2-1 leaves it all to play for in Germany

Jürgen Klopp came into the first leg with a somewhat changed side. Kevin Kampl came down with a virus on route to Turin, and likely as a result of his absence Aubameyang was brought back to the right flank. Juventus youth product Ciro Immobile was given a chance to leave a mark against his former team, but his poor form with the German side proved more powerful than the law of the ex.

Perhaps even the bigger surprise was the formation that Klopp sent his men out in, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan taking the place Shinji Kagawa as the team tried to battle for the midfield with a 4-3-3. Nuri Sahin is certainly not a natural holder, and his limitations as the lone man in front of the back four were repeatedly exposed. Not that those behind him did much better, with Sokratis Papastathopoulous in particular spending much of the evening chasing Álvaro Morata's shadow. For a detailed and complete tactical analysis, I highly recommend Fabio Barcellona's piece in L'Ultimo Uomo (Italian).

It would be very surprising to see Klopp repeat the choice of a 4-3-3 formation — which he seemed to abandon in the league but returned to for this match, perhaps to try and keep the midfield more secure and the tie in the balance ahead of a return leg in Germany. He partly succeeded, in keeping the scoreline close, and with a healthy Kampl and Aubameyang up top there is every chance for Dortmund to advance.

However, Sahin will remain a liability on the back foot, and no matter the center backs Klopp puts out, there will be chances for the Juventus strikers. It was, in some ways, an excellent tactical performance from Juventus last Tuesday night, with only one massive unforced error leaving things so finely balanced. But in front of the Südtribune the Schwarzgelben's virtues will be magnified. It's all to play for in three weeks' time, and this writer can hardly sleep for the excitement.