The team took advantage of their opportunities and exposed Juve’s weak areas, whilst being balanced at the back. Bianconeri’ midfield uncertainty showed up and it cost them a lot.
Maurizio Sarri opted for his favoured formation this season – 4-3-1-2. Wojciech Szczęsny was positioned on the goalkeeping spot with Alex Sandro, Leonardo Bonucci, Merih Demiral and Mattia De Sciglio as support. This season’s problematic area, the midfield, contained Blaise Matuidi, Miralem Pjanić and Rodrigo Bentancur. Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo formed the front duo, having Paulo Dybala roaming behind and around them, contributing to the usual forward player rotations.
Simone Inzaghi set the team up in a 3-5-2 formation in possession. The goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha was covered by Ştefan Radu, Francesco Acerbi and one of the best performers of the night Luiz Felipe. The fully packed midfield, that was crucial for stopping Juventus’ attacking attempts included Senad Lulić, Luis Alberto, Lucas Leiva, Sergej Milinković-Savić and Manuel Lazzari. Upfront the coach lined up his top goalscorers this season Ciro Immobile and Joaquín Correa.
Lazio’s build-up and midfield movement importance
Lazio’s midfield positioning played a crucial part in their solid defensive performance. The players would try to block the passing lanes and trouble Juventus’ build-up from the back. This would pin the Bianconeri in the midfield area and force them into sending long balls in order to advance the ball. They didn’t only use long balls to find the front players, but also often tried to shoot from distance.
Whenever Juventus’ players tried spreading out wide in order build their attack through the flanks, Lazio would commit a few players to cover the ball carrier and force him into giving the ball back by forming a numerical advantage.
Lazio’s tried limiting the space between the lines which affected Juve’s attackers’ movement in the central areas. The lack of wingers was crucial too, because in the cases when the Biancocelesti limited the movement in the centre, there was no one to exploit the wings.
When it comes to Lazio’s build-up, they’d also build-up from the back using Strakosha’s and Acerbi’s partnership. They would circulate the ball on the flanks, creating short pass combinations. The main passing links for the team were Milinković-Savić – Lazzari on one side and Luis Alberto – Lulić on the other. Leiva served as an additional passing option and ended up with 94% pass accuracy, but would also drop down as additional defensive support and help with recoveries (12) and interceptions (5).
This was crucial for delivering the ball into the more advanced areas since with their movement and one-touch pass combinations they were able to break Juventus’ mid-block. The Bianconeri’s highly positioned defensive line resulted in a few conceded opportunities, although the midfield is the one to blame. Their lack of proper pressing and positioning made it harder for the backline to react in certain situations, especially having in mind Lazio’s fast pace.
Lazio’s attackers would drop towards the central line and pick up the ball, using link-up-play to deliver it to the final third. Despite Juventus’ dominance in possession and passing (637 passes/ 91.05% accuracy), Lazio’s measured actions and off the ball movement compensated and allowed them to create dangerous chances. In the times when the Bianconeri were well structured at the back, the opposition would use long balls to expose them. In order to reach the final third when being counter pressed they would also switch play quite often.
The Biancocelesti’s defensive efforts
Lazio allowed their opponents in their half on a few occasions. In fact, Juventus created 42 positional attacks in the game, which is twice as much as the opposition. But Lazio’s awareness and confidence at the back, combined with the low accuracy of Juve’s shots (4/15 shots on target), resulted in only one conceded goal.
Le Aquile allowed the opposition to make too many crossing efforts, due to failing to drop additional men to their three-man backline and leaving their wings uncovered. But they would then be focused enough to react. Only four of Juventus’ 21 crosses led to dangerous attacking actions.
Lazio won 52.63% of their defensive duels, but what made the difference is their continues efforts to gain back possession. They ended up making 43 interceptions and 65 recoveries. This was crucial for their defensive record, but would also affect their attacking force since they managed to create six counterattacks and occupy the opposition’s final third for longer periods of time.
Sometimes the team would fail in covering all of Juventus’ attackers, due to their rotations. Ronaldo and Dybala would often switch positions, with one of them always staying deeper. Lazio’s players overcommitted to marking the ball carrier on a few occasions and missed on the positional changes happening, which would leave one of the forward players completely uncovered.
Juventus’ overcomplicating things
As per usual, the Bianconeri would build-up from the back with the frequent use of the centre-backs for creating pass combinations. The defensive line was positioned considerably high, with only Demiral staying slightly deeper in their own half. That sounds like a good plan on paper, but it’s execution caused them more problems rather than securing the goal.
They would most frequently use the left flank to build-up through, with Alex Sandro as one of the most active players strolling up and down the pitch.
Despite his role of covering the half-spaces and providing more options for attacking combinations, Matuidi would often drop deep in their own half both for the build-up and when out of possession and apply press on the ball carrier.
Juve’s strategy of retaining possession for longer periods of time and slowing down the tempo in order to control the game didn’t work out. They would often get stuck in the midfield, looking for a way to break Lazio’s structure, but that would only give the opposition the chance to win the ball back. As it happened on a few occasions, Lazio were able to shoot, right after Juventus’ lost the ball in key areas. That’s not only a result of Lazio’s strong positioning but also their better physicality and being able to take on the defenders.
Lazio had 8/15 shots on target, converting three of them into goals. They were pretty active on the wings too, sending 9/19 accurate crosses in efforts to score.
Juventus’ had too much going on in their midfield area and it didn’t help them with their build-up and attack. The team’s midfield issues only deepen and this could be crucial for their performance in the second half of the season.
Lazio’s way more simplified attack-minded strategy turned out to be successful. The mix of pace, positioning and attacking flair allowed them to steal the ball often and advance the ball to the final third to create chances. Then their measured defensive actions and marking strategy helped them to prevent the goal.
Lazio could use the winning of that trophy as a way to gain confidence and extra boost for their Serie A performance. The Biancocelesti are third in the table, but what’s more impressive is that only Atalanta (43) has more scored goals than them (38).
The teams’ attack has been outstanding and with repeating that defensive performance out there they could be contenders.
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