Parma 0-1 Juventus: 6 Things We Learned
The Gialloblu have proven with their stunning defeat of Milan that they are capable of mixing in with the biggest teams in Serie A, so it was no surprise that a tense affair developed.
The Bianconeri made numerous changes in preparation for Real Madrid, and Antonio Conte will be extremely satisfied after closing the gap on Roma at the top of the league to just two points.
Paul Pogba scored the winner to further enhance his reputation and extend the Old Lady's winning streak to three matches.
Here are six things that we learned from the contest.
Juve's Squad Can Keep Them Alive in the League and Champions League
Juve's squad has been fully tested over the past month.
Antonio Conte has made numerous changes each week to be able to keep his side fresh for the many tough encounters that they have scheduled in the league and in Europe.
Juve have used 18 players this week to be able to tackle a mid-week round and negotiate wins over Catania and Parma.
With injuries to Stephan Lichtsteiner, Simone Pepe, Mirko Vucinic and Fabio Quagliarella lately, the Old Lady have called upon other members of the squad to be able to help both in a starting capacity as well as off the bench.
Mauricio Isla, Simone Padoin and Martin Caceres have helped to fill the void left by Lichtsteiner on the right flank, while Paolo De Ceglie has allowed Kwadwo Asamoah to rest on the opposite flank against Catania.
Caceres has also allowed Conte's trio of trusted centre-backs to take a breather with Angelo Ogbonna also keen to impress as Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci have enjoyed time off during this busy run.
Fernando Llorente is stepping up to the plate, while Sebastian Giovinco is also looking to offer something different with his smooth link-up with Carlos Tevez.
While those profited from the absence of Vucinic—who was arguably Conte's preferred choice to start with El Apache before his injury—Fabio Quagliarella has also given Conte a selection problem whenever he has been fit, stringing together a fine run of performances.
The Neapolitan returned from an injury of his own at the Tardini to strike the bar and assist Pogba's winning goal.
Conte must be delighted that he can call upon almost all of his squad to be able to help the cause, and while they are not in an ideal position in either competition, the situation is salvageable in both thanks to the depth of the squad.
Pirlo's Direction Is Missed When He Is Absent
Juve were struggling for large parts of the game until the introduction of Andrea Pirlo with a little over half-an-hour remaining.
The maestro was able to add flow to the Bianconeri's play and set a tempo to the manner in which the team orchestrated their attacks.
Without Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio struggle to find order and organisation in their roles in the midfield.
Pirlo offers a foundation for the others to move off from, and without him, the midfield is either reluctant to connect with the front duo or too many of the midfielders commit to stretching the side and leaving them vulnerable to counters.
Conte has a problem developing with the lack of a serviceable replacement for Pirlo as the side's regista. Despite the aforementioned stellar centre-midfielders, none of them are specialised in calling the shots from deep in the manner that Pirlo does.
Donadoni's Tactical Plan Will Cause Nightmares for the League's Big Team
Roberto Donadoni has demonstrated his tactical nous this season by implementing a disciplined approach that has ensured Parma are one of the toughest sides to beat in Serie A.
Set up in a 3-5-2 formation, the Crociati have three centre-backs that are protected with a further bank of three in front of them when the opposition have the ball.
Walter Gargano, Marco Parolo and Marco Marchionni are clever in their movement and highly productive in closing the space in the central areas of the pitch.
Given that Massimo Gobbi plays from deep and Jonathan Biabiany has great speed to be able to tuck inside when Parma do not hold possession, opponents will have a problem creating clear-cut opportunities and may be forced to take long shots.
This was ultimately the cause of the only goal of the game. But, had Parma reacted to quicker to Antonio Mirante's save, Pogba's goal would have been averted, and the plan would have been successfully implemented.
Cassano Is Yet to Find His Ideal Strike Partner
Antonio Cassano is reveling in his star role for the Crociati, but Roberto Donadoni is yet to find the best way in which to bring out Fantantonio's magic.
Amauri is yet to score a goal this season, and although he is useful at holding the ball up and bringing others into play, the Brazilian can be slow to release the ball.
Raffaele Palladino has enjoyed a renaissance and is finally earning regular minutes under Donadoni, but again, a connection is lacking with the 31 year old.
Nicola Sansone has wonderful potential, and his raw speed could be useful as Cassano's vision is something that Parma are not using to their full potential right now.
Biabiany is the only threat in behind with his pace, which means that the through pass and lofted diagonals can be predictable. If Sansone were integrated into the side, Parma would have greater variety to their play.
I expect Donadoni to continue tinkering with his options, maintaining a 3-5-2 for the time being, which means that Sansone could have added opportunities as Parma search for more inspiration in the final third.
Ogbonna Is Adjusting Well to Juve's Defence
Angelo Ogbonna came under some criticism after being thrown into the big time with a surprise start against Real Madrid.
It has been a huge step up in class since his move from Torino, but the Azzurri international has the ability to take it in his stride and become better as a result.
The 25-year-old was included in Squawka's top-three players for the match, which justified Conte's decision to rest Leonardo Bonucci.
Ogbonna provided more control on the ground and was able to find the midfielders with regularity, replacing Bonucci's playmaking ability from the back.
Completing 53 of 58 passes, a pass completion of 91 percent (via Squawka), combined with winning all of his aerial duels, formed the basis of a solid defensive display.
Lucarelli Can Still Roll Back the Years to Produce a Masterclass
Alessandro Lucarelli is really impressing in the absence of star defender Gabriel Paletta, and his experience is really showing as he guides the back three.
Facing Carlos Tevez would have been a tricky task, especially given the Argentine's form, but Lucarelli was typically physical and would not let El Apache settle on the ball or bring the midfield runners into play to catch Parma in static positions.
Squawka revealed Lucarelli made 11 clearances and was successful in 100 percent of his eight tackles that he made, enough to earn him the top player award for the game.
Without Paletta, Lucarelli brilliantly anchors the defence, dropping between Mattia Cassani and Pedro Mendes.
Lucarelli's heat map highlights the discipline surrounding his positioning and resistance to being forced out wide where his pace, or lack there of, could have been exposed.
The 36-year-old's career is almost over, but performances like this against the champions will prolong his career for a few more years.
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