Juventus reach their 8th Champions League final after beating Monaco 2-1 on the night at Juventus and 4-2 on aggregate. Throughout the tie, the Italian team were one step ahead of their French opponents with Allegri’s change to 3 at the back working wonders.
Both legs had similar patterns in terms of stages in the game where Monaco dominated but Juventus remained calm and took over the control when it mattered. The Italian side were much more clinical in front of goal which in the end proved to be the difference between the two sides.
Until the quarter-final stage, Juve manager Max Allegri opted to play a 4-2-3-1 formation with compact midfield, Mandzukic and Cuadrado flanking Dybala in attacking midfield with Higuain leading the line. This system proved to be too good against Barcelona where they defended the wide play of Neymar brilliantly and also cut down the supply lines through a narrow midfield shape.
We all know Monaco play a narrow 4-4-2 formation with fullbacks acting as wingers, wide players cutting inside to support their strikers and midfield supporting the central attack. Allegri knew this and opted to change his shape to 3-4-2-1 with two wingbacks Alves and Sandro, narrow central midfield with a flexible front line. It has to be said that the Juventus manager respected the way Monaco played and adjusted his shape accordingly.
We shall take a closer look at this shape and analyse how it worked wonderfully to upset the rhythm of high-flying Monaco:-
The above image depicts the shape of Juventus off the ball against Monaco. Mandzukic, who in the system is a supporting striker, tracks back to help out the defence down that left-hand side. The two midfielders (encircled in the middle) are close to each other very compact denying a through ball to Mbappe, who is marked by Barzagli centrally. Chiellini and Bonucci are having a close attention on Falcao while left wingback Sandro marking forward runs from Sidibe. It is a very impressive defensive structure where out-balls, as well as central supply lines, are well marshalled, need quick switches of play constantly to unlock this kind of defensive structure, Monaco failed to do that on a constant basis.
The above image illustrates the attacking shape of Juventus. It is predominantly towards the right side from where they get their crosses from Alves who is a willing runner in the opposition half, Dybala picks up positions in between the lines allowing space for Higuain and Mandzukic. When Alves moves forward, Sandro doesn’t back up with the same movement, he rather stays back just to ensure that the back four shape isn’t broken even while attacking.
Mandzukic, who while defending came all the way to track the forward runs of Monaco players, comes to life in possession. Since the Croat doesn’t occupy his place as a forward all the time, players tend to forget to mark him. This was the case in the first Juventus goal when the forward came ghosting in from left-hand side with no one picking him up.
As shown in the image above, Mandzukic running off the back of Raggi totally unmarked. Alves finding him with a delicious cross, rest was done by the striker even though in the second attempt.
From the above instances, we can say it was a masterstroke by Allegri to revert back to 3-4-2-1 against a free-scoring Monaco to just stifle them in all areas with rigid back-line and flexible front line while attacking. The French team tried to match them in the second leg but they had too much to do and Italians were too good in that system.
A lot to endeavour for Juventus with the final up against Real Madrid coming up, it won’t be a bad idea to continue with this system in the Cardiff showpiece. Allegri, as we all know is an astute tactician who will come up with something to disrupt the rhythm of his opposition. Buffon deserves a Champions League medal in his medal cabinet, maybe Juve are in their best shape this year to overcome 2015’s disappointment and go one better this time.