Juventus disposed of Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 to put a cherry on top of their excellent group stage performance in the Champions League, equaling the club record of 16 points for this phase, previously achieved by Marcello Lippi in 1996-97 and Fabio Capello in the 2004-05 season.
Overcoming a rough first half, the Bianconeri were calm and collected in the second and capitalized on their hosts’ desperation to seal their advantage with goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain.
Speaking after the game, manager Maurizio Sarri was satisfied with the effort.
“It’s important to keep a sense of balance. We lost against Lazio, but for long periods it was one of our best games of the season.
“It was tough tonight against a side that is doing very well in the Bundesliga this season. We held out and as soon as their tempo dropped, we stepped up to take the points.”
Sarri rotated his squad with nothing to play for as Juve had already sealed the Group D win, allowing Daniele Rugani, Merih Demiral, Danilo and Adrien Rabiot to start.
“All four defenders did well. Demiral is the most aggressive, so he was more visible. Rabiot improved throughout the game and that was pleasing.”
With both Miralem Pjanic and Juan Cuadrado suspended for the upcoming Serie A clash, they both got to play today.
“We hope to get Rodrigo Bentancur back soon, we’ll have a look tomorrow. If he is out too, then someone else will take the role. The issue is not who plays, but keeping this level of focus and balance.”
The game was fizzing into the ether when Sarri introduced Paulo Dybala to recreate the trident with Ronaldo and Higuain that the fans have been so desperate to see.
“We waited for Bayer Leverkusen’s tempo and aggression to drop, so when Federico Bernardeschi found enormous spaces in that area, we thought it was the right time to use all three together.
“There are times in Serie A when we showed a markedly different sense of determination than in the Champions League, especially in games that directly followed European fixtures. That is something within our minds that we need to work on.”