Since clinching the title five weeks ago against Fiorentina, Juventus has looked like they’ve been ready for time on the beach. Some glimmers of motivation were there. In derbies against Inter and Torino, and in games where the opponent had European dreams to play for against Roma and Atalanta, they looked like they were playing for something to some bare degree.
But with the trophy raised and the season coming to an end, Sunday’s trip to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris to face Sampdoria was a true dead rubber — and it showed. The long injury list was joined by a couple of healthy scratches and suspensions, Massimiliano Allegri had a truncated squad list to work with, and the team that got onto the field looked like a bunch of men who were making sure not to get hurt before the summer internationals.
Even then, for about two-thirds of the game Juve were probably the more likely of the two teams to actually score a goal. Indeed, it took 77 minutes for Sampdoria to register their first shot on target. But after Juve were denied a goal thanks to an offside call that came down to a matter of inches, the Blucerchiati managed to punch one in late on a weird scuffed shot, then topped off a 2-0 win with a beautiful free kick goal.
Allegri went into his last game severely shorthanded. Mario Mandzukic was given the day off, as was Cristiano Ronaldo, who Allegri decided to rest with Portugal’s appearance in the UEFA Nations League semifinals on the horizon. Joao Cancelo missed out due to a broken nose, while long-term injury concerns Sami Khedira and Douglas Costa remained on the sideline. Wojciech Szczesny was also a scratch, while Federico Bernardeschi and Blaise Matuidi served suspensions.
With such a short squad, Allergi patched together his 38th different lineup in the team’s 38 league games. Carlo Pinsoglio made his first career start for Juventus behind a 4-4-2 setup. Martin Caceres, Daniele Rugani, Giorgio Chiellini, and Mattia De Sciglio formed the back line. Juan Cuadrado and Under-23 team call-up Matheus Pereira played wide between Emre Can and Rodrigo Bentancur. Paulo Dybala and Moise Kean formed the strike pair.
Marco Giampaolo set up his Sampdoria side in his usual 4-3-1-2. Rafael Cabral took up the gloves behind Bartosz Bereszynski, Omar Colley, Alex Ferrari, and Jacopo Sala. Dennis Praet, Edgar Barreto, and Karol Linetty made up the midfield, with Gaston Ramirez playing in the hole behind Gregoire Defrel and capocannoniere Fabio Quagliarella.
Predictably, the game didn’t start off like gangbusters. Funnily enough, the game’s first shot came off the foot of De Sciglio, who cut inside from the left and let loose from range, but the effort was blocked for a corner. A few minutes later, Can slipped Kean through the left channel with a lovely ball, but the teenager scuffed his shot just a little and left enough of it for Rafael to get a piece of. In the end, though, it was all for nought, as the referee’s assistant had his flag up.
Dybala finally hit the target officially in the 16th minute, but he didn’t get much on it and Rafael had an easy save. For most of the next 15 minutes the teams played a midfield battle and rarely threatened the other’s goal. Bentancur changed that just after the half hour when he took a feed from Cuadrado and sent a long shot just over the bar.
Quagliarella got Sampdoria’s first shot in in the 34th minute, a typically acrobatic attempt at the far post that flew outside the frame. It was the home team that closed the half out when Ramirez came close with a curler after being teed up by Defrel.
Juve jumped out of halftime and produced a series of near-misses in the first seven minutes. The first came after three minutes when Kean turned a great ball by De Sciglio past the post. Two minutes later Pereira latched on to a second ball from a free kick and fired his just wide, then Dybala did the same on a corner kick and put his shot over by a little more than the width of a ball.
The injury bug had one final say this season in the 55th minute, when Can went down grabbing his ankle after a challenge with Barreto. The training staff came out to treat him and he hobbled off the field, but a few minutes later was forced from the game. Allegri chose to give 18-year-old Manolo Portanova his Juventus debut to replace him.
The youngster almost made immediate waves when he poked a ball through for Dybala, but Colley was wise to it and broke up the play before he could combine with Kean.
With 25 minutes left Allegri withdrew Chiellini to give him a rest, replacing him with Leonardo Bonucci. The latter’s introduction saw a spike in Samp’s ability to threaten Pinsoglio’s goal. In the next 10 minutes they got in three shots and another few decent crosses into the box before Quagliarella finall got one on target — a scooped shot that Pinsoglio saved with little trouble.
