The upcoming Champions League semi-final between Juventus and AS Monaco is setting up to be the most intriguing tie of the final four. There are so many contrasts.The matchup pits all out offence vs staunch defense. It is the highest scoring team going up against the team that has conceded the least goals. One club is the youngest in the tournament and the other is the most experienced. Despite both teams entertaining all season only one can advance to the Final in Cardiff. Here is the tactical preview between these two dynamic teams.
The Bianconeri are coming into this fixture as the heavy favourites to advance. In fact, they’ve been tipped by many experts to win the big-eared trophy. Juventus have been absolutely dominant since switching to a 4-2-3-1 system in January. Max Allegri’s “5 star system” allows all of Juve’s big guns: Pjanic, Dybala, Higuain, Mandzukic to be on the pitch at all times. Allegri, who is one of the most underrated coaches in the world, has been able to get the very best of his players and utilizing their strengths to shut down their opponent adapting to every team they face and their different style of play. The Old Lady is characterized by its team organization. Everyone is allowed to go forward in attack as long as they come back to defend. Juventus is one of the best teams in the world at tracking back from the forward position and holding up play. Teams will always be facing Juve at their very best. Paulo Dybala came of age against Barcelona as one of the rising stars of world football. Juventus also boasts the best defence of the competition conceding 2 goals in 10 games, the last of which came in the second last game of the group stages against Sevilla. Shutting down Barcelona’s front three is one of the great challenges of world football. Not only did Juventus stop them but they outclassed the Spanish giants in every position. The Bianconeri unlike in years past have built an incredible fortitude forged from the experience of past failures. The 2015 Champions League final and the exit to Bayern in last year’s round of 16 were invaluable in teaching Juventus how to close games and play against big opponents. This experience definitely helped in their rout of Barcelona. Veterans Buffon, Chiellini, Bonucci, Dani Alves and Mandzukic have seen it all in Europe and in the Champions League that is more valuable than advanced statistics. Sami Kehidra who has been Juve’s best midfielder this season will be suspended for the first leg. Despite this being a blow Claudio Marchisio is more than capable of filling in. In addition to this Juventus have an unfathomable 49 game unbeaten streak at Juventus Stadium in all competitions which bodes well for the second leg.
The graphic below shows the commitment every player had against Barcelona to win back the ball. Juventus tried to press Barcelona’s players whenever they recycled the ball to the defenders and the back. Juventus’ press aimed to prevent Barcelona from building up from the back. They tried to block Marc-André ter Stegen’s passing lanes to the closest defenders. Most importantly, they sought to eliminate Sergio Busquets from participating into the build-up by having Sami Khedira man-mark him (via www.outsideoftheboot.com).
The Ligue 1 outifit have been the revelation of the season. Not only have they taken Europe by storm but they are currently first in their domestic league that has been dominated by PSG this decade. They have done it through their team speed and on the backs on very fresh legs. Monaco is one of the highest scoring teams in Europe. They currently have a + 66 goal differential in France, 20 more than PSG. Monaco were criticized for resting their starters in the loss against PSG in the domestic Coupe De France, but quite obviously for good reason. With only 4 games left in the domestic campaign and a 3 point lead Monaco’s main focus is capturing the league title. In Europe they have scored 22 goals. They have been able to impressively beat richer, more experienced clubs in the knockout stages such as Manchester City and most recently Borussia Dortmund. Kylian Mbappe the 18 year old wonderkid described as the next Thierry Henry has 5 goals in the knockout stages of the Champions League and has taken Europe by storm. He has been sought after by the biggest clubs in Europe already. Monaco’s offense is characterized by their quick fullbacks and wingers who drive play forward and cross from the flanks. They play in a wide 4-4-2 that can switch to a diamond formation. Almamy Toure, Bejamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, and Nabil Dirar have been dangerous on both left and right sides of midfield and defence. Radamel Falcao who was all but washed up a year ago has resurrected his career with 28 goals in all competitions this season. For all the goals they’ve scored Monaco concedes a lot. They have conceded 16 goals so far in the competition, living and dying by the sword of their goal scoring. Monaco has also been tough to beat at home this season, their only losses in the Champions League coming away from the hostile Stade Louis II.
The graphic below shows Monaco’s fluidity in adapting their 4-4-2 formation. This gave Borussia Dortmund all they could handle in the first leg. The formation at times almost resembled a diamond as Lemar and Silva played more narrowly than usual, with Mbappé operating more centrally, as opposed to cutting in from the left per usual. These small tweaks were imperative in allowing Monaco, without the dynamism of Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibé to drive play from the fullback positions, to control midfield, even as they didn’t dominate possession (via www.outsideoftheboot.com).
Juventus 4-2-3-1: Buffon, Dani Alves, Bonucci, Chiellini, Alex Sandro, Pjanic, Marchisio, Cuadrado, Dybala, Mandzukic, Higuain
Monaco 4-4-2: Subasic, Dirar, Glik, Fabinho, Toure, Silva, Moutinho, Bakayoko, Lemar, Mbappe, Falcao
Juventus have the talent both up front and at the back to defeat Monaco. This was their most desired draw and the Bianconeri should advance. Monaco has been a great story but against an experienced team in Juventus it is unlikely that they will come up on top over two legs. Juve’s defence and goaltending will be hard to beat. They are the most intelligent club in the world and can adapt to any squad presented to them. Higuain and Dybala are two of the best in world football and should be able to create enough chances to score the necessary goals to win.
First Leg: Monaco 0- Juventus- 2
Second Leg: Juventus 2- Monaco- 0