Anxiety replaced the infatuating enthusiasm we’ve seen with AS Monaco up until this point in the Champions League as Leonardo Jardim’s men succumbed to pressure in front of tactically perfect Serie A champions Juventus.
Bianconeri kept their lines and executed the plan perfectly to stifle AS Monaco’s flair and use their lethal counterattack to score two huge away goals that all but book their ticket for Cardiff.
Here are the five things we learned tonight:
Juventus tactically brilliant
Serie A champions Juventus have been one of the most consistent Champions League performers this season.
Bianconeri will have Massimiliano Allegri’s tactical brilliance to thank for, since the Italian tactician’s touches have made a crucial difference when it comes to lifting Juventus’ performance to completely new level this season. The Old Lady is defensively organized and self-disciplined, every player knows what his duties are and compromises are simply not allowed. Regardless of the formation they deploy, Juventus are such a huge threat upfront and such a thick wall to break in the back and AS Monaco were unfortunate to feel it on their skin at Stade Louis II on Wednesday night.
Dani Alves still world-class
One of the most surprising tactical touches we saw on the big night in Monaco by head coach Max Allegri was his decision to give Andrea Barzagli a place in the starting line-up and include the 35-year-old Italy defender in his four-man backline.
Such a decision involved pushing Dani Alves further up the field and slotting him into the winger position which is one the Brazilian international is not exactly unfamiliar with. Allegri tactically rested Alves at Atalanta last time out and the Brazilian was full of energy at Monaco, tormenting the Principality club defences throughout the match, while at the same time making great contribution in defensive duties. The 33-year-old tracked back, slotted in defensive midfield position to cover for his teammates at times and was overall one of the most agile players for the visiting side capping his performance with two assists. Barcelona are still struggling to find a proper replace for the man who is still a world-class player.
AS Monaco’s inexperience exposed
They might be one of the most exciting teams on the European stage this season, but AS Monaco’s inexperience in the competition proved to be a crucial factor in Leonardo Jardim’s performance in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal against a side as experienced as Juventus.
AS Monaco have not been a noticeable force in Europe ever since 2003/04 season when they were stopped in the final of the Champions League at the hands of Porto. It was Juventus who eliminated them ten years later in the quarterfinal, and this year’s semifinal is their best achievement in a while. It is only natural that a squad with an average age of 25.4 was nervous and not at their best in front of such a formidable Italian force. The anxiety proved to be costly, ultimately, as Juventus ended up recording almost too comfortable of a win.
Kylian Mbappe already top drawer player
Even on a toothless night and an impotent performance from his team such as this one, the exciting French talent Kylian Mbappe somehow managed to stick his head above water and prove that he truly is one of the highly-rated football talents on the continent.
The 18-year-old forward was the most agile player in his team. Mbappe used his flamboyance to try and put pressure on Juventus back-four which he did on a number of occasions. It was Mbappe who had the best chance for AS Monaco in the first half when he latched on a lovely cross from Dirar with a first-time shot which Buffon collected comfortably in the end. He was constantly trying to break forward, poking Juventus defence and attempting to dance his way into dangerous areas once more suggesting that his flying form is more than a temporary spell, but rather a permanent trait of a top-drawer player.
Juventus can win this thing
The Serie A champions have a chance to clinch their domestic title as soon as next week and are best positioned to fully focus on their Champions League exploits out of all teams left in the competition.
Nine points ahead of AS Roma, Juventus have that luxury AS Monaco, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid lack. The Principality club can’t afford to relax for a moment, despite their three-point lead ahead of PSG and a game in hand, whereas Real Madrid are still under heavy pressure from Barcelona. Juventus’ entire season and entire generation has come down to this moment in Europe as Bianconeri make the final push towards winning the title they have last won back in 1995/96 season. Title holders Real Madrid – who are one leg in the final already after their compelling 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid – will face a challenging task against the highly-motivated side who has conceded only 2 goals in 11 Champions League matches this season.
AS MONACO: Subasic 6.5 – Dirar 6.5, Glik 6.5, Jemerson 6, Sidibe 6 – Silva 6 (Toure -), Fabinho 6.5, Bakayoko 6 (Moutinho 6), Lemar 6.5 (Gemrain 6) – Falcao 6.5, Mbappe 7.
Unused subs: Cardona, Jorge, De Sanctis, Raggi.
JUVENTUS: Buffon 7.5 – Barzagli 7, Bonucci 7.5, Chiellini 7, Alex Sandro 7 – Pjanic 7.5, Marchisio 7 (Rincon -) – Alves 8.5, Dybala 8, Mandzukic 7.5 – Higuain 9 (Cuadrado 6).
Unused subs: Asamoah, Benatia, Lemina, Lichtsteiner, Neto.
REFEREE: Antonio Mateu Lahoz
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