It’s never easy for a player to carry one’s form over from the summer to a new season. No matter how well they played in international competition, it’s rare for a player to keep up that same level of play in a completely different setting. And it’s even more rare to see two players do it with the same teams.
But that’s exactly what we have seen happen with Federico Chiesa and Manuel Locatelli in their first season together with Juventus. And they turned up in a crucial moment during Saturday’s cross-town trip to play Torino, as Chiesa assisted on Locatelli’s 86th-minute goal to give Juventus a 1-0 victory in the Derby della Mole. The victory extended Juventus’ unbeaten streak to 15 matches against Torino and it marked the club’s first clean sheet in 21 league matches.
After defeating Chelsea midweek with a surprising attacking duo, Max Allegri decided to change things up, bringing Moise Kean into the center of the front line as the team’s true striker. He was joined by Chiesa up top as Federico Bernardeschi shifted to the right side of the midfield. Weston McKennie rejoined the starting midfield, replacing Rodrigo Bentancur and teaming up with Locatelli and Adrien Rabiot. Giorgio Chiellini gave a much-deserved break to Leonardo Bonucci and joined Danilo, Matthijs de Ligt and Alex Sandro on the backline in front of Wojciech Szczesny.
Torino also made three changes to its lineup from the midweek draw against Venezia. Ivan Jurić kept a back three in front of goalie Vanja Milinkovic-Savic with Ricardo Rodriguez and Bremer staying in the starting lineup while David Zima replaced the suspended Koffi Djidji. Ola Aina replaced Cristian Ansaldi on the left with Wilfried Singo starting again on the right. Juventus loanee Rolando Mandragora moved into a starting spot in the midfield, joining Tommaso Pobega. Sasa Lukic was pushed into the front three to play alongside Josip Brekalo and Antonio Sanabria.
Juventus was the team to start on the front foot, creating two great chances to open the scoring within the first five minutes. After de Ligt made a strong tackle to win the ball in the midfield, Kean found the ball at his feet and he exploded past the Torino defense only to see his shot go harmlessly wide. Chiesa appeared frustrated not to get the ball in the middle of the box but it was hard to argue against Kean taking the opportunity for himself.
Moments later, Chiesa was the catalyst of the break, releasing Rabiot on the left wing. The Frenchman tried to square the ball to Kean but it was deflected toward the middle of the box, just behind an onrushing McKennie who lost his footing and skied his shot.
Those missed chances began to haunt Juventus the remainder of the half as Torino took advantage of the scoreline still somehow being level. The hosts responded well with a couple of good looks at the goal, springing from Singo giving trouble to Sandro from the right wing.
Torino continued to threaten in the final third but the defense held strong, specifically Chiellini who had two crucial clearances on consecutive attacks from the home team. Their best chance came in the 22nd minute when Lukic found space between two defenders and had a clear header on goal but the chance seemed to surprise the Serb. Lukic failed to make any solid connection with his header and the attempt finished wide of Szczesny’s post.
The rest of the half had plenty of sloppy play from both teams especially in the midfield. Juventus could not string together any passes and when chances came to attack on the break, through balls were way too heavy from Rabiot and Bernardeschi.
Torino kept up the intensity and played with plenty of confidence. Mandragora saw his strike from 30 yards out parried by Szczesny and the chance eventually led to a corner, one of four Torino had in the first half.
The second half was immediately changed when Juan Cuadrado was introduced on the right side, subbing in for Kean and giving more width to the Juventus attack. The formation mimicked what was seen during the midweek Champions League fixture as the midfield quickly became less crowded and Cuadrado became more of an outlet than Bernardeschi was as a winger.
Cuadrado was threatening as soon as he hit the pitch and he helped create Juventus’ first real chance of the second half. He picked out a crashing Sandro with one of his signature crosses and Sandro’s header forced a good reaction save from Milinkovic-Savic. Moments later, Cuadrado decided to call his own number, cutting in on his left and making good connection on a shot from outside the box but this one was more comfortably saved by the Torino keeper.
In the 59th minute, Juventus had another opportunity on the counter as Chiesa found Cuadrado on an overlapping run. He pushed into the box and had positioning on Rodriguez who appeared to make minimum contact with Cuadrado on the edge of the box. The Colombian quickly protested for a penalty but the appeals were waved off.
The frustrations for Juventus returned over the next 20 minutes with poor decisions being made in the final third. Bernadeschi had another through ball way too heavy for Chiesa while McKennie passed up on another opportunity at the goal from inside the box only to miss any attacker with his cross.
In the 80th minute, Allegri finally turned back to his bench, bringing on Dejan Kulusevski for Bernardeschi. The fresh legs made an instant impact in the attack with the Swede holding up play nicely before finding Rabiot free on the left side but his centered pass was cut out again by the Torino defense.
With time ticking away on both teams, Torino seemed content to settle for a draw as Juventus finally had a good spell of possession with some simple passing along the backline and through the midfield. That possession eventually sparked the magical moment from the Italian internationals.
