In the 30th edition of the Supercoppa Italiana Final, last year’s Serie A and Coppa Italia Champions Juventus faced last season’s Coppa Italia runners up Lazio. Winning the trophy for a joint record of 7 times along with Milan, Juventus looked to set a record by winning their eighth. Lazio on the other hand looked to win their fourth Supercoppa Italiana title. After a seemingly passable outing in the preseason, Juventus looked to start the 17/18 campaign on a brighter note with a win.

Line ups

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Juventus (4-2-3-1) | Manager: Max Allegri

1.Buffon – 15.Barzagli, 4.Benatia, 3.Chiellini, 12.Sandro – 6.Khedira, 5.Pjanic – 7.Cuadrado, 10.Dybala, 17.Mandzukic – 9.Higuain

Lazio (3-5-1-1) | Manager: Simone Inzaghi

1.Strakosha – 13.Wallace, 3.de Vrij, 26.Radu – 8.Basta, 16.Parolo, 6.Leiva, 21.Milinkovic-Savic, 19.Lulic – 18.Luis Alberto – 17.Immobile

After a great last season, Allegri and his men started the game in the way they ended last season. Having seen certain success and recuperating well from their 3-5-2, the 4-2-3-1 proved to be the way going forward. Juventus started with the same set up in the first competitive fixture of the season as Benatia and Chiellini played in front of Buffon flanked by Barzagli in the right and Sandro in the left. In the midfield, the double pivot was formed by Khedira and Pjanic while the attacking trio behind the striker Higuain comprised of Cuadrado, Dybala and Mandzukic.

Lazio, on the other hand, started the game with a back three set-up. Strakosha started in between the sticks as Wallace, Stefan de Vrij and Radu played in defence. Basta and Lulic played as the wing backs while Parolo, Lucas Leiva and Luis Alberto played in the central midfield. Milinkovic-Savic and Cairo Immobile formed the attacking partnership upfront in the initial stage as Simone Inzaghi looked to start the season on a winning note.

Lazio escape the Juve pressure, stifles Juve’s defence

In the opening 5-10 minutes of the game, it looked as though Juventus started the game from where they left last season. Juventus were in total control as they looked to free Sandro in the left to bring out the ball. Three corners in two minutes showed how Juventus were hungry for goals and they came very close when Cuadrado’s point blank attempt from a Sandro cross was saved by Strakosha.

However as Lazio began to settle in the game, they took control of it. Pressing was the key in Lazio’s game play. As Juventus were poor in their ball distribution, Lazio were able to capitalize on it. The initial confusions surrounded the Juventus camp as to why Barzagli was started in right back when de Sciglio was available. Another question was raised as a very inconsistent Cuadrado was given the start ahead of the brilliant customer Douglas Costa.

Juve played with a high block with three forwards playing high upfront off the ball however Lazio were able to take the ball out by playing long crossed to wide players. When the Lazio central three failed to find the players wide/up-top, either one of Lucas Leiva or Parolo would drop deep to collect the ball.

Widely stationed wing backs

One of the key factors for Lazio going forward was the ability of the centre backs and midfielders to find their players in the wide areas through long balls. In the image below it is visible how Luis Alberto plays a long ball to the right wing back Basta. Here the ball near wing back stays very wide which sould give the ball carrier an option to pass the ball. To deny the option, the winger Cuardado would cover the passing lane.

Also we can see how deep Cairo Immobile has dropped deep to receive the ball. This situation now influences Benatia follow him vacating the central defence. This space will now be occupied by the ball far centre midfielder who would be occupied by the Juventus ball far central defender and full back. These movements free the lane for Luis Alberto to pass to the ball far wing back, Basta, who would stay wide to take it to the danger zone.

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This opportunity is mainly created by the ball far central midfielder who would move from the half space to the no.9 zone thereby attracting the defenders. To gain the advantage in the central defensive area, Juve has created a 2v1 in the back at the expense of exposing themselves in the wide region. However the adeptness of Luis Alberto (which ever ball carrier) in playing the long ball is most important.

Playing with three at the back, Lazio were the better team in possession as they brought out the ball well. In the below instance the ball carrier 26 has three options to play the ball in the wide areas. The high block of Juventus, Mandzukic – Higuain – Dybala, was not very effective as they allowed the side backs to play the ball well.

