Roma-Juventus: What we learned

Last night saw Juventus defeat Roma on penalties in the latest match at the International Champions Cup.

Edin Dzeko cancelled out a Mario Mandzukic opener and Federico Bernardeschi made his Juventus debut, but Douglas Costa defeated Roma in a penalty shoot-out.

As the Serie A season draws ever closer, what did we learn from the game, and where do both sides need to improve?

Words: Elio Salerno

Familiar adversaries came face to face on Sunday evening as Juventus took on Roma in what were their last games on this US tour, with both teams were fresh off 3-2 midweek wins against Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham Hotspur respectively.  For Juventus and Max Allegri it was a chance to get a close look at how Roma are developing under new manager Eusebio Di Francesco and for the Romans it represented an early chance to prove they have what it takes to push the Italian champions all the way this coming season.

Both teams fielded a strong first half XI that included recent recruits for both. For Juventus Mattia De Sciglio had another opportunity to impress at right-back and for Roma Aleksander Kolarov started at left-back with Gregoire Defrel lining up on the left as part of Roma’s attacking trident.

First Half

The opening stages of the game were played out a at a slow pace. As both teams settled, Roma had two early opportunities to take the lead but last season’s Capocannoniere Edin Dzeko was unable to apply the finish on either opportunity. As the half developed Juve began to exert control, Roma for the most part were content to retreat with their 4-3-3 reverting to a 4-5-1 out of possession. This approach meant Juventus had space to play and in particular the midfield pivot of Miralem Pjanic and Claudio Marchisio, backed up by the assured Medhi Benatia and Daniele Rugani meant Juventus had a base to build possession from, we often see one of the Juventus midfield men drop deeper to collect the ball and assume the role of regista to help control the flow of play.

Ahead of the midfield, Paulo Dybala was constantly asking questions of the Roma midfield, intelligently picking up pockets of space and collecting the ball in dangerous areas between lines.  The Giallorossi found it difficult to gain any control, an expansive Juventus set-up meant they occupied the pitch and had constant avenues to move the ball. As Juve developed play into attacking areas, both Alex Sandro and Mattia De Sciglio give the team fantastic width across the pitch, allowing wide players Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado to come inside and find possession or make run’s in-between and in behind the Roma back line. This was particularly effective down the Juventus left, as Mandzukic would come inside forcing Bruno Peres to narrow up and mark him, leaving his Brazilian team mate with the freedom of the left hand side to make his trademark forward runs.  The first goal came as a result of this, as the ball was switched to the Juventus left it was Mandzukic that exploited the space in Roma’s defence. The Croatian’s clever run off the inside of Bruno Peres meant Alex Sandro could slot a perfectly weighted pass for the attacker to run onto, and with work to do the Juventus attacker calmly rounded Allison to slot home. Roma looked for a way back, working wide areas and using their 4-3-3 to full effect, however at times their play lacked ideas and resulted in hopeful crosses into the box.

Second half

Both sides made a number of changes at half time and during the second 45 minutes, with new Juventus number 33 Federico Bernardeschi getting his first run out in Bianconero. The second half started in similar fashion to the first, Kevin Strootman crashing a strike off the Juventus crossbar. The introduction of Giorgio Chiellini added some fire to the game; an altercation with Roma forward Dzeko injected some intensity into the players and the game started to look like a more familiar affair between these two rival clubs.

Juventus struggled to replicate the control of the first half; a less technical core meant they could not control the game as they previously had. Roma took full advantage following the introduction of better technical quality. A neat spell of possession around the Juventus box resulted in Kolarov finding space down the left and his low cross was tapped home by Edin Dzeko who had ran free to score. The goal came as a boost to Roma who had their best spell in the game as a result. Juventus nearly snatched the win when Douglas Costa found Bernardeschi but the Italian failed to get his shot off quick enough and under pressure his shot went wide. The game ended all square and a penalty shootout was left to decide the winner, Roma went first and young Italian striker Marco Tumminello saw his shot saved by Carlo Pinsoglio – Juventus went on to convert all 5 spot kicks with Douglas Costa netting the winning goal.

What did we learn?

Even at this early stage it is becoming clear for Juventus what their strongest line up should be. With encouraging signs coming from the Marchisio-Pjanic tandem their increased technically quality and football intelligence allows Juventus to play a more expansive game and with the attacking quality they now possess this must be something Allegri is strongly considering. Uncertainty remains at right back with De Sciglio adapting to his new surroundings and questions regarding Lichtsteiner. As for Roma, Di Francesco and his team will be aware of the big changes the squad has had over the summer and there is still a need for a creative talent to be added in attack. The new Coach is attempting to implement his ideas along side integrating new players into the club, with time left in pre season bringing cohesion to the group will be his number one priority.