Sassuolo vs. Juventus: 5 Things We Learned
The result was never really in doubt. Juventus let in an early goal, and then they lost the ball several times in midfield. The rain was pouring down, and they were losing a game to a team just above the relegation zone.
But Sassuolo could not hold off Juventus. Not for 90 minutes. The defending champions kept growing in confidence, and they scored three unanswered goals in a 3-1 win on Monday. Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente have now scored 34 goals between them in Serie A. (Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci have scored just as many for Torino.)
The game itself was not a full experience for Juventus. They gambled with the ball, and even Andrea Pirlo struggled to complete the pass. Too many times in 2014 have they done just enough to win. But they invariably get the results.
They are putting up numbers rarely seen before. Juventus have collected 93 points with three games left—a high for the club. They have also won 30 of 35 games in Serie A this season, tying Inter for the all-time single-season record.
Next Monday, at home against Atalanta, Juventus could win their third straight scudetto. It’s something they have never done before in the modern era:
Juventus on the brink of winning 3 Scudetti in a row for the first time since the 30s. Can do it next Monday at home to Atalanta, May 5...— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) April 28, 2014
Here are some things to remember from the match.
Simone Zaza Impresses His Parents
It wasn't just the way he scored the goal—a strike on the run in the penalty area, his eighth of the year. The 22-year-old ran all over Juventus. He was playing with confidence against his parent club. It was a timely audition.
Sassuolo currently have four Juventus players either on loan or co-ownership deals. Zaza looks like the pick of the bunch. General manager Giuseppe Marotta has cultivated a promising group of young players and sent them away to get experience—Manolo Gabbiadini out at Sampdoria; Domenico Berardi and Zaza at Sassuolo; and even Ciro Immobile, co-owned with Torino.
This particular future asset was threatening to affect the present. Zaza shocked Juventus and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon with the early goal and lead, and he could have scored a second. He outmuscles the opposition and holds up the ball.
It was no wonder that Sassuolo looked most dangerous when he was storming down the field.
Another Assist Made by Andrea Pirlo
For the first half of his night, things weren't going all that well. Andrea Pirlo failed to pick out his strikers, and he gave up the ball without much of a fight. Sassuolo pushed him around.
But he kept trying. This is a player that does not surrender so easily, and so he went for another pass, a first touch from a standstill. The ball followed a beautiful arch, and Claudio Marchisio scored at the end of it.
The assist, according to Opta, was his 26th for Juventus in Serie A since joining the club in 2011. He made this one look easy, even if the rest of the game was not.
Antonio Conte Not Ready to Celebrate Scudetto Just Yet
He looks like a man determined to win this league again. Antonio Conte put forth a relatively strong squad against Sassuolo. Conte even substituted players, notably Angelo Ogbonna and Mauricio Isla, who likely will not start against Benfica in the Europa League semi-final. He gave everyone a run.
The coach was active on his own. The scene had the look of a celebration: Conte sliding on the field slick with rain, arms in the air after the third goal. It was huge, and it confirmed yet another comeback. He told Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football Italia) after the match:
I always had a certain attitude, right from when I was at Arezzo. I was always passionate and enthusiastic as a player and continue that way as a Coach. I live my profession with great enthusiasm and participation, which I think the players appreciate, as I am there fighting with them on the field, in good times and bad.
Sassuolo Playing the Way They Want
These players did not go out to defend against the incumbent champions. Forty-five points separate Juventus and Sassuolo, and yet coach Eusebio Di Francesco did not order his men to sit behind the ball and defend for their lives. Sassuolo are a team that play with a little bit of adventure.
Unfortunately, those clubs abandoning caution often lose their spot in the league. Pescara played like a free-flowing side to get to Serie A two years ago, but they finished last the next season in Serie A, conceding 84 goals.
The situation is not as bad for Sassuolo. They are level with Bologna in points (28) but above them and the relegation zone.
"I don’t know if this is unwise for an Italian team fighting for survival," Di Francesco told Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football Italia) after the match, "but it’s the only style of football I know. Anyone who hires me knows what to expect and Sassuolo believed in me with our promotion from Serie B."
Juventus Doing Just Enough to Win
It doesn't seem fair to criticize a team for their performances while they are smashing Serie A records. They could still reach 100 points. No club in Serie A history has collected that many.
But there is something desperate about Juventus this year, so far in 2014. They don’t always start the game with pizzazz, and they don’t always kill the game. This time they did.
Today proves that it's not really a Europe thing at least recently, Juve simply hasn't been very good in 2014 even in Serie A— David Amoyal (@DavidAmoyal) April 28, 2014
They keep the games a little too close for comfort. Juventus have won nine games in all competitions by a single goal since the start of the new year. At the start of the season, they were winning by three or four goals. Now they’re doing just enough to win the games, and they rarely concede more than one goal—if any at all—per match.