Over the last year or so, we have spent a good amount of words that have been directed toward both Juan Cuadrado and Sami Khedira. In their own respective ways, they’ve been players that both split opinions and frustrate the living hell out of some of us — sometimes at the same time.
On Saturday night, the Khedira-Cuadrado combination — say that five times fast real quick — proved to be the late-game difference makers that we all hoped Juve had in store for us.
In less than 10 minutes, Khedira and Cuadrado turned what was a 1-1 deadlock into a 3-1 Juventus win. You read that right — Khedira and Cuadrado, one struggling for any kind of positive form and the other just back from missing a couple of months due to injury, were the leaders in Juve’s first game back from the final international break of the season.
A Khedira cross found Cuadrado’s head to make it 2-1.
A Khedira shot following a slick Paulo Dybala assist to make a 3-1.
And just like that, instead of all the talk about Leonardo Bonucci scoring in his first game back at Allianz Stadium as a visiting player and derailing Juve’s chance to start its big four-day stretch with a win, we are talking about another victory for our favorite bianconero-clad squad.
And did we mention that Napoli dropped points earlier in the day?
Ah, what a nice way to start the weekend. Juventus’ lead atop the table now stands at four points, not two that they came into Saturday with, not one after Napoli’s 1-1 draw with Sassuolo. It’s at four — and that sounds quite nice to me.
Just think about it for a minute.
Outside of Dybala, Juve’s game-changers were a player who hasn’t been right for months and one who hadn’t played for months. That’s about as unpredictable as it can get. Sure, we’ve seen Cuadrado come off the bench and do things that led to a Juve win before, but to expect him to score the game-winning goal in his first appearance since Dec. 23? That’s something even the most optimistic of people might not have even considered.
Yet, there we were, celebrating a Cuadrado game-winning goal as he marked his return to the team in huge fashion.
That’s the easy storyline.
Same goes for Juventus extending their lead atop the Serie A table. Juve got the chance to do so thanks to a Napoli dropping points after a player they didn’t sign in January showed them a little bit of what they were missing. Poetic justice, man.
Now the lead is four points. It’s a little more comfortable than things were about 24 hours ago — especially knowing that there’s still a game against Napoli to be had.
And it’s thanks to the guys who wear Nos. 6 and 7 on their backs. Color me unexpectedly impressed.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Seriously, Sami Khedira and Juan Cuadrado.
- Real Madrid’s coming to town in a couple of days and that Argentinian fella named Paulo Dybala is doing all kinds of Paulo Dybala things again. That’s some pretty good news.
- Credit Max Allegri for his subs. The guy went for it even if they weren’t exactly playing as up-tempo as you might have thought when you’ve got the likes of Cuadrado and Douglas Costa on the field at the same time in the second half. Buuuuuuuut, those two speed demons gave Juventus a boost — and
- That third sub, Rodrigo Bentancur, needs to play more. That could very well come against Real Madrid on Tuesday with Miralem Pjanic, and I wouldn’t have any problem with it. The boy’s ready for the big time. We see it in brief glimpses, now it’s time to see it for more than 10 minutes.
- Although, part of me is saying that no Claudio Marchisio against Milan on Saturday means that we’ll see Claudio Marchisio against Real Madrid on Tuesday. Now we wait.
- Medhi Benatia finished with more clearances than Giorgio Chiellini. Not that Chiellini was terrible by any means, but I’ve become so accustomed to seeing him lead the team in most defensive stat categories by a country mile that seeing him not atop each column just seems odd.
- Something that crossed my mind a handful of times during the course of the game: I sure wish Juve had signed Franck Kessie last summer. The boy’s good.
- Are sub-par impact games from Stephan Lichtsteiner becoming more and more frequent as the season goes on? Because I think it’s happening.
- About three minutes before Bonucci tied the game with that header of his — the marking from Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli was less than impressive, to say the least, I might add — I posted on Twitter about how he’s looking a little shook in the big-game atmosphere. You know, kinda like how he was his first couple of years with Juventus where his worst games usually came against Juve’s biggest opposition. I guess you all can thank me later.
- Juve went from a 3-5-2 to playing Barzagli as a right back — sheesh! — and didn’t lose. Amazing, isn’t it?
- One for the road: I like the sound of plus-4. Now just don’t screw it up against Benevento, guys.