Last weekend's biggest Serie A game was the top of the table clash between Inter Milan and Juventus, better known as the Derby D'Italia. Going into the match, Inter had a 100 per cent win record in the league and were top of the standings, two points ahead of Juventus, who had only dropped points against Fiorentina, following a 0-0 draw at home earlier in the season.
Paulo Dybala opened the scoring for the Bianconeri in the fourth minute from a tight angle, and Samir Handanovic should've done better to keep out the Argentine's effort. In a chaotic few minutes after that, Cristiano Ronaldo hit the post and Inter won a penalty, following Matthijs de Ligt's handball. Lautaro Martinez converted the resultant spot-kick to make it 1-1.
Both teams' respective substitutions are what really turned the tide of the game. Antonio Conte was forced to substitute Stefano Sensi and Diego Godin because of injuries, which saw the introductions of Matias Vecino and youngster Alessandro Bastoni.On the other hand, Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri introduced Gonzalo Higuain, Rodrigo Bentancur, and Emre Can. Juventus' substitutions paid off as Higuain scored the winner in the 79th minute from a Bentancur pass. Higuain was played free by Bastoni, and Sensi's absence was severely missed by Inter. It was an exciting affair at the San Siro, and here are the three takeaways from the game:
#1 Cristiano Ronaldo & Paulo Dybala CAN play together
Last season, Paulo Dybala saw his minutes decrease under then Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri. Dybala was even linked with summer moves to Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, but he turned down the offers which prompted many to think that he was determined to stay and prove himself under new manager Sarri. However, we still haven’t seen a consistent XI from Sarri, with Dybala being in and out of the team.
Since Ronaldo’s transfer to Juventus in 2018, Dybala has struggled for consistency and failed to link-up well with the Portuguese star. However, Sarri opted for Dybala and Ronaldo as his two forwards, and the move paid off.
Dybala played as the second striker during his time at Palermo, alongside Franco Vazquez. In this role, Dybala’s best qualities are on display. As a second striker, the Argentine can get deeper in more of a number 10 role as well as drift wide and create chances from the flanks. Ronaldo also tends to drift wide to the left which allows Dybala to be more of a central player.
This fluidity between Ronaldo and Dybala are exactly what Juventus need as both are creative players and goalscorers. Dybala is also arguably Juventus' most technically-gifted player, and embedding him into the starting line-up consistently will only be a plus for the Bianconeri.
#2 Gonzalo Higuain is confident and motivated
Higuain and Sarri have mostly had a successful relationship, and this is their third team together. However, this isn’t the same Higuain from his time at Napoli. Many thought Higuain would leave in the summer, but he decided to stay and prove himself at Juventus.
Higuain has a lot to prove after a poor season last term. The Argentine spent the first half of the 2018-19 campaign at AC Milan, and after an unsuccessful spell at the San Siro, he joined Sarri's Chelsea in January. Higuain failed to shine in the Premier League as well as he seemingly lacked the confidence in front of goal that he always had.
Dybala and Ronaldo should be the front two going forward for Juventus, but Higuain is a great substitute option. This season, he has scored three goals so far, and they were all important. Higuain scored once in the 4-3 win over Napoli, the winner against Inter, and a goal in the Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen. The Argentine might not be good enough to start consistently for a top team anymore, but Sarri being confident in him as a reliable substutite could be a vital factor for the Old Lady.
#3 The Diamond formation gives more freedom to Miralem Pjanic
Miralem Pjanic has often been criticized for fading out of games. But against Inter, things were different as Pjanic was one of Juventus' top players. As he was the Italian champions' deepest-lying midfielder, everything was going through the Bosnian. Pjanic had 100 touches on the ball, which was more than any other player on the pitch. Besides that, eight of the 11 longballs he attempted, found a team-mate. Pjanic also set up the first goal with his pass to Dybala.
The diamond formation that Sarri has played this season has suited Pjanic. Playing as the deepest midfielder, Pjanic has Blaise Matuidi and Sami Khedira playing a little ahead of him, which in turn protects the Bosnian and gives him more space to dictate play from the deep.
Andrea Pirlo played a similar role for Juventus years ago, with the likes of Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio doing more of the leg work around him.Published 09 Oct 2019, 13:51 IST