Juventus have recorded a clean sheet in all five of its knockout stage, proving that it has the best defence.
Right from the inception of the ‘catenaccio’, Italians have proved to be tough defenders. The sweeper back system saw them contain opponents, launch surprise counter attacks, score goals and walk away with trophies.
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Serie A leaders Juventus are carrying forward that tradition in great style. Yes, they won 3-0 against Barcelona in the quarters of this season’s Champions League. Now they have a 2-0 lead over AS Monaco at the end of the first leg.
Juventus have now recorded a clean sheet in all five of its knockout stage matches so far. Consequently, Juventus have denied their opponents a goal in 9 of the 11 matches they have figured in.
Talk of defense must include the goalkeeper as well. Their 2006 World Cup winning captain Gianluigi Buffon has been doing a splendid job. His experience and anticipation has enabled them to perform well. In the three-man back line of Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci they have tough customers.
But the backbone in their strategy is the four-man midfield. Dani Alves, Pjanic, Marchisio and Alex Sandra roam around in the middle and deny opponents the space and time to pass or shoot. Chiellini, of the infamous ear-biting incident involving striker Luis Suarez of Barcelona, and Bonucci are good in the air as well. And anything thrown closer to the six-yard box is picked up by Buffon.
Monaco, despite the presence of Radamal Falcao and Mbappe, erred in pushing Juventus deeper into their own half. This suited their style and approach. Had Monaco kept the ball with themselves inside their own half, or stretched the game wide on the flanks to draw Juventus out, it would have got them better dividends.
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A strong defense must be drawn out and stretched, not pushed back with more of forward movements. Monaco did not do that. They might have scored a lot of goals this season, but scoring ability against a solid opponent is what counts.
After Higuain’s first goal, Monaco might have been denied a penalty. Bonucci tripped Falcao without the ball inside the penalty area. A penalty can be awarded if the incident happened inside the area irrespective of the position of the ball.
But Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz decided to ignore the incident and waved play-on.
Monaco never looked like reducing the deficit and it will be herculean task to get back into the game in the second leg in Turin a week from now.
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