The Italian champions began their UEFA Champions League campaign with a thrilling 2-2 draw.
A goal-filled second half at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium saw Atletico Madrid come back from a two-goal deficit to share the spoils against an enthralling Juventus side.
After a goalless first half, Diego Simeone’s men were pegged back by a Juan Cuadrado screamer and a Blaise Matuidi header early in the second half but a spirited efforted from the Rojiblancos saw them equalize. Stefan Savic headed home from close range to halve the deficit and it was down to substitute Hector Herrera to brighten the day for Atleti fans as the former Porto player scored with a header following a brilliant corner taken by Kieran Trippier.
5. Is Douglas Costa’s absence affecting Juventus’ offense?
Throughout the 4 matches that Juventus have played this season competitively, they looked the most threatening during the first two matches. The difference? Douglas Costa. The Brazilian winger was a vital cog in Sarri’s plans before he got injured early in the first half against Fiorentina. Although Cuadrado and Bernadeschi are skilled and talented wingers that can fill in for the former Bayern player, Douglas Costa’s pace and skill on the ball is something that was much needed for the Old Lady, especially in the first half.
The Costa conundrum has to be sorted and this same problem was seen during the match against Fiorentina. Sarri needs to come up with a different approach to utilize the likes of Bernadeschi or even put in an extra midfielder considering the depth they have in that position.
4. Have Atletico Madrid won the summer transfer window?
This summer Atletico Madrid had made some intelligent and shrewd deals both to and from the club. With the mainstays like Antoine Griezmann, Rodri, and Lucas Hernandez leaving for greener pastures, the club had very big voids to fill. And fill it they did, with brilliant signings using the money they got for the trio.
Joao Felix has taken over Griezmann’s baton and has displayed great promise while the full-backs Trippier have seamlessly adapted to the Simeone approach. Hector Herrera and Marcos Llorente are more than capable of filling in for Rodri And Mario Hermoso was brought in to reinforce the center-back position.
Atletico look very capable and this time have a deep enough squad to challenge for the league title an even the Champions League. In fact, the equalizing goal was created by a summer signing and finished off by another. Kieran Trippier’s cross found Hector Herrera unmarked in the box and the Mexican duly obliged. Joao Felix and Renan Lodi were vital presences throughout the game and under Simeone, the Rojiblancos look much stronger than last season.
3. Should Dybala start more regularly for the Bianconeri?
Gonzalo Higuain, Juan Cuadrado and Sami Khedira were largely invisible for the first 45 minutes in the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. They were uninvolved in the build-up and rarely participated whenever Juventus got possession of the ball. This isolation was addressed in the second half and immediately rewarded the Bianconeri with the opener.
On careful scrutiny, a missing link can be seen in Juventus’ system. There is no attacking midfielder who can link the midfield and the attack and this is costing Sarri’s men badly. Without the link, Juve are forced to resort to long balls and crosses as the primary weapon with very little productivity coming from direct build-up play.
Allowing the Argentine to start could address this issue and create a more balanced midfield. Dybala could link up with the strikers and has superior skill and shooting ability to play in the box as well. His passing could open up channels that the full-backs or overlapping midifelders could exploit and it could be the much sought after solution Sarri is looking for in the final third.
2. Atleti’s transition defense leaves Simeone with work to do
While the Real Sociedad defeat served as an eye-opener, the two goals conceded against Juventus cemented the biggest issue with Atleti defense this season – falling prey to counter attacks. For a team and manager that prides on eking out tough one-goal victories, the 4 goals conceded over the last two matches could serve as a stark reminder about the gaps that Simeone needs to plug. All 4 goals have come due to counter attacks and Atleti have looked very vulnerable in transition situations.
The defense looks out of place at several instances and Simeone’s hard-drilled defensive mindset hasn’t translated to the field completely this season. Although the season is oung, the Rojiblancos need to up their game and focus on their deficiencies if they want to challenge for a trophy this season.
1. Could set piece vulnerability derail Juventus’ title defense and Champions League hopes?
When 80% of the goals you have conceded have come from set-piece situations, it is time to stop and take a hard look at it. Juventus have conceded 5 goals this season in 4 matches and bar one, set-pieces have been the cause behind it. The Old Lady conceded two goals against Atletico leading to a share of points. The first was a floated free-kick headed back across for a close-range header while the equalizer stemmed from poor man-marking while a corner was happening.
With the likes of strong and tall defenders like Matthijs de Ligt and Leanardo Bonucci, Juventus should be exploiting these set-pieces on the offensive end rather than succumb to it on the defensive side. Sarri should address this issue, especially considering the fact that their chief challenger for the Serie A title, Inter Milan has a squad and system that profit of dead-ball situations. With a very young and talented defensive core at their disposal, it is something that the Bianconeri should be capable of improving.