From the below instance it is visible how the wingbacks are side stationed widely so as to provide an option for the ball carrier. Here the two wing backs are seen wide with free passing lanes whikle the central midfielders occupy the opponent’s defensive covers. Here Radu has the options of playing a short ball to Basta or to Wallace. Wallace would then play the left wing back Lucic or Lulic would directly be met by Radu.

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The positioning of midfielders and their influence to attract the opposition defences played a key role in playing the ball to the wide areas. This is how Lazio attacked in most cases when they were on the ball and circulated possession.

Lazio’s 5-2-3 Press

One of the key factors of the game was the pressing of Lazio and Juventus’ poor ball circulation. It should be rightly stated that the poor ball circulation of Juventus helped Lazio in their 5-2-3 pressing. Lazio initially started the game with Milinkovic-Savic starting along with Immobile in a 5-3-2 shape. However Inzaghi’s understanding of the game was great such that he asked Luis Alberto to join the duo during the press.

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From the above image, we can see the 2-3 press adopted by Lazio. During build up the left back Sandro often joined the attacking portion as the trident of Barzagli, Benatia and Chiellini spread out wide. Here Benatia is in possession with the ball and he is being pressed by Immobile while the other players in the side are in the cover shadows of Savic and Alberto.

In the centre, Pjanic and Khedira were marked by Lucas Leiva and Parolo. This created a situational 5v5 in the Juventus defensive half. However the advantage was in the hands of Lazio as they shut the passing lanes and Juventus often had to play the ball up top. This 5v5 was also in a positional advantage for Lazio as one mistake could lead them straight on towards goal.

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When Juventus looked to build out from the back, Lazio were brilliant in their pressing again. The above instance shows the situation in which Barzagli plays a pass towards Pjanic and how Lazio forwards press him altogether. Lulic is trying to close the passing lane of Pjanic to Cuadrado should he win the ball while Immobile, Leiva and Savic press towards him.

In most occasions, this also included the press from the back when the back three pressed the forwards when they were about to receive the ball. This came into play as the defenders always had their opponents in their cover shadows and this allowed them to press one before they received the ball. This helped Lazio to break out and counter from dangerous positions.

Lazio Counter from dangerous positions

If Lazio’s press helped them to win balls in dangerous positions, it definitely developed their chances of breaking from those situations. The key point about Lazio’s counter was their ability to allow Juventus into their half and win the ball back to create havoc from breaks. In the instance below, we can see the positions taken up by Lazio and Juventus players just as soon as Lazio press and win the ball.

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This situation proves very dangerous for Juventus as Lazio’s best player Cairo Immobile  is set free with one through ball and is 1v1 with the keeper. Another instance is seen below where Lazio once again release the player forward into the free space. Here Chiellini falls into the pressing as he fails to press the ball out from Parolo. He lays it off to Immobile who holds the ball well against the pressure from Barzagli. Now Immobile passes the ball into free space which is met by Luis Alberto.

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Final changes by Allegri as Juventus gain momentum

Only as the clock reached near the hour mark Allegri understood that his team was being dominated and hence brought in players to change the course of the game. By bringing in de Sciglio to replace Benatia, Allegri now shifted Barzagli to partner Chiellini in the center as Sciglio played as the right back.

Also, Allegri brought in the much needed change as Costa came into the pitch for Cuadrado. The presence of Costa added more pace and quality to the attacking stage. His pass combinations along with Dybala proved crucial and when Bernardeschi replaced Mandzukic Juventus were in total control. From the below image we can identify how the team structures panned out after the changes.

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Presence of Bernardeschi and Dybala together gave more of a free role to Costa who took up different positions in the attacking area. As the game was nearing the end Juventus finally had the control over Lazio and this made Inzaghi to defend with banks of four and five in a 5-4-1. Juventus had scored from two set pieces from Dybala late into the game, a brilliant freekick and a penalty. However Lazio got lucky in the next minute when Murgia scored after Jordan Lukaku placed into his path after evading the tackle from de Sciglio.

Conclusion

Having failed to score against Juventus in seven previous outings, Lazio finally scored three on the night against the Champions. It was an astonishing result as a team assembled with just few million pounds had won a side which is one of the richest clubs in the world. With this win, Lazio have won their first title in four years after their 2013 Coppa Italia title. For Juventus however this defeat should be a lesson learnt for Allegri and his side as they were dominated for a major part of the game.

 

Saiguhan Elancheran