Juventus went one step closer to claiming a fourth consecutive Scudetto with a 1-1 draw at second place Roma. The result keeps the gap between the two sides at 9 points. Juventus will perhaps feel they missed an opportunity to extend their lead after Vasilis Torosidis was given a second yellow for a foul on Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez scored from the resulting kick. However, Seydou Keita earned his side a point after heading home an Alessandro Florenzi free kick.
This was a slow-moving contest- with Juventus comfortably in control of top spot in the league a draw was an acceptable result and they were content to defend deep with eleven men behind the ball and look to break on the counter. Roma lacked the creativity and tempo to break down a compact Juventus defense- they were too slow and methodical to cause the visitors problems. Tevez's goal was Juve's only shot on target but they were the more dangerous side throughout playing on the counter. Second half substitution Juan Iturbe injected some pace and direct running for Roma in the second half- he won the free kick that led to Keita's equalizer- but Roma were extremely poor in attack.
Rudi Garcia opted for the same starting eleven that beat Feyenoord in the Europa League Thursday in Rotterdam. Daniele De Rossi, Miralem Pjanic and Keita made up the midfield triangle in Garcia's 4-3-3 with Radja Naingollan left out.
Massimo Allegri returned to 3-5-2, Juve's default Serie A formation, after playing a diamond 4-4-2 in the bianconeri's 2-1 Champions League win over Dortmund last Tuesday. Andrea Pirlo was out with a calf injury sustained in that match and was replaced at the base of midfield by Claudio Marchisio. Paul Pogba also just missed out with Roberto Pereyra filling in alongside Vidal in the shuttling midfield role.
Juve defend deep
The most obvious tactical feature of this contest was Juventus's deep defending. Evra and Lichsteiner dropped back towards the center backs to form a back five. Tevez and Morada dropped 10 yards within their own half to pick up Roma's deepest lying midfielder, usually De Rossi. This meant Juventus's three center midfielders had a 3 v. 2 advantage against Pjanic and Keita in deeper positions. Pjanic, Roma's most creative midfielder, couldn't find pockets of space to influence the game in a crowded center of the pitch. He played 15 passes in the attacking third but they were mostly short and into wide areas and not the type of defense-splitting through balls likely to cause the Juventus center backs problems.
For Roma, both Gervinho and Adem Ljajic like to tuck inside from their wide starting positions. However, with Juventus playing three center backs their movement into central areas wasn't causing the type of overloads it would against the center backs in a back four. Instead they were moving infield to an area of the pitch that was extremely crowded. There weren't the gaps in those interior zones to find any space. With Lichtensteiner and Evra dropping deep, the only space in midfield for Roma was in deep positions in the channels. Juventus were happy to concede this space- the only real threat from those deep wide areas was big diagonal crosses into the box but with a front three of Totti, Ljajic and Gervinho Roma didn't pose any type of aerial threat from crosses.
Juventus's deep positioning always kept Totti from picking up possession in dangerous areas between the lines. Totti dropping into deeper positions to get on the ball is an element of Roma's play- he's a gifted creative player and it allows space for Gervinho and Ljajic to run in behind him- but it was incredible just how deep Juventus's defensive positioning was forcing him to come. The graphic below shows where the Roma captain received passes. The vast majority of those were beyond 30 yards from goal and he received just one pass in the box.
Juventus counter behind fullbacks
With Ljajic and Gervinho tucking inside for Roma, their fullbacks Torosidis and Holebas were tasked with providing attacking width. This left space down the channels for Juventus to counter into when they won possession back. Morata broke into this space quickly behind the Roma fullbacks then Pereyra and Vidal would use their pace and power to join in with runs from deep as Roma struggled to get back into defensive position. In the build up to Juve's opener Pereyra won possession in midfield, sprinted forward with the ball and provided a pass for Vidal in a position inside of the left channel. Torosidis had been high up the pitch providing width and was left struggling to recover as Vidal had gotten in behind him. He clipped the Chilean's heels as he was breaking into the box, picking up his second yellow and giving Juve the free kick Tevez would go on to score from.
Roma substitutions impactful
Reduced to ten men, Garcia was forced into making substitutions that turned out to be hugely influential. Florenzi replaced Ljajic to restore Roma's back four and five minutes later Iturbe replaced Totti. Roma moved to a 4-3-2 with Iturbe taking up a right forward position. The two substitutes gave Juventus more trouble than they'd felt all game combining down the right. Florenzi brought more pace and guile in possession than Torosidis and Itrube offered more direct running on the ball Roma had lacked and that finally forced the Juventus defense to do some 1 v. 1 defending. Iturbe won a free kick with a burst of pace down the right channel that Florenzi clipped into the back post well for Keita to equalize.
Perhaps Juventus were guilty of allowing themselves to become too stretched after going a man and a goal ahead and looking for the second to kill it off. Roma certainly enjoyed more space once they were reduced to ten than they had at any point beforehand and you feel that maybe had Juventus continued to defend cautiously as though it was still 11 v. 11 they may have held on.
Roma may take some pride in fighting back to snatch a point from a difficult situation but this was a poor result both in terms of the performance and the impact a draw has on their chances at getting back into the title race. The tempo was too slow and they couldn't get their creative players into positions where they could impact the game.
Juventus will be somewhat disappointed they didn't hang on for the three points they probably deserved but they too didn't really create enough. The draw suits them fine however- they will in all likelihood cruise to another title.