On Tuesday night, Juventus will step onto the J-Stadium pitch against Porto looking to secure a place in the Champions League quarterfinals and cement their place among Europe’s elite eight teams. Having already built a 2-0 aggregate lead after the first leg, the talk amongst supporters is whether Juventus should sit back and defend the lead they managed to acquire in Portugal two short weeks ago.
On one hand many will draw upon the strength of Juve’s game to absorb endless pressure throughout a game (see Real Madrid-Juventus 2015). It is true that Porto are the ones who need to produce at least two goals on the night if they wish to advance to the quarterfinals and that feat will also have to be at the daunting J-Stadium. “Parking the bus,” as it’s commonly known to the football world can be effective on occasion, however, sitting back and allowing the other team to attack is more often than not an unmitigated disaster and Juventus should avoid that tactic at all costs on Tuesday night.
Just in the last few years, there have been many times that have seen the team leading concede possession and brace themselves for the onslaught in their defending third and if Juventus want to be taken seriously in this competition they will go for the jugular in just a few short days. Below are a few reasons and scenarios when “Parking the Bus” proved to be the wrong decision.
March 2, 2016: Juventus-Inter Milan
After having secured a 3-0 result at home to Inter in the Coppa Italia last year, Juventus were happy to concede space and attacking possession to an Inter team that took full advantage of what they were given and almost pulled off the impossible. The 3-0 lead Juventus had worked so hard to accomplish was reversed in a mere 90 minutes and Inter sent the game to extra-time and eventually penalty kicks where Juventus were able to prevail and march on to win the cup against Milan, 1-0.
March 16, 2016: Juventus-Bayern Munich
Just a short two weeks after Juventus were given a reality check against Inter in the Coppa Italia, old habits were difficult to squash as the squad were able to build a 4-2 aggregate lead against Bayern after two quick goals by Paul Pogba and Juan Cuadrado shocked the Germans at the Allianz. That was, unfortunately, almost all we’d see from the Bianconeri for the remainder of the game (not including the disallowed valid goal). The Germans were able to take complete possession of the game from there on out, as Juve were all too happy to adopt the “Italian way” and sit back and hold onto what they had (where have we seen this before). Bayern were able to recoup the two goal deficit and eventually win the tie 6-4 on aggregate in extra’s. Yes, we will all remember Patrice Evra’s inability to clear the ball in the dying moments of the game, but had it not been the reliance on defensive ability the tie may have gone completely different.
March 8, 2017: PSG-Barcelona
This one is still fresh in the minds of all football fans as it happened a mere, few short days ago. PSG built a 4-0 lead at home in the first leg of their tie against Barcelona in the Champions League. The majority of the football world (including myself) had written off Barca, since a four goal deficit had never been overturned in the Champions League before. Then PSG did everything in their power to sit back and let Barca attack them and get right back into the tie. I will not talk about refereeing decisions (as just as that discourse would be), but any team that allows the opposition to have 71 percent of the possession with 20 shots (nine on target) does not deserve to advance to the next round of the knockouts.
Yes, Barcelona are in the upper echelon of the football world, but PSG are nothing to be laughed at, yet they defended as if they were a second division Spanish team scared to play Barca in the Copa Del Rey. The “defensive strategy” held the fort as strong a paper thin wall allowing 6 goals in 90 minutes. This style of play more often than not concedes defeat before a ball has been kicked.
PSG completed just FOUR passes between the 85th minute and full-time.— James McManus (@JamesMcManus1) March 8, 2017
THREE of those were from kick-off after conceding Barcelona goals. pic.twitter.com/G0odu6jhjj
I know that many of you will mention the quality of the teams that were able to comeback against Juventus and the strength of the Barcelona side that knocked out PSG, but all these teams need are space and time to kill you and allowing them that space with relative ease is similar to pulling the trigger on yourself. To add to that, teams like Juventus and PSG should never be afraid to attack and try to kill the tie, both teams have explosive firepower up top and can easily trouble any backline in the world.
The most important thing to always remember is that having possession means the other team does not have it and you cannot score the ball if you don’t have possession. A preventative system is great when used in the final 10-15 minutes of a game in order to lock down a tie, but when it is used for an entire 90 minutes or large parts of it, it just ends up preventing you from winning.