After Friday night’s 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Napoli, it was imperative for Juventus to get back on track quickly. One of the best places to do that over the years has been in the Coppa Italia. Indeed, they’re the winningest club in the competition’s history with 14 triumphs, and since the 2014-15 season Juventus has only been absent from the Coppa final once.
There was also another layer of retribution on hand, as Juve’s opponents for this year’s round of 16 was Monza, the team that pulled one of the upsets of the season when it beat the Bianconeri 1-0 for their first-ever Serie A victory in September.
Hoping to rejuvenate quickly with another big Serie A test coming, Juve came out of the blocks fast, moving in front in only eight minutes, but let Monza back into the game after falling asleep on a corner. As the second half wore on with relatively little action on either side, both managers started pouring regulars into their heavily-rotated starting XI to look for a winner. It’s a surprise to no one that Juve had the superior quality on their bench, and it paid off in spades when Federico Chiesa broke his post-injury duck with a breathtaking goal 13 minutes from time to give Juve the 2-1 win on Thursday night and book Juve a quarterfinal date with Lazio.
Both teams sent out dueling 3-5-1-1 formations. Juve’s was under the guidance of assistant Marco Landucci, who for the second consecutive year was in charge of the team in the round of 16 due to Massimiliano Allegri serving a suspension. He oversaw a lineup that was made up of five Juventus youth sector graduates. Mattia Perin took up the traditional role of Coppa keeper, behind a back line of Federico Gatti, Daniele Rugani, and Danilo. Weston McKennie and Samuel Iling-Junior were deployed as wing-backs, bracketing the midfield of Nicolo Fagioli, Leandro Paredes, and Fabio Miretti. Matias Soule replicated Angel Di Maria’s roving role behind striker Moise Kean.
Former Juventus winger Raffaele Palladino took his team into the Allianz Stadium hoping to replicate the historic win Monza had gained on his first day in charge. Alessio Cragno played in goal, behind the defense of Marlon, Pablo Mari, and Andrea Carboni. Valentin Antov and Marco D’Alessandro worked the flanks around the trio of Andrea Colpani, Matteo Pessina, and Juventus loanee Filippo Ranocchia. Mattia Valoti roamed behind Christian Gytkjaer, the man whose goal won the September game.
Juve came roaring out of the gate, and it was their young players that keyed the early start. Just five minutes in, Iling-Junior showed some breathtaking acceleration to leave his man in the dust and send in a cross. Mari tried to clear it but only skewed it into the path of Fagioli, who really should have scored but slipped his shot just wide of the post as Cragno scrambled to get across his goal line.
But it took only three more minutes for Juve to open the scoring, doing so on a wonderful team move. It started with a slick one-two between Fagioli and Soule, who surged downfield and slipped a pass to McKennie. The American hit a first-time cross to Kean, who had taken advantage of some truly atrocious marking by Marlon and Antov and smashed a free header in off the base of the far post.
Unfortunately, Juve quite quickly began to back off after taking the lead — likely the product of that, as usual, being the game plan in the first place.
Unfortunately, the plan didn’t survive all that much in the way of contact with the enemy, because when Danilo conceded a corner 13 minutes later, the defense totally broke down when Paredes allowed Valoti to simply run around him to get on the end of a delivery from Colpani, hitting a powerful header that pushed right through Perin’s hands and into the roof of the net to tie the score.
Little else of note was seen in the first half, save for Soule unleashing a nifty skipping shot from distance that Cragno was able to palm behind. Each keeper was called into action shortly after the break. Perin was tested by a long-range effort by Ranocchia that he palmed into the ground and back to himself. Cragno had a far nervier time of things when Danilo overhit a pass for Fagioli, only to have it send Kean straight through on goal. Kean went low from 15 yards, but Cragno made himself big and got a piece of the ball with his trailing leg, thwarting the striker and keeping his team level.
As the second half wore on, it started to look like Juve would rue that missed chance. Monza began to control proceedings from that point on, and spent the majority of the second half on the front foot while Juventus fell back to defend on their own field. Palladino, who seemed to be flexing on every other human in the stadium by wearing nothing but a suit in the cold (and a very good suit, too) sought to turn that lean into a major advantage early, taking only 11 minutes to send on two of his regular players, Carlos Augusto and Nicolo Rovella. Landucci, on the other hand, stayed the course a little bit longer, waiting until the hour mark to unleash Chiesa and Manuel Locatelli into the fray.
Still, Juve looked as though they weren’t even necessarily looking for moments to break forward. The good news was Monza’s possession was largely sterile, and Perin had little to do besides an easy save against Colpani, who had also come close from distance with a shot that sailed just over the bar.
The introduction of Di Maria finally sparked a little forward movement in Juventus, and it was the Argentine who started the move that everyone thought got Juve the lead back in the 75th minute, when his cross from the left was left alone to roll to Danilo. The Brazilian took a shot that was deflected into the air by either Mari or Cragno — they were both converging on it and camera angles aren’t clear — before the ball was tapped in from the doorstep by Kean, who broke into celebration only to realize that the flag had gone up behind him, having been offside by a body length when Danilo had contacted the ball.