Chiesa got the ball just outside of the left side of the box, turned and played the ball into the feet of Locatelli. Chiesa’s run created extra space for Locatelli at the top of the box and he took his time to pick out the bottom right corner of the goal, knocking in the winner off the inside of the post.
MANUEL LOCATELLI IN THE DERBY DELLA MOLE pic.twitter.com/EPgnx34nUm— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 2, 2021
Juventus held out the rest of the match without allowing Torino to really threaten for an equalizer. The victory extended Juve’s winning streak to four matches in all competitions. It momentarily pushed Juventus up to eighth in the Serie A table, just one point off a Champions League spot but six of the seven teams ahead of them have a game to play Sunday.
WOJCIECH SZCZESNY – 7. A second consecutive confidence-building outing from Juventus’ No. 1 keeper. A pair of good saves helped with the clean sheet. Distribution could’ve been better and cleaner plays on some of the crosses could’ve helped, but a solid evening.
DANILO – 7. Another good night in defense for the Brazilian. Continues to improve in this role. Pair of clearances to go along with some good interceptions and tackles to slow down Torino’s dominant first half.
MATTHIJS DE LIGT – 7.5. He was a force in the air, winning four of six aerial duels. Put some good pressure on Torino attackers. Couldn’t fill the role of distributor with Bonucci rested, but still connected on a few long balls.
GIORGIO CHIELLINI – 7.5. The veteran presence in defense was important, especially in the first half. Led the team in clearances and aerial duels won. Careless with the ball on a couple of occasions, but still nice night for the captain.
ALEX SANDRO – 6.5. Certainly not his best night defensively and Juventus struggled to release him on the left wing. Did better in the second half, added a couple of late clearances to leave the door open for Locatelli’s winner.
FEDERICO BERNARDESCHI – 6.5. He wasn’t much of a factor as a right midfielder in the first half, but was playing with more confidence in the center. He stayed involved in the attack. Pretty accurate night, but could’ve had a hat trick of assists with a bit more quality on either end of his passes.
WESTON MCKENNIE – 5.5. It was another game full of What If’s for the American. He got himself into good positions and helped create chances but had a complete lack of skill to finish on any of them. Believe he was more unlucky than most people think on the opening chance but still should’ve done better throughout the rest of the match.
MANUEL LOCATELLI – 8.5. The heart of the midfield again. Most touches and most completed passes on the team. Blocked shots, made tackles, drew fouls, released the attacking and did that other thing at the end that was pretty important.
ADRIEN RABIOT – 5.5. The decision making was certainly off for Rabiot. Some of his passes were just the wrong choice and others were poorly timed. Had several opportunities to make an impact going forward but couldn’t Not a horrible night defensively though.
MOISE KEAN – 6. He was really the key to any Juventus threat in the first half. Got in behind on a couple of occasions but never worried Milinkovic-Savic too much. Somehow never even got a shot on target. Tough to be pulled after one half but someone needed to be sacrificed.
FEDERICO CHIESA – 6.5. It certainly wasn’t the best night for Chiesa. He struggled to find his own space in the attack and had limited touches for most of the night. But he kept the energy going for 89 minutes and it just took one great moment for him to spark a goal.
JUAN CUADRADO – 7.5. Talk about a difference maker. He was aggressive and completely changed how Juventus attacked the Torino defense. He probably should’ve had a pair of assists himself. 88 percent accuracy on his passes, two key passes, three complete crosses and one big chance created. His strong season continues.
DEJAN KULUSEVSKI – 6.5. He probably should have come in earlier and he could have really built on his rating. Two key passes and a shot off the post in just 15 minutes.
KAIO JORGE – NA. DEBUT! A key pass and a free kick won in just five minutes of play. Give me more please.
I don’t think it was a surprise to see Allegri go away from the tactics that got the win against Chelsea. Giving Kean the chance was definitely warranted but I think it could have come at the expense of a break for Chiesa or Bernardeschi rather than taking out the width that comes with Cuadrado in the game. The 4-4-2, or at least Allegri’s version of the 4-4-2, has only really worked when there are options out wide and Bernardeschi did not provide much on the right.
No matter how many times it happens, I’ll still call out Allegri for playing any of his center midfielders as a left winger. Rabiot was not good going forward against Torino and it’s almost like he’s playing out of position.
I’m never a big fan of giving credit to managers for fixing their own mistakes but it was good for Allegri to notice what was needed at halftime and bringing in Cuadrado immediately. Sure, Juventus wasn’t perfect in the second half but the tactics and form looked much better.
The 30 minutes without another substitution were certainly more worrisome. Sure, a lot of Allegri’s options are gone and his midfield options weren’t at 100 percent but still, it was a clear a change needed to be made. I think Kulusevski for Bernardeschi was one the correct choices but it was definitely later than it should have been.
Juventus finally has some momentum for itself which means it’s a perfect time to split up the team and send everyone off on international duty. The squad will get back together for an Oct. 17 clash against Roma at Juventus Stadium. Juventus then hits the road for a long trip to play Zenit on Oct. 20 to try to stay on top of Group H in Champions League.