This match at Juventus Stadium resembled a chess confrontation between Massimiliano Allegri and Gian Piero Gasperini: it was tactical, tense and incredibly boring to watch at times. Nevertheless, Juventus won again and set a new club record with their 13th victory in a row in Serie A.
Juventus deployed the usual 3-5-2 formation. In this occasion, Patrice Evra started for Alex Sandro on the left flank and Simone Padoin substituted for an injured Sami Khedira — and sick Stefano Sturaro — in the center of the midfield. Allegri repeated Sunday's defensive line, using the alternate BBC of Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Martin Cáceres. Also, he again employed the partnership of Álvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala in attack. Gasperini adopted a 3-4-1-2 array, with the newcomer Alessio Cerci and the dangerous Leonardo Pavoletti as strikers.
Gasperini's strategy was clear from the beginning, he attempted to choke Juventus midfield and gamble on his forwards' ability to create danger. Oliver Ntcham — who plays on loan from Manchester City — shadowed Juventus' regista Claudio Marchisio allover the pitch. Thanks to this tactic, the Bianconeri had trouble building plays correctly.
Juventus attempted to break patiently the riddle presented by the griffins, Dybala and Paul Pogba retreated to the middle of the park to help with the playmaking labors. This movement almost paid dividends in the 13th minute. Dybala took the ball near the midfield and performed a fierce run towards Genoa's goal, then La Joya fired a potent low shot that missed Mattia Perin's left post by inches. Pogba also tried to score with a couple of long-range efforts, but he was unsuccessful.
Genoa regrouped and started to gain some momentum in the game. Nevertheless, on the half-hour mark, Juan Guillermo Cuadrado took the ball near Genoa's penalty box. The Colombian swindled Armando Izzo with a twist and performed a cross that was deflected by a desperate Sebastien Di Maio into the back of the net. Juventus was ahead and gained some precious oxygen in a very suffocating match.
The first half finished without another clear opportunity. However, four minutes before halftime, Patrice Evra needed to leave the pitch and he immediately went to the looker room. Alex Sandro took his place.
One minute after halftime Genoa had their only scoring chance. Cerci controlled the ball on the left corner of Juventus' box and unleashed a powerful shot. Gianluigi Buffon had some trouble and coughed the ball, but luckily for the Bianconeri, Marchisio cleared the danger.
The game became a dogfight with an awfully number of fouls. At the 54th minute, Simone Zaza replaced a frustrated Morata. Just a minute later, Dybala assisted the ex-Sassuolo attacker, leaving him 1-on-1 with Perin. Zaza fired a low shot from close range, but it was easily controlled by the Geona goalkeeper.
The match lowed its tempo dramatically after those scoring situations. On 62 minutes, Cáceres felt awkwardly after jumping for a header. The Uruguayan left the game on a stretcher, biting back his tears. Daniele Rugani entered in his place.
In the last half hour of the game, Juventus sat deeper in their own field, but Genoa didn't know what to do with the ball. However, the last minutes had a little bit of drama. On injury time, Zaza made a reckless sliding challenge on Izzo and the referee dismissed him without hesitation. Genoa started to bombard Juventus' box, but the Bianconeri defense managed the situation with aplomb.
It wasn't pretty, but Juventus achieved a valuable victory. Juventus will play on Frosinone on Sunday, then, on Feb. 13, the Bianconeri will host Napoli with the Serie A lead at stake.
Buffon 6 Superman had another quiet night. He had some problems with Cerci's shot.
Cáceres 6.5 Defended appropriately, but exhibit lack of communication sometimes. He was coming along before his injury.
Bonucci 6 Leo was careless with the ball again. it's important to fix this problem ASAP. Gonzalo Higuaín and Robert Lewandowski are just around the corner.
Barzagli 6.5 It was nice game for The Rock. He made a couple of impressive defensive plays.
Cuadrado 7 The Colombian saved the night for Juventus with his magic. He had a couple of head-scratcher passes; nevertheless, he defended belligerently.
Padoin 5.5 Please, don't get me wrong I really love his attitude. Nonetheless, Genoa's midfielders often outperformed him and he didn't help to create game.
Marchisio 6.5 Gasperini targeted him, he had some problems to generate plays; yet, Il Principino completed an important role defensively speaking.
Pogba 6.5 He played an adequate game. The youngster tried to break Genoa's defense with his skills, but he often found little space to perform.
Evra 6 The Frenchman was solid on defense, but he didn't have a chance to attack. He left the match before halftime.
Dybala 6.5 La Joya fought hard in this match. He completed a great assist to Zaza, but he also failed some passes on attack.
Morata 5.5 Ezequiel Munoz had his number during the game. He suffered for the lack of clarity on Juventus midfield.
Sandro 6 Entered for Evra at the 41st minute. He played with his usual stamina. but he was not a factor on offense.
Zaza 4.5 Entered for Morata at 54th minute. He missed an opportunity that could seal the victory. Then, he jeopardized the match with a reckless challenge. I like his intensity but he must be smarter.
Rugani 6.5 Entered for Cáceres at the 63rd minute. It was a very impressive cameo by the youngster. He fortified the defense after Cáceres' awful injury.
Things I think I think
- Genoa committed 30 fouls in the match!
- The first rule of Genoa's fight club is...
- An ugly win is still a win. Right?
- Injuries are really stupid!
- Having Rugani on the bench is such a luxury
- My heart broke when I saw Cáceres leaving the game in tears. ¡Fuerza Pelado, estamos contigo!