Just mere days after sealing its ticket to the quarterfinals of the Europa League, Juventus had to turn right back around and visit the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium to do battle with their hated rivals, Inter Milan. Inter, themselves, had just punched their ticket to the quarterfinals of that other lesser European competition they are still somehow in.
Going to Milan is always going to be a tricky proposition, but on this occasion the Bianconeri managed to see the challenge through without much issue as they controlled the proceedings and came away with a 1-0 result to seal their second win of the season against Inter Milan.
Nothing better than to win a derby to end a Sunday night.
Honestly, this could have gone to a couple of guys at least, but I had to give it to the leader of the defense on a day in which Juve held their goal in zeroes seems fair.
HIs counting stats were impressive on their own — 10 clearances with a blocked shot and an interception — but it was his thorough command of the back line that really made him jump out of the page in this one.
He had every Inter striker in his pocket for the entirety of the match. I know Romelu Lukaku is having a tough season and Lautaro Martinez is a fraud — just one goal in 10 games against Juventus in his career, so doesn’t get fraud-ier than that — but to shut out the second-highest scoring team in the league is not an easy task, and Bremer sure made it look like one.
I was as high as anyone on Matthijs de Ligt, but ... is Bremer just plain better? It’s worth at least a discussion, no?
Runner Up: Federico Gatti - Two incredible back to back performers from a guy that just a week ago looked like a permanent fixture in the bench. If he’s suddenly going to be a reliably good center back, Juventus is in a much better place as they head into the business end of the season.
The Tao of Max
I want to take a second to give a shoutout to everyone’s favorite maligned coach, Max Allegri, who not only set up this game perfectly but a number of players that made a difference in this result and the last few games are doing so because of the Italian manager.
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite contract year player, Adrien Rabiot. Under Allegri, he is finally flourishing into the guy that everyone thought he could become. Sure, the cynical take is that he’s only taking it up a step because his contract is running out, but the improvement in the Frenchman's play dates back to Allegri’s first season where he started to become a solid player and not the waste of space and money he was during his first two years with Juventus.
Both the aforementioned Gatti and Nicolo Fagioli are two young guys that looked talented but inconsistent and a bit over their head back in August when the season started. Eight months later, they are not only starting but looking incredibly solid. Fagioli, specifically, is a guy that has completely flourished in the second half of the season, and he’s going from talented prospect to everyday starter to a guy capable of being the best player on the field in any given match.
The list goes on.
Danilo earned himself a contract extension and the captain’s armband this season. Manuel Locatelli struggled as a center midfielder early on, but has been markedly better in the second half of the season and seems to be finding easy chemistry with Rabiot and Fagioli. Not to mention the long list of youngsters that are finding playing time and showing marked improvement game to game like Matias Soule, Enzo Barrenechea, Fabio Miretti and Samuel Illing-Junior.
That’s called coaching, ladies and gentlemen.
The team is in the quarterfinals of the Europa League, semifinals of the Coppa Italia and without the 15-point penalty — which could still be reversed — should be sitting pretty in second place in Serie A. They are doing it with a myriad of injuries, including no contributions from Paul Pogba and with Federico Chiesa scoring only two goals in the whole season.
The first half of the season was an absolute embarrassment and Juve’s standard should not be “happy with second place in the league,” but after the World Cup break Juventus has been a pretty damn good team all things considered. And a lot of that is thanks to Max Allegri managing the squad. Has there been some clunkers? Sure, but there’s also been a lot of good stuff and sometimes that’s worth mentioning as well.
Back to Church
The one dark spot in what was a great day for Juventus faithful everywhere was Federico Chiesa pulling up after only a few minutes on the pitch in the second half.
As of this writing, Juventus has confirmed Monday that there are no serious injuries for Chiesa and his status will be monitored day to day, but it was another scary moment in a season that’s been filled with them and concern for Juve’s star in waiting.
While a player is technically back from an injury as tough as the one that Chiesa suffered in one year, you can usually expect a player to take a bit longer to go back to their usual self. Anything that Chiesa can give you this season is gravy, but the most important thing by far is him not getting another big injury or reaggravating his current condition.
All signs point to Sunday just being a scare, but Juventus should be extra careful with Chiesa the rest of the season, nobody wants to see him spend any more time out of the pitch but he has a long career ahead of him too. Gotta think long term here.
Parting Shot of the Week
Usually International breaks are a bit of a bore and with the World Cup just finishing a couple of months ago they feel even more unnecessary.
Nevertheless, another break is upon us and thankfully for the legs of a few of the players with Juventus that’s exactly what they needed as April has Juve play 9 games in 30 days which seems excessive to say the least.
How do you get to that many games? Well, that’s what a two legged Coppa semifinal and two legged quarterfinal round gets you. We got a lot of football coming our way next month, we could all use a break.
See you in April.