Moise Kean Scores as Juventus Beat Empoli 1-0 Without Injured Cristiano Ronaldo

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2019

Juventus' Italian forward Moise Kean celebrates after opening the scoring during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Empoli on March 30, 2019 at the Juventus stadium in Turin. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)

Juventus beat Empoli in Serie A on Saturday despite the absences of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, beating the Tuscans 1-0. Moise Kean came off the bench to bag the winner.

The Bianconeri were second-best for large stretches of the match, but Kean gave them the lead with a half-volley in the 72nd minute, three minutes after his introduction. The 19-year-old has six goals in his last eight matches including the international break.

The Bianconeri were without Ronaldo after he suffered a thigh injury on international duty for Portugal, and Dybala joined him on the sidelines after dropping out of the warm-ups.


Allegri Needs to Find a Plan B During Ronaldo Absence

Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri's tactical plan for Saturday's contest was ruined before the opening whistle, as Dybala went down with what is being reported as a thigh injury during warm-ups:

footballitalia @footballitalia

Thigh problem for Paulo Dybala, he is not even on the #Juventus bench. Rodrigo Bentancur starts. Liveblog https://t.co/a3JlPsjiKD #JuveEmpoli #SerieA

The Bianconeri had planned on starting in a 4-3-3, with Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi playing off Mario Mandzukic. The formation promised movement and creativity, but Allegri opted against sticking with it after Dybala's withdrawal. Instead, he introduced central midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur and pushed Bernardeschi further up the pitch in a 4-4-2.

The results were not good. Juventus were stale, lacked movement in the attacking third and relied almost exclusively on crosses toward Mandzukic. Alex Sandro continued his poor play at left-back, while Leonardo Spinazzola―a standout against Atletico Madrid and Italy's best player in the win over Liechtenstein―watched on.

Juventus' Argentine forward Paulo Dybala (c) warms up prior to the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Empoli on March 30, 2019 at the Juventus stadium in Turin. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AF

Spinazzola entered the fray after an hour of play and immediately boosted the attack. Kean got his chance 10 minutes later, and the in-form teenager needed no time at all to open the scoring.

Dealing with a last-minute injury is never easy, but these types of matches should provide Allegri with a great opportunity to experiment and figure out a Plan B if it happens again. Players get hurt during or before contests all the time, and it's crucial to be able to respond in a hurry.

It's even more important to experiment in the coming clashes with Cagliari and AC Milan, as Ronaldo's availability for the first leg of the Ajax tie in the Champions League quarter-finals on April 10 is in doubt:

Sky Sports News @SkySportsNews

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo is an injury doubt for the Champions League quarter-final first leg against Ajax on April 10.

Kean is among the few options up top and is in the best form of his young career; he should get plenty of minutes ahead of the European fixture. Likewise, the attack-minded Spinazzola and versatile Bernardeschi need to get chances to allow Allegri to figure out the perfect setup in case both Ronaldo and Dybala are unavailable.

Simply firing cross after cross toward Mandzukic won't cut it against Ajax, or any of Europe's heavyweights. Serie A is all but won, and Allegri has to use the competition to find solutions that can be used in more important games.


What's Next?

Juventus visit Cagliari on Tuesday, while Empoli host Napoli a day later.