Roma visited Juventus in the stand-out fixture of the Serie A so far. This game was so important that Marchisio deemed it a head-to-head clash for the title. Roma had a chance of closing the gap on Juventus with a win, but Rudi Garcia insisted that Roma had nothing to loose.
Juventus started in their usual 3-5-2 formation. There were no surprise exclusions or inclusions in the starting line up.
Roma started in their usual 4-3-3 formation. Francesco Totti started as the central forward, with Gervinho to his right, and Ljajić to his left.
Juventus congest the midfield
Roma's attacking is at its best when their forwards have space to take advantage of their pace and intelligent passing. Gervinho is a master of beating defenders one-on-one, while Totti needs space to receive the ball and have time to distribute it. The foundation of Juve's gameplan was to not give space to either of them, thus forcing Roma to attack in a way which they are not good at: playing positionally against a set defence.
|Juventus were sitting deep, Roma couldn't play forward in central areas.|
The midfield trio of Juventus sat close to the defence. This denied space from Gervinho and Ljajić, who played as inside forwards. They tried to play centrally in the hole between the defence and midfield, instead of providing width. Even though that hole wasn't really there in this game. Pirlo sat deep, close to the defence, with Pogba a bit ahead of him to the left, and Vidal a bit ahead of him to the right. Whenever a Roma player received the ball in the hole, Pogba or Vidal put pressure on him from behind, while the three central defenders closed down the space ahead. The Roma wingers couldn't find space on the wings either, as a centre-back followed them there if they attempted to drift wide.
The Juventus wing-backs sat deep - only a bit further up than the three centre-backs - instead of man-marking the Roma full-backs. They only put pressure on the full-back if he received the ball, otherwise just marked the zone on the wings. The Roma full-backs couldn't push as high as the Juventus box. One of them stayed a bit deeper than the other, dropping back and providing width in defence if Juventus broke on the counter.
Totti was man-marking Pirlo when Juventus had the ball. Pirlo only had fifty successful passes as a result (his fifth lowest this season). Juventus needed other players to step up and get the ball forward.
The key to Juventus' attacks proved to be Carlos Tévez. The Argentine dropped deep, but a bit sideways to receive the ball. He often pulled Leandro Castan with him. De Rossi dropped into central defence in such situations. One of these runs from Tévez lead to the throw-in from which Juventus scored their opener in the 17th minute.
|The movement of Tévez away from the defenders into deeper areas was key to the attacks of Juventus.|
De Rossi had a key role to play in Roma's strategy. Not only did he play in his usual deep-lying playmaker role, but he had to prevent Juventus from counter-attacking had they won the ball in midfield. He applied instant pressure on the player with the ball in such cases instead of dropping back.
The problem with defending as deeply as Juventus did is that if your defenders win the ball, you are very far away from the opposition's goal and have a lot to do to get the ball closer to it. Taking advantage of set pieces is a crucial tool for such teams as they are not going to have many chances at playing a final ball into the box, simply because they are not going to have a lot of possession around the box in the first place.
Juventus made the most of their set pieces. They have scored their second after Pjanić gave away a needless free-kick on the left. Their third goal was scored after they have won a penalty - from a free-kick. Both times the marking was poor in the box.
Rudi Garcia made two substitutions only ten minutes after half-time. He brought on Destro for Pjanić, and Torosidis for Dodô. Destro played as the central forward, with Totti and Ljajić as the inside wingers in the hole. Gervinho moved to the right wing.
Roma took more risks after the substitutions. The most visible change was that both full-backs pushed high in possession, not caring about the space left behind them. Juventus started counter-attacking, taking advantage of these areas. De Rossi was sent off in the 75th minute after he fouled Chiellini on the left during a Juventus counter-attack. Leandro Castan was sent off at the resulting free-kick.
Roma moved to a 4-2-2 formation, with Ljajić playing alongside Strootman in central midfield. They kept passing the ball around in their own half, playing the occasional long ball ahead.
Juventus sat back and let Roma have the ball, knowing that their forwards can be neutralised if they don't have space in the final third. Even though Roma had minor chances, they didn't take them. Whereas Juventus made the most of the few chances they had. They scored from their first shot on goal, and scored two from set piece situations.
Juventus took a big step towards winning the league. Even though Roma might feel disappointed for being eight points behind their rivals, their season is a success so far. As Rudi Garcia said, the aim was to qualify for Europe, and they look in excellent shape to finish in the Champions League places.