“We need to be even better because tomorrow’s match versus Torino will be harder than the one against Chelsea,” uttered Massimiliano Allegri ahead of the weekend’s Derby della Mole.
On the face of it, Allegri’s prophecy seems pretty silly. European champions Chelsea are obviously superior to Juventus’ Piedmontese side-kick, but there is some logic to what the Bianconeri boss said.
Firstly, although it’s been six years since Torino last claimed victory over the Old Lady, the competitiveness of any derby can’t be understated, especially one that arrives so early in the season. Both sides are still finding their feet. Secondly, in the wake of their impressive continental conquest, the possibility of complacency creeping into a confident Juventus can’t be ruled out. However, they can’t take Ivan Juric’s side lightly.
The Torino boss’ unique system, one that somewhat resembles Thomas Tuchel’s at Chelsea, will ensure Saturday’s contest is a real battle. Last season, we saw Juric’s Hellas Verona, widely regarded as a mini-Atalanta due to their heavy man-orientation in defence, take four points off Andrea Pirlo’s Bianconeri.
The new boss is slowly starting to inculcate his idiosyncratic ideals onto the Granata, and his side enter Matchday 7 four games unbeaten. There’s optimism on the Toro side of Turin of upsetting the odds on Saturday. To do so, they must dominate in one key area.
The key battle: Juric’s press vs Juve’s build-up
While Ivan Juric-coached sides aren’t serial high pressers, they are typically well-drilled out of possession. His Verona side last season registered just the 13th highest number of pressures in the attacking third (1,145) but the fifth-highest percentage of successful pressures (30.2%). They were markedly astute.
This time around, however, his Torino side have sought to win back possession high upfield. They rank fifth in the division for pressures in the attacking third after six games (224), while their successful pressure percentage of 30.1% ranks fourth.
So far, they’ve been an efficient pressing unit and Juric’s press will be key to beating Juventus in the derby.
The Bianconeri’s build-up isn’t very sophisticated, although we have seen various structures. On Saturday, taking the projected XI into account, we should expect the visitors to build in a 3-1 shape. Danilo will shift infield from right-back, allowing Alex Sandro to advance, while Manuel Locatelli is the sole metronome in midfield. Rodrigo Bentancur doesn’t contribute to the build-up at all when deployed in his favoured box-to-box role.
Nevertheless, this structure isn’t conducive to creating superiorities in the first phase and we saw on Wednesday that if you nullify Locatelli, Juve struggle to play out from the back. Hakim Ziyech marked the Italian out of the contest for the most part.
Thus, Allegri’s side have been bailed out by the passing range of Leonardo Bonucci, but the veteran Italian’s set to be rested following a long streak in the starting XI. This could be detrimental to the visitors, who’ll be heavily reliant on the technical security of Danilo and Locatelli when building from the back. While Matthijs de Ligt is ever-improving in possession, he can’t be relied upon and Giorgio Chiellini has never been a proficient ball-player.
So, Juric will surely seek to deploy a similar game plan to Tuchel and shut out Locatelli.
Torino could dominate
Should Torino press successfully, there’s scope for them to dominate the contest in terms of both possession and territory. The dynamic genuinely could be similar to the Chelsea game, with Juventus struggling to get out.
If the visitors are forced long, they’re bereft of Bonucci’s precision and an aerial presence. Federico Bernardeschi’s feet will have to be found, or they’ll be reduced to hopeful balls into space for their despairing outlets to latch onto.
So, what I’m saying is, don’t be surprised if you’re pulling your hair out at Juventus’ performance in the derby. It could be incredibly frustrating as a result of Torino’s press and their own build-up deficiencies.
However, the quality of the Bianconeri’s outlets means they’ll inevitably have some success. But, Allegri was right to outline the difficulty of this fixture.