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Struggling Roma took on Juventus in the Serie A. The home side were on the back of a run of 6 games without a win (2 draws and 4 losses), with their last win coming against AC Milan, the tactical analysis of which you can read here. Juventus on the other hand were unbeaten in their last 5 games since the surprising loss to Sampdoria at home. They also all but secured Champions League progress in midweek, with a 3-0 win over Celtic, you can view the tactical analysis of that here.
This game was nothing about form though as two of Italy’s biggest sides locked horns. It was a close encounter between the champions and a side recovering/rejoicing from the sacking of Zdenek Zeman. Chances were hard to come by for both sides and it was a pure moment of magic that settled the game. Totti released an absolute missile that thundered past Buffon in the Juve goal. The final score of Roma 1-0 Juventus was a bit of a surprise, but not undeserving. Aurelio Andreazolli picked up his first win as Roma boss, and it is certainly one to cherish.
Roma made 3 changes to the side that lost to Sampdoria last week with Piris, Marquinho and Torosidis coming into the squad. Stekenlenburg retained his place after returning to the first team following Zeman’s sacking.
Juventus had Asamoah back in the squad from the AFCON. Peluso and Marchisio were suspended while Chiellini is still out with an injury.
Juventus were the more comfortable side as the game started. They were in control and were dictating the play. Roma seemed to be on the back foot and were forced back by Juve’s advancement. But as the game wore on, Roma started to raise the tempo and participate more in the battle. The main change was the midfield set-up.
Totti was trying to play in a more advanced position. This required the two midfielders behind him to develop an understanding. De Rossi took the initiative and looked to play his usual game. He is a work horse and loves to ‘hound’ his opponents, pressing them, forcing them to lose possession while also making darting runs into the box. De Rossi looked to move around freely in midfield while Pjanic played a more restricted role. As the commentator mentioned “De Rossi was free from the shackles of Zeman”, and he played just that way, like a beast let loose. His inevitable booking arrived fairly early but that didn’t stop his game, he put in 7 tackles, more than anyone else on the pitch.
De Rossi makes it difficult for the opposition midfield to play, and this allows his fellow midfielders to play with a sense of ease. Juventus found it hard to initially pull the Roma players out, but when they did, it became difficult for them to be marked. Balls were played freely from the back and into the midfield, allowing Roma to create chances. Totti in particular was alarmingly unmarked, he even created 4 goal scoring opportunities.
Much of Roma’s game was played through the middle of the park with a change in the second half. Everything went through the midfielders with the wide men narrowing down as well. In the second half though, Torosidis was seen advancing forward constantly, running down the flanks and attempting to put in crosses. His main duty was to offer something more in attack as Juve caught onto Roma’s game. As the game wore on, and Torosidis was finding space on the flanks, gaps opened up in the Juventus defence inviting more advancement from the Roma players. Totti, Lamela and Osvaldo duly obliged. This constantly forced Juventus back and prevented chances for quick counters, wearing the players down.
Juventus’ main attacking threat was, as expected, down either flank. The midfield battle was a losing one, with the absence of Marchisio taking a toll. So as ever, they turned to the attacking prowess of Lichtsteiner and Asamoah. This worked well when the game started off as Roma were fairly narrow, but their threat was nullified with Roma’s own movement down the flanks with Torosidis and Marquinho. Roma’s shift to a 3-5-2 variation under the new boss has paid dividend and they have the players to implement it effectively.
Juventus though, failed to make full use of their possession out wide. The idea was the same, the execution not quite. Juventus attempted a total of 28 crosses the entire game, with not a single one reaching another team-mate.
Rome were also most threatening in front of goal. They had only 44% of the possession but took nearly double the shots, compared to their opponents. Totti scored his screamer with his only shot of the entire game. 50% of Roma’s shots were from outside the box and 50% from the 18 yard box. Juventus on the other hand were restricted to long-range shots only. They weren’t given opportunities to shoot from inside the area. In fact, the only shot Juventus took from inside was Matri’s effort. Roma were left appealing for an offside as Stekenlenburg saved the rather tame effort.
While Roma defended in numbers, restricting the defending champions to long rangers, Roma themselves found it easy to get into the box and make attempts at goal. The Juventus’ midfielders weren’t able to help out their defence the way Roma did, neither could the full-backs. This was the big difference in the two sides otherwise similar formation.
The Roma side looked very comfortable and were more free-flowing. Midfielders were darting forward and the striker kept moving across the final third.
Changes had to be made in the 2nd half for Juventus and although the choices Conte made cannot be questioned, the subs failed to make any real impact. Giovinco, Padoin and Anelka did nothing to help the Juventus team. Instead it was Andreazzoli’s decision to bring Michael Bradley on that proved fruitful. The American is a master at breaking down midfields and forcing errors. Once De Rossi grew tired, Bradley took over his duties, albeit for a minimal time. Pirlo was kept quiet and that is always vital irrespective of whether it is for 80 minutes or 8.
There was more controversy at the end of the game, as has become the custom at the Juventus games. After Juventus seemingly had 1 last opportunity from a corner, with even Buffon getting forward, the referee blew the final whistle to the anger of the Juventus players. They have only themselves to blame though. In a tight affair, it was a wonder strike from a living legend that proved to be the difference.
All stats were from squawka.com and whoscored.com. Graphical illustration was made at footballtactics.net