Fresh off their 4-0 drubbing away at Sampdoria on Sunday, the unpredictable Sassuolo predictably provided a stern test for Juventus in their Coppa Italia quarter-final on Thursday night.
The Neroverdi were in the ascendancy almost right after Paulo Dybala opened the scoring early on as Juve struggled to find any rhythm in a first-half performance that resembled their very worst showings of 2021.
Hamed Traore deservedly equalised for the superior visitors and after 60 minutes, the contest was very much in the balance. However, the alterations made by Max Allegri saw the Bianconeri wrestle back control and, in the end, they were the rightful victors in this hard-fought tie.
Holders Juve will now take on Fiorentina in the semi-finals with one of the two Milan clubs waiting in the competition’s showpiece.
Here are four takeaways from Juventus’ 2-1 Coppa Italia victory over Sassuolo on Thursday night.
Allegri opted to subtly deviate from the system that helped Juventus beat Hellas Verona at the weekend. The 4-4-2 out of possession shape returned, while a lopsided 4-2-3-1 manifested with the ball.
Alex Sandro was encouraged to advance from left-back, while Mattia De Sciglio often tucked infield on the opposite flank. The back three were supported by a double pivot of Denis Zakaria and Arthur Melo as Weston McKennie and Paulo Dybala operated from between the lines. Juan Cuadrado should’ve held the width down the right (he decided to float aimlessly around the pitch instead) while Dusan Vlahovic functioned as the lone forward. The configuration looked like a 3-4-2-1 in possession.
Initially, Juve had success with their press and they forced several high turnovers against a side that persistently play out from defence. Their bright start was rewarded through Dybala’s opener, but Sassuolo then started to find their groove. The hosts sank into their mid-block as the visitors enjoyed periods of sustained possession. At times, it appeared that Alessio Dionisi had set his side up in a 3-diamond-3 – akin to Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona – that allowed Sassuolo to dominate in the middle of the park against Juve’s pivot.
Dionisi’s side were denied several times by Mattia Perin before Traore restored parity with a fine effort. It was more than they deserved. Between the two goals, a sloppy Juventus boasted no transition threat whatsoever as Sassuolo’s counter-press kept them penned in their half.
The hosts improved somewhat after the equaliser but frequent errors meant their attacks were broken as opposed to sustained. They were devoid of rhythm and bereft of fluency until Allegri made the all-important systematic switch on the hour.