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Manu’s Grab Bag: Final Bound

We talk the ex-effect, players that we could be saying goodbye to and a make or break final.

Juventus v Fiorentina Italian Cup football match Photo by Isabella Bonotto/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

As a undermanned Juventus squad geared up to face Fiorentina in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals Wednesday night, it was fairly easy to guess how the game was going to be played.

Thanks to their 1-0 win in the first leg, Juventus was going to sit back and defend while the more offensively inclined Fiorentina looked for a quick goal to equalize the score. And that was pretty much how it went down, as Juve barely had over 30% possession while the visitors tried to break the Bianconeri wall.

However, this wasn’t necessarily a nail-biter. While Fiorentina had the ball, they did surprisingly little with it, as Max Allegri and Juventus performed a masterclass in counterattacking football and sealed their ticket to the Coppa Italia final with a relatively stress-free 2-0 win.

It was as good of a performance as could have been expected given the absences that we all already know about, and it was nice to see the team put forth such a controlled performance after the bummer of a game they authored on the weekend.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Federico Bernardeschi

RENEW THAT MAN.

I joke — I don’t think they should renew him. But the former Fiorentina man had one of those games that always makes the Juve faithful remember why he was so highly touted a few years ago.

He got the opening goal with a surprisingly adept shot in what was at first glance an easy chance with no keeper. But upon closer inspection, it was actually a fairly tricky one as he had to control a wild bounce with his chest and then curve it just enough to avoid the Fiorentina defenders with a volley.

Bernardeschi was also unusually active on the ball and could have had an assist on a fantastic cross to Adrien Rabiot that ended up being just barely called offside. We will talk a little bit more about renewals in a second, but there’s a reason the guy still gets so many chances, and when he manages to put it together — however sparingly that is — he still looks like a talented guy.

Runner Up: Mattia Perin - The guy that actually got renewed! Perin could start for, what, 80% of Serie A teams? 85%? I was actually sure he wouldn't come back exactly because of that fact but I’m not going to complain about having one of the best shot stoppers in Italy playing for Juventus in the Coppa Italia.

Grab Bag MVP Season Leader: Paulo Dybala (17 Points)

The Ex-Effect

It’s an easy Twitter joke to make that Fiorentina is the farm system for Juventus.

With Bernardeschi, Federico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic making splashy transfers in the last few years, they are the most recent moves that have left Fiorentina (and their fans) much richer but fuming to see their young, talented players get consistently scooped up by their Northern rivals.

While Chiesa was still — unfortunately — out injured, all the other ex-Viola players had pretty good evenings.

We already talked about Bernardeschi, but Vlahovic — despite not getting on the scoresheet — had a pretty good game as well, playing as the prototypical modern No. 9 in a counterattacking scheme. As he showed Wednesday night, Vlahovic continues to show a good amount of chemistry with Alvaro Morata and put forth a good shift.

The cherry on the top of the misery sundae for Fiorentina was seeing Juan Cuadrado dribble his way into a gorgeous assist for the finisher in the last minute of regular time. Cuadrado —- a guy that Juventus tried several times to sign during his time in Firenze — ended up at Juventus after a failed move to Chelsea so he wasn’t technically a direct transfer between both clubs.

But the fact that he still ended up as a Bianconeri despite Fiorentina’s best attempts to not sell him to their rivals will never not be funny to me.

The Last Dance

The biggest name was Paulo Dybala, but there are still a few guys whose future is undecided for next season be it via either their contract ending or just constant rumor mongering.

We talked a little bit about Rabiot over the weekend, but the man continues to look fairly good in the last few weeks (or months?) for this team. While he still has a contract that runs through 2023, Rabiot has been one of the names most linked to an exit this summer, and while I guarantee that most of the fanbase would still be fine with that idea, I’m not so sure.

His wage bill will always be the main issue, but he has been reliable and durable recently and he seems to be finding a decent groove in midfield despite the massive workload.

We already talked about Bernardeschi and my take remains the same. A couple of decent games every three or four months are probably not enough to warrant another contract. There’s an argument to be made that he never quite got a fair shot at his preferred right wing spot, but for those people, did we just forget the Maurizio Sarri years? He played 38 games, almost every single time in that right wing and he scored two goals all year with three assists.

Bernardeschi is a good, not great player who will surely have a long career in Serie A but that career should not continue in Juventus colors.

Mattia De Sciglio was preeeeeetty bad against Fiorentina and my take on him is well known. He is at best a good backup with a sketchy injury history. There’s good backups with higher ceilings and better health than him all over the place. If he’s still a Juve player next year I will burn everything down.

Whatever their fates, we could be looking at the last few matches for these dudes. Let’s see who makes their case and who doesn’t.

Parting Shot of the Week

Juventus will get a chance to defend their Coppa Italia crown against the presumptive Serie A favorites and hated rivals Inter Milan. It really doesn’t get any better than this.

With a win Juve could spoil the hopes of a domestic double for their biggest rivals and put another trophy in the cabinet despite their underwhelming and injury plagued season. I’m not saying it makes up for everything, but it sure as hell helps.

If they lose, it would be the second time in a row that Inter beats them in a cup final — they did take the Supercoppa crown from us this year — and they could seal the double, something that no Italian club not named Juventus has achieved in over ten years.

No pressure, guys.

See you Monday.