Juventus v Atlético Madrid: building a comeback

Having lost the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 ties 2-0 to Atlético Madrid, Juventus will need to produce a flawless display at home if they’re to have any chance of progressing.

Even though Juventus have still been raking up the points in the league, their performances over the past few months have been well below their usually high level. While they’re 18 points clear on top of the Serie A table, their recent showings vs. Atalanta, Bologna, Lazio, Parma, Sampdoria and Napoli have left plenty of room for improvement and shown that they’re not invincible.

Desperate to recapture their best form, they’ll be heavily relying on their formidable attacking trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala for inspiration. Combining for 39 goals and 25 assists in all competitions, their offensive weapons unquestionably possess the quality to hurt their opposition in so many ways.

Seeing as Mandzukic and Ronaldo are so dominant in the air, Massimiliano Allegri uses crosses into the box to the duo as a major part of their strategy. So powerful and intimidating, they time their runs beautifully, as they’ll smartly wait until their teammate has his head up and are in a position to deliver before making their move.

With both men often occupying the box at the same time, their presence causes confusion for their opposition as to who should mark who, thus meaning one frequently draws one or more markers, which can free up the other.

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Ronaldo and Mandzukic coordinate their runs.

Another important factor in their crossing chance creation comes from how Mandzukic and Ronaldo shrewdly target their runs on the blindside of opposition fullbacks, who are usually smaller and less imposing. By doing so, they not only use their height advantage and elite heading skills but also give themselves a dynamic advantage over their more stationary marker to give them better momentum to enhance their chances of reaching the ball first.

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A Mandzukic trademark back post run.

To further complicate things for their adversaries, the way the midfielders, namely Dybala, Blaise Matuidi and Rodrigo Bentancur, will regularly embark on penetrating runs into the box or pull their markers wide, and these only compounds things for their opponents in managing marking assignments.

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Pulling markers away to create room for runs in behind.
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Bentancur drawing his man wide to open space for Dybala to run into.

Receiving quality service from the likes of Miralem Pjanic, Dybala and the fullbacks, Juventus will be keen to get at Atlético Madrid with their aerial prowess, plus through the expert, depth runs of the pacey Ronaldo.

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Ronaldo fantastic run in behind.

Performing astute rotations frequently, the offensive trident make themselves difficult to keep tabs on in slower build-up too, for they’re constantly altering their trackers’ reference points on how to stop them. In addition, by using opposite movements, where one will drop deep and the other pushes up, this has granted them separation while ensuring Juve maintain depth to their attacks.

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Juventus using opposite movements as Ronaldo comes towards the ball and Dybala goes in behind.

Expert at pinning or drawing markers towards them, either through their technical ability or off the ball movement, the Old Lady’s stars have been excellent at creating a free man and opening passing lanes for their colleagues to exploit. Knowing how dangerous they are, opponents are frequently man oriented towards Juve’s forwards, something that means they follow them tightly, which inherently can be used to generate space for runners.

Possessing a strong understanding with one another, they’ve coalesced nicely to unbalance their foes successfully whether being closely positioned near one another for combining in close or when they’re more spread out.

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Mandzukic, Dybala and Ronaldo positioning themselves near each other.
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Juventus top link play to forward facing teammate to break through.

Being so technically excellent, Dybala and Ronaldo‘s 1v1 dribbling has been catered to neatly, for Allegri gives them licence to wreak havoc and manufacture promising scenarios with their quality here. Aside from drawing many fouls in ideal locations and drawing double marking, the way Juve will overload one side of the pitch before quickly switching to Ronaldo or Dybala on the open side affords them the opportunity to isolate themselves against their opponent.

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Juventus excellent switch of play.

While Mandzukic and Ronaldo are more powerful and dominant figures, the subtlety and creativity Dybala provides is crucial in terms of Juve’s offensive setup. A master at finding space to receive in between the lines, he uses his fantastic dribbling and passing qualities to give his team some real attacking impetus. Providing his team with a real X factor due to his unique, technically tremendous skill set, his capacity to produce moments of magic are a vital element for Juventus.

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Dybala smart movement between lines.
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Dybala top space finding between lines.
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Mandzukic’s great chest down to Dybala who’s in an ideal forward-facing posture.

By the numbers, if Juventus can produce their season averages of 16.44 shots per game, 1.99 XG pg, 20.97 crosses pg, 65.5 passes into the final third pg at 79.1% and keep up their record of winning over half of their 31.81 aerial battles pg, they just might be able to overturn the deficit.

Even though it won’t be easy against the dogged Atlético Madrid defence and the odds are stacked against them, Juventus must go on the offensive and back themselves in this must-win fixture.

Thankfully, in their formidable front three, they unquestionably have the talent to do so, which will make it captivating viewing to see if they can rise to the challenge and propel their team past Diego Simeone’s hard-nosed Atlético.

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