When you start to accumulate a list of Juventus’ best players through the first 3 1⁄2 months of the season, there are some names that come to mind instantaneously. There’s obviously Cristiano Ronaldo, Mario Mandzukic and Giorgio Chiellini. Joao Cancelo is amongst that group as well, which is something that we’ve already talked about in detail during the most recent international break.
It’s time we also throw Rodrigo Bentancur into that group.
The Summer of Rodrigo at the World Cup has been extended all the way to the month of December, as Juventus’ 21-year-old Uruguayan starlet proved to be decisive once again. In a fiery atmosphere at the Artemio Franchi, Bentancur scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in an absolute romp against Fiorentina, 3-0, on Saturday night.
Throw in goals from Chiellini — his first in two years — and Ronaldo, and what you have here is one of Juve’s best showings at the Franchi in recent memory.
And a lot of it had to do with the guy who got the scoring started, young Bentancur.
This game was different for him for the simple fact that his role was one that is usually occupied by Miralem Pjanic, who was rested after Max Allegri made it be known at Friday’s pre-match press conference that it was an option he was mulling over. More of the midfield responsibility was put on Bentancur as a result, especially so since Juan Cuadrado was kinda floating between a mezalla role and playing out on the right wing.
The results weren’t perfect. And I don’t think anybody will be confusing Bentancur with somebody like Pjanic who is so adept at controlling the pace of the game in the center of the park.
But when you look at the overall product Bentancur put out there, the run forward and combination with Paulo Dybala for the game’s first goal, the 93 percent pass success rate — the highest of any Juve starter — and you can’t help but think this game was another big step in his case to be a regular starter once the likes of Emre Can and Sami Khedira eventually come back from their respective injuries.
This was a fixture that could have been tricky for the simple fact of where it was being played. Instead of struggling to get anything going at the Franchi, Juventus rolled right on in, just so happened to rest one of its most important players, didn’t have one of its better defenders, yet still came away with a rather convincing win.
Max Allegri said that this team needs to work on how they handle games when they’re up 1-0 and the other team is starting to put that lead in jeopardy. I’d say they handled things rather well in Florence on Saturday night.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- WE GOT TO SEE MOISE KEAN PLAY WE GOT TO SEE MOISE KEAN PLAY
- I know it was for, like, three minutes, but we got to see Moise Kean play.
- Fiorentina goalkeeper Alban Lafont said during the week that he would love the chance to stop a penalty from Ronaldo. The 18-year-old keeper got that chance in the second half. But I don’t care how good of a goalkeeper you are, nobody was going to stop that shot from Ronaldo. That PK was put away with authority.
- Ronaldo has eight goals in his last 10 games. That’s pretty good.
- What was better from Chiellini against Fiorentina, the overhead kick or the finish for the goal? Either way, Juve’s captain was giving us some pretty good material regardless of the outcome.
- In case you were wondering, Chiellini also played an absolutely fantastic game defensively.
- But who led Juventus in tackles against Fiorentina? Mattia De Sciglio.
- I hate to break it to our Viola Nation friends, but De Sciglio won the battle with Federico Chiesa on Saturday.
- If you had to put your money on who would flip over to the left back spot in the absence of Alex Sandro, my money would have been on De Sciglio instead of Joao Cancelo. It turned out that it was Cancelo, and once again he proved that he can play at either fullback spot with pretty much no issues at all. What a player.
- There was a spell in the second half where the Juventus defense was taking Fiorentina’s best punch of the night and really putting some pressure on Wojciech Szczesny in goal. Neither wobbled, and this clean sheet is one that I want to feel like will be pretty satisfying.
- It also showed what Tito was telling us in the pre-game Q&A about Fiorentina’s attack. You can see why this team struggles to score goals, and unfortunately as good as Chiesa is proving to be, he just doesn’t have a lot of help around him.
- How does an 11-point lead heading into the Derby d’Italia against Inter on Friday night sound? Because, barring the remaining round of results Sunday and Monday, that’s a distinct possibility. Feels good, man. Feels really good.
- Seriously, an 11-point lead and it’s only the first day of December, Holy crap, you guys.