The ‘Grand old lady’ thrashes the Catalan giants
The Grand Old Lady strolled past the Blaugranas in a 3-0 rout in the Juventus Stadium.
The Bianconeri now travel to Camp Nou with a healthy lead in their pocket, and a near assured qualification from the Last 8 Stage of the UEFA Champions League.
Paulo Dybala showed grit and confidence. He scored both of his goals before the break, the first from an angle inside the box and the second from a central position on the edge. Juve turned a dominant lead into one that should see them go on and win the tie when Giorgio Chiellini guided home a header from a corner.
This is the second time already in this season’s UEFA Champions League that Barcelona have conceded a big lead to their opponents away. This doesn’t help the fact that they are already in a bad patch.
However, after their record-breaking achievement to overturn the 0-4 deficit against PSG, they will retain hope heading into the return leg at the Nou Camp on Wednesday, 19 April.
The last time these sides met in the Champions League was in the 2015 final, when Barcelona won 3-1.
The Bianconeri are a much-changed side, with only goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and defender Leonardo Bonucci starting both the Final in Berlin 2015 and Tuesday’s Quarter-Final match in Turin, but they played like a team with a score to settle.
The opening 20 minutes were a lesson in high-pressing, aggressive play that created a clear headed opening for Gonzalo Higuain to spurn before Dybala’s two strikes.
Juventus were visibly happy to defend for the most of the time, and burst into incredible counter attacks whenever they got the ball. It was evident due to the fact that within the first 20 minutes, Juventus had attempted only 80 passes, as compared to Barcelona’s 243.
Barcelona’s cause wasn’t helped due to Sergio Busquets’ absence, as his absence was visible in Barcelona’s demolition. Mascherano had to play in his old role of CDM as a result, and Jeremy Mathieu, who rarely plays for Barcelona, was given a start. Dani Alves was defending very toughly against Barcelona players (especially Neymar), and Neymar wasn’t given any space to go through. As a result, Mathieu had to move up the wings. Now, whenever Juventus got the ball, they exploited the huge gap over there.
Even during Barcelona’s build-up play, Busquets’ absence was evident. There was nobody to orchestrate their attacks from deep midfield, and this coupled with the strong defence of Juventus meant that Barcelona rarely could enter the Juventus box. And whenever they entered the box, the 39 year-old Stallion named Buffon ensured that Juventus didn’t concede a single goal.
The remaining 70 minutes saw Juve retain a high work-rate but with the luxury of strategically selecting their moments to counter-attack.
This approach twice allowed Higuain to have shots that were saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen before more lax defending – this time from Javier Mascherano, who had been moved to centre-back from midfield at half-time – allowed Chiellini to head home following a corner. It was really odd to see oneof the shortest players on the field marking one of the tallest ones. This shows that probably Barcelona weren’t prepared enough, even though that’s not an excuse for such a shambolic display.
The win means Juve, who have won their past 32 Serie A home games, are undefeated in 18 European games in Turin.
With the second-best defence of any side in Europe’s top-five leagues and having gone 441 Champions League minutes without conceding, the Italians are well-equipped to avoid wilting under second-leg pressure in Spain.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegr had these words to expressi: “I want to congratulate the lads because, as a team, they did great.
“It isn’t easy overcoming a team like Barcelona, but we also dug deep to keep a clean sheet. That was fundamental for us.
“But we have to remain humble, keep our heads down and keep working. PSG scored four, and look what happened.”In Barcelona, it will be different and we have to try and score a goal.”
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said: “We basically gifted two goals to Juventus in the opening half. As coach, for me it’s inexplicable how they were so much better than us.
“It’s like a nightmare. We’ve had very little luck of late, and now I can only hope that from tomorrow we get back on our feet.”In the first half the players were determined, but we made the same mistakes from Paris, and that’s a problem. Our second half was much better. But I still have the opening half in my head, like a nightmare.
“Maybe it wasn’t [a repeat of] Paris, but it was like the third half from Paris. “I’m an optimistic person. But I take responsibility for this. I’m the coach and the buck stops at me.
“If we play as well as we can, we can score four goals against anyone.”
Allegri leads Juve to record run – the stats
- Juventus are unbeaten in their last 18 Champions League home games (W11 D7 L0), their longest ever run without a defeat in the competition on home soil. Their last home defeat in the competition was versus Bayern Munich in April 2013 (0-2).
- Juventus have now won 16 successive home matches in all competitions and are unbeaten in 48 games there (W42 D6 L0). Their last home defeat in all comps came against Udinese in August 2015.
- Massimiliano Allegri has equalled Juventus’ longest winning streak in the Champions League (five games – previously done by Fabio Capello in 2004-05 and Antonio Conte in 2012-13).
- Dybala’s first two goals in 2016-17 for Juventus were scored away from home, but his 14 goals since then have all been scored at the Juventus Stadium.
- Barcelona have lost four of their past five Champions League away games in the knock-out stages (W1 D0 L4), conceding 12 goals in these games.