Kean thought he opened the scoring in the 80th minute after latching on to a through ball and putting it into the net despite Rafael’s touch, but the referee’s assistant again had his flag up. Later replays showed that he was indeed inches off — quite literally by a head.
Samp took advantage of the letoff, and five minutes later Defrel played a one-two with substitute Manolo Gabbiadini and got himself into the left channel. The Frenchman was aiming for the far post, but scuffed his shot so badly that it ended up crawling in at the near stick while Pinsoglio was going the other way. At first it looked like it had to have taken a deflection, but on close inspection it’s clear that neither Bonucci nor Rugani actually got a touch to it and that it was just that bad a mishit.
Juve couldn’t muster much of a response in five minutes, and right at the end of normal time a foul by Rugani put another of Samp’s subs, Gianluca Caprari, in good position with a free kick, which he duly dispatched with a superb effort that wouldn’t have been saved if there had been a keeper guarding each post. In a few more minutes the game — and the season — was over.
CARLO PINSOGLIO - 5.5. Wasn’t at fault for either goal, but his distribution out of the back was a little wonky at times and put his teammates into some trouble.
MARTIN CACERES - 6. Popped out a key pass, completed 92.9 percent of his passes and two of three long ones while playing good defense on the right. If this is his Juve sign-off, it was a competent one.
DANIELE RUGANI - 5.5. Shaved off half a point for the foul that led to Caprari’s free kick, but he won more aerials than anyone on the field except Quagliarella (who matched his three) and made five clearances. This game was really his season in microcosm: he did pretty well when Chiellini was on the field, but it all went to hell for him when he had to partner Bonucci instead.
GIORGIO CHIELLINI - 7. Another typically excellent performance. Made three interceptions to go along with his five clearances, had a key pass, and generally kept everything together on the back end until he was withdrawn.
MATTIA DE SCIGLIO - 7. If anyone had him as joint-leader in key passes on the day, take a bow. It was a good all-around day for MDS, blocking a shot, making four clearances, a tackle, and an interception.
JUAN CUADRADO - 5. Did anyone remind Juan that he’s supposed to put the ball in the box? At one point he quite literally stood over a stationary ball for 15-20 seconds before finally losing it. He had a decent defensive work rate, which is why this is as high as it is, but it’s been a tough go of it since his return.
EMRE CAN - 5.5. His best contributions tended to be wiped out by offside calls, and a season full of injuries ended with yet another after he limped off.
RODRIGO BENTANCUR - 7. Buzzed all over the place in midfield, tied for the team lead with three tackles and three interceptions. Completed 90 percent of his passes and 14 of 15 long balls.
MATHEUS PEREIRA - 6.5. Did well down the left side, providing two key passes and a near miss at the beginning of the second half. He’s had a promising few weeks with the first team.
PAULO DYBALA - 5. Gave it an effort, but his end product has been wonky all year. A new coach could do wonders for his confidence.
MOISE KEAN - 6. Was in good positions but was just a fraction early, and could have done better when set up by De Sciglio early in the second half. Looked lively but needed more service, with only 22 touches the entire game. Regardless, his development as the No. 9 of the future should be a priority.
MANOLO PORTANOVA - 6. The teenager put a couple of great balls through the channels, but was sytmied by either the flag or good defense. One to watch in the future.
LEONARDO BONUCCI - 5. Made a trio of clearances but completed only 62.5 percent of his passes, and Samp started gaining more of a foothold when he was introduced.
HANS NICOLUSSI CAVIGLIA - 5.5. Only touched the ball seven times, but did block a shot.
I mentioned this in the opening, but Sunday marked Max Allegri’s 38th different starting lineup in 38 Serie A games.
As the years have gone on Allegri has often been praised for his tactical flexibility, but that is overdoing it a bit, don’t you think?
Obviously injuries have had some say in that incredible stat, but Allegri’s inability to find an identity for this year’s team has never been more stark. There were some interesting wrinkles — Cuadrado and Pereira switched sides a few times in the first half — but there wasn’t much else he could do today but cobble together 11 players and set them loose. It’s going to be interesting next year to see just how the new coach will address that.
On behalf of Danny, Manu, Calvin, and everyone else here at BWRAO, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you. You, the readers, make doing this worthwhile for all of us. If it weren’t for you, we’d all be screaming into the void. We’re nothing without you, so thank you for your attention and for engaging in our work this season. We’ll endeavor to make next season’s coverage even better, and to make as much sense out of what promises to be a crazy summer as we can.
That’s all there is. There isn’t any more.