Despite their struggles in Serie A and in Europe, Juventus still have a chance of winning a trophy this season as they defeated Lazio 1-0 in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals on Thursday evening.
The Bianconeri have been demoted to the Europa League after finishing behind Benfica and Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League group while a 15-point penalty placed upon the club for capital gains fraud has seen them drop down to 13th in Serie A.
A solitary goal from Gleison Bremer just before half-time was enough to secure victory for Juventus on Thursday night though. However, one of the unsung heroes for La Vecchia Signora was Manuel Locatelli, who had a fine game in midfield against the Biancocelesti.
Locatelli asserts controls in midfield
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri implemented the 3-5-2 formation against Lazio with Locatelli, Nicolo Fagioli, and Adrien Rabiot as his central midfielders, and they faced an Aquile midfield consisting of Matias Vecino, Danilo Cataldi, and Luis Alberto.
Operating as a regista or deep-lying playmaker, the 25-year-old was able to keep play ticking in the middle of the park and he also was competent in his defensive duties.
Locatelli completed 45 out of 51 passes with an accuracy of 88% and made five successful passes into the attacking third. Defensively, he made four blocks, two clearances, and three interceptions.
With Paul Pogba being sidelined throughout this season and Leandro Paredes failing to make an impact at Juventus, Locatelli replicating the type of form he displayed at Sassuolo can be of great benefit to the Bianconeri as they try to salvage something from this dismal campaign.
Sarri fails to outcoach Allegri in another clash of the Tuscan tacticians
It was another battle won for Allegri, who has often had the better of his Lazio counterpart Maurizio Sarri. During Allegri’s first spell with the Bianconeri, the Livorno native would often emerge victorious against Napoli teams coached by the Naples-born tactician raised in the province of Florence.
In 17 encounters between the two coaches, Sarri has only won three times against Allegri and they were all when the 64-year-old was coaching the Neapolitan side. Arguably the most famous of those wins was a 1-0 victory in the 2017/18 Serie A season in Turin, which gave the Partenopei some hope of breaking Juve’s domestic dominance.
Earlier this season, Juventus and Lazio boasted the best defences in Serie A, but the Bianconeri were successful in breaching the Biancocelesti backline and won 3-0. Like in Thursday evening’s Coppa Italia game, Sarri was not able to find a way past Allegri’s deep defensive block and the Juve boss saw his team keep another clean sheet.
Sarri’s philosophy is a modern approach to football whereas Allegri is a classical Italian pragmatist. Once again in this encounter, the 55-year-old was able to nullify his Aquile counterpart and Sarri had no solutions to break La Vecchia Signora down.