Saturday will be the first time Maurizio Sarri has faced former club Juventus since he was sacked by the club in the summer of 2020.
Succeeding Massimiliano Allegri amid a tyrannical period of domination over Calcio, Sarri just about did enough to guide Juve to their ninth straight Scudetto but he had failed to alter the club’s on-pitch identity in the way his bosses desired.
Hampered by poor squad building, the chain-smoking Italian failed to inculcate the ‘Sarri-ball’ ideals that had thrust him into the limelight during his time with Napoli. A disjointed press combined with a robotic attacking structure that had to serve the needs of a disgruntled Cristiano Ronaldo meant Sarri’s Juve were a far cry from his Napoli outfit. Thus, in the wake of their gritty league title, a humiliating Champions League exit at the hands of Lyon forced the Juve hierarchy into hasty action.
"“It was a courageous choice to bring in Sarri [by Juventus], but think about it. It’s like you’ve got Riccardo Muti, one of the great orchestra conductors, and instead of bringing him the musicians to play a symphony you bring in some rock stars.” – Arrigo Sacchi on Sarri’s time in Turin."
Sarri was gone, replaced by novice Andrea Pirlo, and he wouldn’t return to the sidelines until Antonio Conte had ended Juve’s supreme reign before departing Inter Milan following the conclusion of the 2020/21 campaign.
A financially stricken Nerazzurri drafted in Lazio mastermind Simone Inzaghi as his successor, with the Biancocelesti moving for Sarri, who had seen his stock dwindle ever since he exited Napoli for Chelsea in 2018.
Sarri’s mixed start in the Eternal City
It was a difficult start for Sarri at Lazio, although there are signs of the Biancocelesti coming to life with the previously outcasted Luis Alberto beginning to prosper. While their away record is abysmal, their form at the Stadio Olimpico is formidable and it’s helped them to fifth place in Serie A.
They’ve won five of their six home games to start the season, drawing the other, with Sarri already picking up the scalps of Inzaghi and Jose Mourinho in victories over Inter and AS Roma. He’ll be desperate to add Allegri and Juventus to that list on Saturday.
This is Maurizio Sarri’s revenge game.
Allegri & Juventus have always had Sarri’s number
The contrasting styles of Allegri and Sarri has been evident this term. The slow, methodical build-up of Lazio wildly differs from the direct, less structured nature of Juventus’ possession play.
Through 12 Serie A games in 2021/22, Lazio’s attacking sequences, on average, contain 4.52 passes and last 11.84 seconds. Both metrics rank second – behind only Napoli – in the league. Juve, meanwhile, rank ninth in both regards with 3.56 passes per sequence and an average sequence time of 9.71 seconds.
Saturday will be the ultimate battle of pragmatism versus idealism and in years gone by, it’s the former that’s frequently prevailed.
The history of these two managers dates back to 2003 when Sarri’s Sangiovannese played out a pair of stalemates against Allegri’s Aglianese. The two would next pit their wits against one another in 2008 with Sarri, now in charge of Hellas Verona, taking on Allegri’s Sassuolo in the depths of Serie C. Sassuolo triumphed 2-0 and it wasn’t until Sarri took the Napoli job in 2015 where he finally had some success against perennial Scudetto victor.
The former Chelsea boss’ three wins against the current Juve manager all came during his four-year stint in Naples as Sarri built a wonderful side capable of competing with the Old Lady for Scudetto glory. Still, it’s a rivalry dominated by Allegri, who’s won seven of the 11 meetings.
So, while there’s little to no animosity between the two managers, Sarri will be desperate to claim victory here against his ex-wife, the Old Lady, who had scapegoated the Italian idealist for their own mismanagement. The marriage was brief and it culminated in a bitter, resentful divorce but Maurizio Sarri has his first shot at redemption this weekend.