After all the craziness that has been the last 72 hours or so in global football, Juventus had a game to play after all, a meaningful game with the welcome return of Ronaldo and a look at taking care of business against a relegation ridden Parma side. One of the other low keynotes was also the inclusion of Buffon again in the starting 11, unsurprisingly the team won, keeping that Buffon in starting 11 undefeated streak going. The team thankfully came out hungry and managed to overcome a small spell of Parma’s shocking initial lead. A rapid and furious constant attack mixed with dominant possession allowed Juve to see out this game as we all expected. We saw a great defensive performance, which in turn allowed for calm, poised game flow. Unsung heroes also flourished as much criticized Alex Sandro put in a Fifa Ultimate Team Team of the Week style performance, De Ligt as well with all three goals coming from defenders not forwards.
This was indeed a defensive show, against one of the weakest teams in Serie A, but still pretty impressive. Returning to a somewhat traditionally expected backline, we saw a lineup of Sandro, De Ligt, Bonucci, and Danilo. Everyone worked hand and hand to ensure the penalty box was locked up and secured. Danilo returned to right back and we witnessed a formula which has worked numerous times this season, the overlapping between Danilo and Cuadrado. While I would also like this to happen on the left side of the pitch as well, Danilo and Cuadrado know each other well to understand when Cuadrado can make wide runs and crosses, and when Danilo can make them as well. Major credit to Danilo and Cuadrado for owning the right side of the pitch and combining their defensive and especially crossing abilities in synchrony. Our center-back pairing on the night also did well. De Ligt in my opinion was the man of the match, he not only put in a goal, but he was present multiple times in the box when dangerous balls came in. Time after time, De Ligt was there to clear the ball out and make efficient passes out with especially with Alex Sandro. Bonucci likewise had a good game and had a goodnight keeping Graziano Pelle at bay. Both Pelle and Gervinho were not allowed runs as they typically do and Cuadrado made sure to keep up with Gervinho’s speed, especially in the first half. Then finally we have Alex Sandro, much-maligned, criticized throughout the season had his best game in a long time. Sandro made good runs throughout the night and was a solid presence in attack, he seemed to be in prime scoring positions which allowed him two goals and well deserved. If it wasn't for De Ligt, Sandro would have been my man of the match for this game.
Most of the rest of the team had a relatively quiet night, from Ronaldo to Bentancour, had this been Inter or Roma we’d been playing, the result might have been a bit different. Rotations all around the squad for this game meant Ronaldo coming back, Dybala once again as a starter and McKennie filling in for Chiesa to the best of his abilities. Chiesa obviously was a notable absence, Mckennie was asked to fill big shoes on the night. While he did give up a silly foul to give the Parma goal on the freekick, he was of course out of his zone for the most part and in my humble opinion, he had a decent game. Slowly but surely I am noting a good pattern of one, two passes between Dybala and McKennie. This is about as much as Dybala contributed on the night, but again he gives a different passing dynamic/creativity to this team that no one else can. In a team that struggles to get passes actually moving forward, Dybala’s agility and movements of the ball allow for runs to develop around him. Meanwhile, Arthur and Bentancour had their relatively quiet evenings as per usual. Arthur did show up notably, however, clearing a dangerous shot off the line as Buffon beat on the corner, so hats off to him.
Keeping the things that work and building upon them is one of the things we’ve learned along the stretch of this season and this game was no different. We must continue building on a strong defensive performance, built with overlapping fullbacks who can deliver dangerous crosses into the box. The right side has proven incredibly effective at this and while Ronaldo faltered on multiple times in this game with his finishing, it allowed for Alex Sandro and others to step up. Cuadrado is a key player in this whole movement, his assists, shifty footwork allow for this team to build upon an effective formula. It's no secret why he continues to be one of the best assist providers in the history of this club. In this encounter, the only goal allowed came yes after a McKennie giveaway, but also due to Ronaldo not jumping which we have seen before. This has to change, while we understand that Ronaldo could be beneficial there given his jumping ability, he simply doesn't like jumping when he is on the wall. It's time to move him off of there. This game thankfully allowed for a quick comeback and scoreboard turnaround. A 3-1 scoreline allowed Juventini to breathe for a while in the second half as the game gradually slowed down. A good result with good developments, now onwards towards Fiorentina.