Just as it happened a few weeks back when European giants, Barcelona were humbled in France, they have once again capitulated against one of the meanest and highly defensive teams in Europe and probably in the world – Juventus, losing 3-0 away.
Prior to the game, evergreen Italian legend, Gianluigi Buffon had stated that the Catalans were stronger than them on paper but not on the field. That was exactly what played out yesterday.
Barca famously thrashed the French champions 6-1 at Camp Nou in March to advance against all odds to the last eight, but a loss like that versus the Bianconeri would surely be harder to overturn.
Just as another Italy legend Dino Zoff said prior to the game “There’s no way Barcelona could come back from 4-0 down against Juventus.”
According to UEFA rankings published recently, Juventus remain the team to beat as far as defending in concerned.
The governing body’s rating system which orders teams by the average number of goals conceded per game since the turn of 2017 puts Massimiliano Allegri’s men top of the pile with a tally of 0.41. Bayern Munich (0.44) and Manchester United (0.5) fill the second and third positions.
Tactically they are one of the fascinating teams in Europe whose philosophy is based on the patient build up from the backline, quick movements and interchanging around the opposition area with a strong focus on crosses and set pieces. Defensively, Juventus are phenomenal.
Though they possess three of the finest center backs in Europe, Juve’s defensive strengths stem from their strong pressing, counter pressing and compactness – exactly what they did yesterday.
Juve became linked with the 3-5-2 formation under Antonio Conte who has gone ahead to replicate such with Chelsea. Allegri continued from where Conte stopped with the back three normally consists of Bonucci, Bazargli and Chiellini, now known as the Italian BBC.
Bonucci is the playmaker in chief playing in between the other Italians who claims he is a midfielder on ‘loan’ to the defense department. In this role, Bonucci positions to receive from the goalkeeper and other defenders and is often the free man – As a result, he usually has a lot of time on the ball to play vertically into the forward players.
The other center backs Bazargli and Chiellini are also very important. They position well in the buildup and normally look to stretch as wide as possible to give the opposition more horizontal ground to cover in their pressing.
They both possess good skill-sets needed for playing out the back as well as the intelligence to position properly which is a nice combination with their renowned defensive capabilities.
Dybala is very crucial to Juve’s system particularly in the final third where his intelligence and movements allow him to link and connect with most of his teammates while possessing that goal-scoring instinct as well.
Structure in possession is crucial in making connections with teammates across the pitch as well as having control.
In football, all phases of the game are interconnected. For example having a poor structure in possession is not only going to affect your attacking transitions and attacking play but also the team’s transition defense should there be a turnover in possession.
Having good organization is very important in the modern game particularly for the big teams and Allegri knows this.
Allegri has faced criticism that his side has often had to grind out results rather than winning in style, but he reckons such comments make him smile rather than anger him.
“Football is very simple and consists of two aspects that you have to do well — attacking and defending,” he said.
“There’s no shame in being good at defending. In fact, it’s just as beautiful as a great attacking move.
“I am very happy for those who can turn football into a show but, as far as I’m concerned, if you want to see a show, you should go to the circus. Committing fouls and winning aerial battles are also very important.”
On this basis, Barcelona’s time in this season’s Champions League is over. The ‘miracle’ performed against PSG is not very likely to be re-performed with Juventus who will be glad to sit back and use the counter to inflict more pains and misery.
Republshed from April 12th