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Sarri: Juventus must be more aggressive on setpieces

Manager’s comments after Juve let slip a late two goal lead

Atletico Madrid v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen/Soccrates/Getty Images

Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri was heartened by his side’s performance in taking a two-goal lead away at Atletico Madrid, but then watched his side fritter that away with a poor defensive performance from setpieces with less than half an hour to hold on.

Speaking after the game, Sarri added that he wouldn’t take the knee-jerk reaction of changing the zonal marking system he has in place.

“It was a vast improvement from the last performance and we felt like the game was in our hands, so drawing leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

“Juventus had not scored in this stadium for many visits and we got two goals, plus had another three or four shots on goal. It’s disappointing, because the Atleti goals came from predictable situations and yet we weren’t ready for them.

“The cliché would be to switch to man-marking, but I don’t think that makes sense. We need to be more aggressive on set plays. Atleti are very good in the air, but the ball was so weak and we were too passive, as it could’ve been cut out.

“If we’re being passive, then we’d be passive with man-marking too. I also see a lot of VAR incidents with man-marking lead to penalties, so that’s another area to be wary of. We will work on defending from set plays.”

Federico Bernardeschi was expected to start, but instead Juan Cuadrado got the nod, and rewarded the manager with a well-taken opening goal.

“We knew there would be spaces and Cuadrado’s pace and sharpness on the counter could be very useful.

“Cuadrado trained for two months as a full-back and today played in attack, so evidently that was my fault in training him for one role and then using him in another. I accept that might make it difficult for him.”

The manager again reiterated that this was a better performance than the scoreless draw over the weekend when a rampant Fiorentina ran the Bianconeri ragged.

“I think that against Fiorentina there were some negative situations and we let ourselves get distracted, so lost the focus on the real objective, which was to get three points. The Viola were much more determined and I saw a physical gap, yet the statistics afterwards showed we ran better and had quicker accelerations.

“I therefore assume the difference was psychological, so they got to the ball first because they were more determined. Tonight, we had the right level of determination and showed some of the things we try every day in training.

“Now we need to resolve the problem of set plays, as it’s penalising to concede four goals in three games from dead-ball situations.”

Sarri has been known to believe in taking meticulous notes, and there was plenty of that going on in the dugout.

“On the bench and the lads in the stands write constantly to speed up the work the next morning.”

Another area for improvement would be retaining the ball, with Juve gifting the hosts the ball quite often.

“We allowed the opposition 20 turnovers and that uses up a lot of energy. It also means we evidently had the ball in open spaces and were caught out.”

Captain on the evening Leonardo Bonucci also spoke to the media, and expressed his dissatisfaction at how the game ended.

“In the first half, Atletico were pressing a lot and we were a little slow moving the ball, but when we did speed it up, we got into their penalty area.

“It’s a pity to concede two goals on set plays. We had a great performance, but we’ve got to be more focused, because this has happened too many times now. Everyone has to be more concentrated. A side like ours cannot keep conceding this many goals from set plays.

“We got away with it against Napoli and picked up the three points, but tonight we dropped two points and that hurts.”

Tonight’s was a much better result than the last time Juve were at the the Wanda Metropolitano, losing 2-0 in the quarterfinals a few short months ago.

“Our confidence level was high, we caused Atletico a lot of problems and it’s just a pity that Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot in stoppage time didn’t go in.”

There appeared to be some sparks flying at the final whistle between some Juventus players.

“We were hungry for victory, so there was tension at the final whistle. Everyone should take responsibility for the goals we conceded and we wash our dirty laundry behind closed doors.”