Probably more easily than expected, Juventus beat Sassuolo 3-0 in the 20th round of the Serie A campaign at the Allianz Stadium in Turin on Tuesday.
A first-half brace from Dusan Vlahovic (15′, 37′) got the home side well on their way, and Federico Chiesa put the final touch on with little more than a minute left of the 90.
Both coaches had significant player absences to work around. For Juventus, there was no Paul Pogba or Nicolo Fagioli in the middle of the park – both are suspended for different reasons. Weston McKennie and Federico Gatti were also forced to miss out through yellow-card accumulation, while Moise Kean (foot) and Mattia De Sciglio (ACL) were injured.
Massilimiliano Allegri deployed the those available in his recognizable 3-5-2 formation, with Wojciech Szczesny in goal, and Daniele Rugani joining Gleison Bremer and Danilo in the back line. Manuel Locatelli, Adrien Rabiot and Fabio Miretti were the heart of the team, flanked by Filip Kostic on the left and Andrea Cambiaso on the right. Kenan Yildiz paired up with Vlahovic upfront, consigning Arkadiusz Milik to the bench.
Meanwhile, Sassuolo boss Alessio Dionisi had five injuries in his squad – Jeremy Toljan (thigh), Matias Vina (knee), Uros Racic (calf), Gregoire Defrel (calf), and Pedro Obiang (muscle).
With the visiting team arranged in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Andrea Pinamonti led the attack, with the trio of Armand Lauriente, Kristian Thorstvedt and Domenico Berardi in support. Matheus Henrique and Daniel Boloca were the midfield pair. The back line consisting of Gian Marco Ferrari and Martin Erlic as the centre-backs and Mattia Viti and Marcus Holmgren Pedersen as the fullbacks, stood in front of goalkeeper Andrea Consigli.
It wasn’t exactly a game loaded with chances at either end, but it certainly had its moment of quality from both sides. Interestingly enough, it was Sassuolo who ended it with the greater possession percentage (55%), which perhaps isn’t too surprising given that they had to chase the result since the 15th minute.
On the whole, Juventus didn’t exactly create much even in the first half, but moments of sheer brilliance from Vlahovic earned them a tangible advantage. The Serbian striker broke the deadlock after receiving the ball from Miretti just outside the box. He had just enough space to turn and take aim. His fine shot beat Consigli, though maybe some would ask the question whether the Sassuolo goalkeeper should’ve done more to tip it over the bar.
There was nothing, however, Consigli could’ve done to stop Vlahovic’s second. It was a free-kick taken to perfection, skimming any cobweb that might’ve lingered in the near top corner, and showing impeccable shooting technique from Juventus’ €80 million man.
Feeling very confident after scoring twice, Vlahovic had another go from another free-kick later on, but that time Consigli read his mind and got behind the ball in time to make an easy save.
As for Sassuolo, they looked as if they might cause Juventus problems on several occasions, with Lauriente looking particularly lively on the left wing and Berardi showing his quality on occasion as well. But the home defence acted responsibly, and Szczesny made several excellent saves to secure a clean sheet. Arguably the best one happened in the 63rd minute when Berardi broke on the counterattack through the middle.While Pedersen pulled out to the left and thus prevented the Juventus defenders from focusing on one threat, Berardi let one fly from outside the box, almost wrong-footing Szczesny, but the Poland international stuck his arm out at a crucial moment to stifle it.
Still, time wore on and Sassuolo’s strength gradually waned, and Juventus took the chance to start sniffing around their goal again. Substitute Timothy Weah really should’ve scored from close range in the 76th minute, but his poorly controlled half-volley went high over the bar.
And as the game entered the last two minutes of the 90, Milik, who had previously replaced Vlahovic on the pitch, won the ball high in the opposition half, Locatelli took it on and laid it off for Chiesa (also a substitute). The former Fiorentina winger hit a very feeble shot that Consigli really shouldn’t allow himself to get beaten by, and yet it somehow fooled him on its way into the net.
This defeat, though not really unexpected, has left Sassuolo in a difficult position, even though they still remain the only team to have beaten Juventus in the Serie A this season and even though they put in a decent effort here as well. The 3-0 scoreline does seem a bit harsh on Alessio Dionisi’s men, but there’s nothing left for them but to dust themselves off and have another go when they face Monza away in the next round.
The most worrying aspect for Sassuolo is the fact that there is just two points between them and Hellas Verona in the relegation zone, which obviously means a defeat in Monza might in theory see them drop below the line. On the other hand, their performance against Juventus was far from bad, and providing they can get over the result quickly, there is hope for things to click properly for them in the remaining part of the season.
Meanwhile, Juventus are putting a strong pressure on Inter at the top of the table. As things stand, it seems the race will be decided between them and no other team, though AC Milan might still sneak in there with luck on their side. Inter currently lead the way with 51 points, Juventus are on 49, and Milan on 42.
Inter will face Lazio in the Supercoppa Italiana on Friday, and after that, they’ll travel to Florence for a clash against Fiorentina, while Juventus take on Lecce away this Sunday and Empoli at home on January 27th.
After that, on the evening of February 4th, the two Scudetto contenders will meet directly at the Giuseppe Meazza in Milan.