Juventus certainly played well against Sampdoria
The team were more convincing on Saturday compared to previous outings. Juventus are in a strong place domestically – in both Serie A and the Coppa Italia – after they picked up their fourth straight victory in the wake of their Champions League round of 16 first leg against Villarreal.
While Dusan Vlahovic did not start at the Luigi Ferraris, he also did not get the night off either. When he came on for Moise Kean in the 65th minute, he enjoyed a short shift and a short evening, but any rest is better than the gambit he had previously been on with the Old Lady since he arrived from Fiorentina in January.
The team benefitted from Sampdoria’s mistakes, of course, but the good teams are ruthless when they arise, and that is precisely what Juventus were: ruthlessly efficient. The brace by Morata was comforting to see, but the team and the supporters must take the performance as it was and look hopefully to the second leg of that aforementioned round of 16 match with the Yellow Submarine.
Villarreal will be no Sampdoria, Spezia or Fiorentina for Juventus
Fiorentina are a good squad, yet they are not the reigning Europa League champions. Unai Emery’s side are still very much in the tie and tend to play aggressively in big matches. They are not afraid of the moment, have experience winning big trophies, and they’ll try their utmost to control proceedings while attempting to neutralise Juve’s primary threat: Vlahovic.
In the absence of Paulo Dybala, Emery knows that Allegri’s Juventus currently runs through the 22-year-old Serb, and so they will look to put the pressure on the likes of Morata, Juan Cuadrado, perhaps Moise Kean, and whoever else to fill that void. Can those players step up? Morata has proven that he can, in particular circumstances, but the rest of the team must as well.
Dybala might play, Federico Bernardeschi could start or feature off of the bench, and Manuel Locatelli must play as he does for the Italian National Team. Big names must show up, and Allegri knows that he has to count on all of his big names, and not just the newest signing to the squad. Kean must come ready to contribute when his name and number gets called. He could be a real difference-maker when called onto the pitch for the final third or so of the match.
Juventus must face Villarreal, just as Villarreal must face Juventus
On the other hand, will the Old Lady be able to handle Villarreal? The team has been inconsistent in La Liga this season but they remain just three points off fourth spot, albeit having played more games than either Real Betis, Barcelona or Real Sociedad. Samuel Chukwueze is always a problem when he creates and provides width for the likes of Giovani Lo Celso, Moi Gomez and Arnaut Danjuma.
Their final third work can be devastating, as was witnessed in their match against Espanyol, but it can also be mediocre as was the case against Osasuna. Which will the Juventus defensive backline face? It is anyone’s guess of course, but either way, the Bianconeri won’t be concerned. Their defensive record has been imperious in recent months.
I think that the Empoli performance was cause for concern, but subsequent matches and continued stoutness in defence have eased tensions surrounding this point. A sound and solid showing by the Bianconeri on the road in Genoa must, however, be nothing more than building blocks towards this next match on Wednesday against the Yellow Submarine.
Can Juventus get through to the next round of Europe’s highest and most competitive competition? Yes, yes they can. They have the tools – especially if certain injuries have cleared up by that time – the coaching, as well as the constitution to make a real impact in this tournament, but overcoming the tough and virulent Villarreal will be the next step on that journey.