Internazionale – Juventus: Cristiano Ronaldo Saves Point For Juventus In Old School Serie A Game (1-1)

After surviving early pressure from Internazionale and struggling to break their medium block 4-4-2 shape, Cristiano Ronaldo rescued a point for Juventus in the Derby d’Italia. A tight matchup between two of Italy’s best teams, which showcased their defensive abilities more than their offensive.

Tactical analysis and match report by Joel Parker.


Juventus are out of the Champions League and Coppa Italia, but have also already laid claim to this season’s scudetto. One could therefore argue the upcoming games for Juventus are not of great importance, and maybe, that is even a fair argument to make.

Despite this, Juve have a huge say in who will join them competing in Europe’s elite competition next season, with AS Roma and Atalanta still left on their schedule. Internazionale are right in the mix, going into this match three points ahead of fourth place. A victory would guarantee them another shot Champions League campaign next season, ten years after their famous treble under José Mourinho.

Luciano Spalletti has consistently used the 4-2-3-1 system with his Inter side, well capable of retaining possession and getting in good crossing positions. Just two changes in their starting lineup, but both players massively important going forward. Borja Valero was replaced in center-midfield for Marcelo Brozović returning from injury, whilst Mauro Icardi came in for Lautaro Martínez.

Massimiliano Allegri often changes the Juventus formation. This time, he opted for a 4-4-2 formation. His only swap came at the back, where Daniele Rugani was replaced by the returning Giorgio Chiellini. The veteran central defender had been a huge miss in the past few matches, against Ajax especially.


Inter crosses causes Juventus problems

Spalletti’s team definitely enjoyed the better start, as they instantly put Juventus on the ropes. As expected, Inter built possession from the midfielders, before working the flanks and getting into crossing positions. Marcelo Brozović was the vital cog in the wheel, sitting deep and linking defense to attack with a huge number of passes. The movement from Radja Nainggolan further ahead also gained access into the final third, The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. roaming from side to side. He would drop back when needed in transitions.


Internazionale’s 4-2-3-1 versus Juventus’s 4-4-2 defensive set-up, notice the room between the lines.


This gave Inter an advantage. The crosses came often and rapid, from both Ivan Perišić and Matteo Politano, and they were causing issues for Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci in the Juventus defense. In the seventh minute, Juventus dealt with the first phase from a corner kick, and cleared the ball. Politano was able to flick the ball back into the path of Nainggolan, whose volley was sent from the football gods themselves. Outside of the boot, swerving into the far corner, a goal of the highest order – ignore the fact the goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczęsny slightly ruins it having a great touch on the ball as it goes in.

After scoring the opener, Inter continued to have the upper hand, stretching Juventus’s 4-4-2 shape and playing into the space between the players, making a vast number of line-breaking passes in the first twenty minutes. A few minutes after, Inter were very close to making it two, a great counterattack finding its way to Mauro Icardi in space, but his shot was saved by Szczęsny. The goalkeeper would make a brilliant save shortly after, a quick corner kick catching Juventus off-guard, but Stefan de Vrij’s header from close range somehow did not go in.


Juventus start to get back into the game but both defenses hold

Having held the first twenty minutes of early pressure, Juventus started to get back into the match. Miralem Pjanić would begin to man-mark passing hub Marcelo Brozović when Inter would be in possession, changing the shape from a 4-4-2 formation into a 4-3-1-2 shape.

This indeed started to limit Inter in the final third, but Allegri’s team failed to create many efficient chances from open play themselves as well, which has been a problem for most of the second half of the season. In this match in particular, much of this was due to Inter’s defensive set-up, rotating into a 4-4-2 shape and in a medium block. A medium block refers to a team that retreats in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents some way into their own half.

Unlike Allegri’s setup, which is very similar, the hosts pressed a lot more and made a number of turnovers in the middle third as Juventus had possession.


Juve’s attacking setup versus Inter’s 4-4-2 defensive formation.


The match started to quiet down with neither team having a great amount of shots, but that is testament to how well both of these teams defended. Juventus could not break into any counterattacks with fullbacks Danilo D’Ambrosio and Kwadwo Asamoah rarely making overlapping When a wide player, most of the times a wing-back, runs outside to fill in the space left by a winger going inside with or without the ball, this is called overlapping. runs when Inter had possession. Both teams would have neat passing sequences across defensive and middle thirds, before being fizzled out or pressed into making a mistake. A close and cagey game that may have been boring for the fan that wants loads of goalmouth action, but an intriguing tactical battle nonetheless.


Cristiano Ronaldo makes the difference

After the break, Juventus started to commit a lot more players forward having trailed for most of the game. Allegri would make a rotation in his team that would help them going forward, taking off Blaise Matuidi – ineffective out on the left wing, and replacing him with Moise Kean, Federico Bernardeschi taking over Matuidi’s spot. This gave Juventus a lot more offensive firepower and they started to come close.

Having remained compact for over an hour, Inter’s defense was cut open twice within the space of a couple of minutes. Juventus overloaded the left flank before quickly transitioning the ball out onto the right, vertical passes between Pjanić and Juan Cuadrado found João Cancelo on the right and in space. He picked out Cristiano Ronaldo inside the area, but his shot was blocked by de Vrij.

A warning sign which was not picked up by the Inter defense thirty seconds later, this time being far too stretched and leaving room in between the lines as Juventus broke forward. A neat exchange between Pjanić and Ronaldo gave the latter the room to shoot, and his low and driven shot calmly found the back of the net.



Spalletti changes his formation far too late

All of Internazionale’s three substitutions came in the last fifteen minutes of the game, which also saw him change their 4-2-3-1 formation into a 4-3-3 shape. With Borja Valero dropping next to Matías Vecino and Marcelo Brozović in the buildup, this gave Inter superiority in the middle third. Despite this, Inter failed to threaten the Juventus defense late on, having just a couple of shots from difficult positions.

Juventus had the better of the chances, a volley from Pjanić bouncing into the arms of Samir Handanović. The final opportunity of the game was the closest either team had in terms of winning the game. Ronaldo drilled a cross just in front of the goal and Inter’s right back Danilo D’Ambrosio’s challenge bounced off Matheus Pereira from close range and over the crossbar.

Both teams had a small amount of clear-cut chances, but Juventus would certainly come out of the Derby d’Italia the happier, when they easily could be two goals down in the first twenty minutes.



Takeaways

This match should go down in the books as a neat tactical battle between two top teams, almost as a throwback to the way most Serie A matches were played in the eighties and nineties. The next matchup will certainly have much more attacking situations with raised stakes and the potential of new players coming in over the summer.

This match certainly showed both teams defensive abilities, rather than attacking. If Luciano Spalletti had made changes earlier, we could be talking of an Internazionale victory, but there was also the risk of losing their 4-4-2 shape and even more space for Juventus to exploit. The result doesn’t change the Serie A standings much, as Inter are still four points ahead of AS Roma. With four games to go, they would have to do something drastic to lose their Champions League spot.

Juventus are already crowned champions, but having stumbled over the line the way they did in the past few weeks, it is very legitimate to raise questions over a few positions in the team. For one, Allegri needs to find more ways of breaking teams down. It will be interesting to see how Juventus handle their midfield in this next transfer window, as they will have to reposition themselves again in order to finally win that elusive Champions League trophy.

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