Tuesday night was another heartbreaker for Italian giants Juventus. In the second leg of this Champions League Round of 16 matchup, manager Andrea Pirlo and his men saw defeat against FC Porto, who were reduced to ten men after a red card. Juve’s Federico Chiesa netted a goal which took the game into extra time, but Porto’s Segio Olivera scored a free kick that sealed it for the Portuguese club. Olivera’s free kick saw Porto advance on away goals. On the other side, Juventus exited in the round of 16 for the second consecutive year. This loss means that Juventus have lost seven out of their last eight Champions League knockout ties after losing the first leg. With that being said, what went wrong for Juve?
You have to take a look at Cristiano Ronaldo, who was held goalless by Porto in both games. This is a shocker. Ronaldo lives for games like this, and ever since he came to Juventus that spark hasn’t been there. Ronaldo holds the record for most Champions League goals in a single campaign, netting 17 for Real Madrid in the 2013-14 season. The main reason Juventus signed Ronaldo was to win the Champions League. Nobody would’ve thought they’d take steps back from accomplishing that goal, but they’ve done just that. Even since they lost to Barcelona in the 2016-17 finals I feel like the Italian side have been cursed. They just can’t get over the hump in matches like the loss they suffered Tuesday night.
Tuesday night’s match showed Juve’s need for Paulo Dybala in their starting XI. Dybala only played in five matches before picking up a knee injury Jan.10 against Sassuolo, and hasn’t played since. It’s simple: Dybala is the most creative player on Juventus. Not only does he give them a change of pace, but he’s a match winner. The Argentine has the ability to produce moments of greatness every time he’s on the pitch. With Dybala’s absence, Juve is forced to change their shape to a 4-4-2, a formation in which they struggle because they have no creativity through the middle with Aruthur and Adrien Rabiot. Along with that, striker Álvaro Morata is nowhere near a proper partner for Ronaldo.
For Juve to get back on track they should be playing a 3-5-2, which would allow them to flood the midfield with their fullbacks Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro, who are both exceptional on the ball. This will give them more options to link up and play through the middle. This change of formation also gives you a defensive midfielder that can sit in front of your back three. Instead of playing him out on the wing, I think Aaron Ramsey would be a perfect fit in that role. He has good vision, and he isn’t afraid to make a tackle. Rounding out Juve’s midfield would be Dybala (when healthy) and Rabiot. Now for your strikers: instead of Álvaro Morata, Juve need to play Federico Chiesa with Ronaldo. To me it’s obvious, Chiesa has more pace to take players on, he’s a better dribbler, passer and finisher. Currently on loan from Fiorentina, if Chiesa continues to play like he did Tuesday night, he could be the future forward for years to come in Turin.
Juventus look to get back on track in Serie A against Cagliari on Sunday afternoon. A win would pull them within one point of second place AC Milan and seven points behind league leaders Inter Milan.