The 2022/23 season has been a dismal one to say the least for Juventus but the presence of Angel Di Maria has been a shining light in their campaign. Although he turned 35 on February 14, the versatile Argentina international has not shown signs of slowing down after playing a vital role in his country’s 2022 World Cup victory, and he was inspirational again for his club as the Bianconeri eliminated Nantes from the Europa League.
Di Maria scored a hat-trick in the 3-0 win in France, which meant that Juventus progressed 4-1 on aggregate and into the Round of 16 of the competition. With a 15-point penalty placed upon them in Serie A, qualifying for Europe via the domestic route will be difficult so a Europa League triumph is their only hope of qualifying for the 2023/24 Champions League.
However, for La Vecchia Signora to go far in Europe, a fit and firing Di Maria is fundamental.
Di Maria thriving as a trequartista for Juventus
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has predominantly implemented the 3-5-1-1 formation this season with Di Maria operating behind a lone striker. The Bianconeri’s play in general looks predictable but the Argentine has shown that he can create something out of nothing.
His fitness was concerning in the first half of the 2022/23 campaign as he kept dropping in and out of the squad with injuries. When he was fit, he displayed enough quality to lift this Juve side as he evidently showed in a 3-1 victory against Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League, supplying a hat-trick of assists.
Since the turn of the year, Di Maria has scored three goals and supplied two assists in seven Serie A games, which included a stunning strike in the 2-0 win against Spezia on the weekend. Now he is replicating those performances in European ties for Juventus where his guile and experience take on greater importance.
Nantes fall victim to Di Maria magic
The 35-year-old opened the scoring in the first half with a phenomenal bending strike which he hit first time, and after Nantes defender Roland Pallois handballed on the line, then promptly sent off, he scored the second from the penalty spot.
Juventus had a plethora of chances to add a third, but Alban Lafont was superb in goal for the Breton side. However, Di Maria completed his hat-trick with a shot Lafont attempted to keep out, only for the ball to cross the line before he got a touch.
Moise Kean was leading the line against Nantes for the Bianconeri before Dusan Vlahovic replaced him after 64 minutes, but it clearly had little effect on Di Maria. Regardless of who the support acts are, the Argentinian veteran is capable of running the show on his terms.