Fiorentina 0-1 Juventus: 6 Things We Learned

Jack Alexandros Rathborn@@jackrathbornContributor IIIMarch 21, 2014

Fiorentina 0-1 Juventus: 6 Things We Learned

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    Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

    Juventus edged a fiercely contested last 16 Europa League tie with Serie A rivals Fiorentina on Thursday with a 1-0 win in the second-leg to edge out the Viola 2-1 on aggregate.

    Andrea Pirlo's free-kick did the damage on the night, shortly after referee Howard Webb had sent of Gonzalo Rodriguez for a foul on Fernando Llorente.

    After that, Vincenzo Montella's side had little hope of forcing a way back into the match, and the Bianconeri took a step closer to the final, which will be in their own stadium.

    Here are six things we learned.

Andrea Pirlo Is Still the Best Free-Kick Taker in the Game

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    Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

    Andrea Pirlo's stunning winner proved once more that he is the best free-kick taker in the business.

    "The Maestro" took it in a different fashion to his signature style, instead of floating the ball into the goalkeeper's top-right corner, as was the case in the Genoa game last weekend, Pirlo opted to cut across the ball quickly, whipping it fiercely over the wall and into the top-left corner.

    An unstoppable strike that gave Neto, a goalkeeper in the finest form of his life, absolutely no chance.

    It is a skill he will be remembered for, and the fact that he has been able to impact games for such longevity is so impressive.

    The Bianconeri can only thank their lucky stars that Milan were foolish enough to not renew the Azzurri legend's contract, and they have been able to gain three outstanding years from one of the modern greats.

Juve Are Now Strong Favourites to Win It

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    Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

    Juventus must surely be the strong favourites to win the Europa League.

    They were already the best team on paper, but a tie with Fiorentina was always going to go beyond that.

    The Viola were always going to play above themselves, and the passion of their historic rivals was always going to close the gap.

    The fact that Napoli have also exited, a side that could also have rivalled Juve, means that Juve are surely in the clear.

    The Partenopei were very wasteful against a Porto side that were ruthless over the two legs, and I would expect that Juve would be far more clinical if afforded similarly plentiful opportunities. 

    Benfica appear to be the only side capable of beating the Old Lady, and that would only be over two legs, one would imagine.

    Even though anybody can win a one-off game, should Juve find themselves in the final, in front of their own fans, it would be staggering to not see them pick up the trophy.

Isla Now a Good Option over Lichtsteiner

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    Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

    Mauricio Isla has gradually manoeuvred himself into a position where Antonio Conte may start to consider picking him over Stephan Lichtsteiner on the right.

    The Chilean has been afforded the opportunity to play in the Europa League consistently and this has done his confidence a world of good.

    The former Udinese wide man is now fully fit and showcasing what he is capable of.

    Isla's consistent delivery is a striker's dream (or a midfielder's, as was the case often enough on Thursday).

    Isla's ability to come inside and link with the central midfielders, who, in turn, can dovetail around him, giving great fluidity to the way Juve attack down the right flank.

    At the very least, Isla will be an excellent back-up and push his Swiss counterpart to raise his level in order to maintain his starting place in the league.

Pizarro's Absence Crucial to Viola's Exit

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    Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

    David Pizarro walked off injured in the opening moments of the second half, and with that it seemed like Fiorentina's chances vanished.

    The Chilean is instrumental to the way that Montella's side play, starring as the regista, and when Massimo Ambrosini came on in his place, Fiorentina were restricted in the manner in which they wanted to approach the game.

    Borja Valero dropped into the space in front of the back four, and with that, the Spaniard's influence in transition, usually picking the ball up from Pizarro, vanished.

    Juve began to press higher, knowing that Fiorentina had to dribble the ball more to dissect their defence, rather than the pinpoint accurate passes from Pizarro.

    There are players of a similar ilk, who could be shoehorned into that role, but with Mati Fernandez's injury, and Alberto Aquilani's inconsistent form, Montella was doomed once the 34-year-old exited. 

Mario Gomez's Fitness Still Not Quite Right

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    Fabrizio Giovannozzi/Associated Press

    Mario Gomez, despite scoring in back-to-back games is evidently still a little way off his best due to some rustiness after his long-term injury.

    The German gives the Viola are wonderful option that Alessandro Matri cannot provide.

    The former Bayern star will give the Viola the ability to feed the ball into his feet, and the likes of Juan Cuadrado will gamble on the ball sticking at his feet and the ability of the centre-forward to feed the ball in behind the opposition's back line.

    It is unfortunate that Gomez did not have enough time to shake off the rust and find himself in the best condition possible ahead of this massive tie.

    Montella saw him struggle for an hour or so and eventually withdrew him from the actionanother blow to the Viola.

The Europa League Is Now Juve's Top Priority

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    Fabrizio Giovannozzi/Associated Press

    The Europa League should now be Juve's primary target as the season winds down.

    The Bianconeri have sewn up the league title and will be now be focusing on the remaining five matches that will see them lift Europe's secondary competition.

    Conte will have to carefully decide how to approach these games and the league matches that bookend the European ties.

    Conte will need to decide what he wants to do, whether that be rotating or keeping the team's consistency and form by maintaining the strongest side as the season closes out.

    It has been a season of highs and lows for Juve, even if most have been highs.

    Securing 100 points or 98 points, if the goal is just to surpass the previous best points total in Serie A history, will be a tempting target to secure their dominance in the history books.

    Adding the Europa League to a league triumph, no matter the final points tally, would surely provide more satisfaction to the fans.