But just like with Fagioli’s early miss, Juve didn’t have to wait long to follow the disappointment with glee. It was all Chiesa, who first burst past Antov. The wing-back had grabbed a hold of No. 7’s shirt and was looking at a second booking once play stopped, but Chiesa powered through him and then gave Ranocchia a lesson in what elite forward play looks like by speeding past him as he cut inside and unleashed an absolutely gorgeous curling shot from the left channel that nestled in behind the post.
Monza had only one real opportunity at an equalizer when Ranocchia found himself in a good shooting position, only for his shot to cannon off Locatelli. The opportunities to put the game away were more numerous, with Arkadiusz Milik seeing a similar attempt blocked while Di Maria dribbled himself free in the box in the 90th minute only to get cute and hit a Rabona right at Cragno instead of simply finishing.
But the five tacked-on minutes went by relatively uneventfully, and Juve would put themselves through to the next round.
MATTIA PERIN - 7. Had relatively little to do, only facing three shots on target the entire game. Ran a few risks in possession, but didn’t get bit by them.
FEDERICO GATTI - 6.5. Made five clearances and blocked a pair of shots in a desperately-needed positive performance. The sight of him galloping forward a time or two was amusing indeed.
DANIELE RUGANI - 6. Didn’t have a ton in the way of counting stats, but kept things uneventful and relatively compact at the back.
DANILO - 7. Another excellent performance for the captain, posting two tackles, three interceptions, and three clearances while also contributing with some good passes going forward.
WESTON McKENNIE - 6.5. His cross for Kean was simply excellent, and his play on the right wing made for some interesting discussion, because there’s certainly a jump in performance than the last time he played this position.
NICOLO FAGIOLI - 6. Really should have scored early, but completed 93 percent of his passes and played well through the middle of the field.
LEANDRO PAREDES - 5.5. Was nowhere on Monza’s goal, and his performance with the ball, while proficient, didn’t pose any real danger. He’s still not showing any reason for Juve to redeem his buy option.
FABIO MIRETTI - 6. Had a key pass and two tackles on the defensive end, although he could have done a lot more going forward. He’s hit a bit of a trough in form.
SAMUEL ILING-JUNIOR - 6.5. My goodness this kid is fast. He absolutely cooked his defender on multiple occasions and could’ve had both a goal and/or an assist had things broken better for him. He’s one for the future and very possibly the now.
MATIAS SOULE - 6. Showed flashes trying to operate between the lines the way Di Maria has been doing. The interplay he had with Fagioli on the first goal showed some real chemistry.
MOISE KEAN - 6.5. Missed a golden opportunity to score the winner early, but buried the opener well and was again getting into all of the right places. He even had a few good sets of hold-up play. His form is sky-high right now and Juve are benefitting immensely.
MANUEL LOCATELLI - 6. Impressive defensively in 30 minutes, making three clearances, and also got a key pass off. Made a huge block on Ranocchia late.
FEDERICO CHIESA - 7. Scored with his only shot of the game, but what a shot it was. He’s ever so close to full strength, and what do you know, not tasking him with the responsibilities of a wing-back helps him out.
ALEX SANDRO - 6. Assisted on the winner and played well defensively on the left wing to protect that lead.
ANGEL DI MARIA - 6. One key pass and a couple of good dribbles in his 16 minutes, although he was lucky that attempt at a Rabona instead of just finishing the game off at the end didn’t have any reprecussions.
ARKADIUSZ MILIK - NR. Was in a great spot in stoppage time but had his shot blocked. Otherwise did the right things to see the game out.
***BONUS LOANEE RATINGS***
FILIPPO RANOCCHIA - 6.5. Had a complete game against his parent club. He made two tackles, two key passes, pulled a save out of Mattia Perin, and had another late attempt from a good spot blocked. Eighteen months after a really impressive showing in some preseason friendlies, he’s showing he can stick at the Serie A level and is another potential piece in the midfield.
NICOLO ROVELLA - 6. Completed 90 percent of his passes after coming on and won three-quarters of his duels. His impressive season on loan continues.
Marco Landucci is now 3-for-4 in games filling in for Max Allegri since the latter took the manager’s office back last year, but this game was very much more an Allegri game then the football that produced eight goals and a thousand Landucciball memes last season. Juve defended for much of the game on their own field against a team that doesn’t have any business dominating possession the way they did in a road game against Juventus.
Monza had 61 percent of possession overall and 68 percent in the second half, and it didn’t look like it was a question of the players getting overrun. It was clearly a coaching decision, which is maddening given the gulf in quality even in the highly rotated early stages of the Coppa Italia. The players on this team are fully capable of taking initiative in games like this, and the fact that they’re continually held back makes one want to slam one’s head into the wall.
The good news is just how much of the youth sector was given a chance in this game. Four of the starting XI were promoted to the first team in the last two seasons. When you count Kean, who for all his meandering over the last few seasons is still an academy grad, that’s five of 11 players who were produced internally in the starting lineup, something that’s frankly unheard of for this club even in the Coppa. All of them had good games, and several were quite impressive. If the club is going to start to actually give their youth sector the chance to become contributors to the first team, it’s going to be a boon to everyone in the long run. Let this only be the beginning.
Juve’s win books them a quarterfinal date with Lazio on Feb. 2.
Before that, it’s back to the league with a home game against Atalanta, who have scored *checks notes* 13 goals in their last two games. OK, then.
After that, this same Monza team comes back to the Allianz to begin the ritorna and officially usher in the second half of the season.