Throughout his stay in Turin, Max Allegri has had a magical touch.
His ability to vary formations and lineups have been the keys to keeping Juventus highly competitive on three fronts. On Tuesday, he ran out of magic.
Allegri’s decision to use a 4-4-2 formation should have not been a surprise nor was it a bad one. That approach throttled high-flying Napoli back in December and helped defeat AC Milan last Sunday.
What proved problematic were his personnel choices. Teamed alongside 37-year-old Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini had a nightmare.
With Medhi Benatia suspended, the decision to opt for experience over the younger and more athletic Daniele Rugani backfired. And Alex Sandro under-performed once again.
Bentancur a bright light
One decision Allegri got correct was starting 20-year-old Rodrigo Bentancur in place of the suspended Miralem Pjanic.
Allegri brought on the Uruguayan late in the win over AC Milan. The change rejuvenated Sami Khedira who pushed forward recognising Bentancur provided much more cover behind him than the slower Pjanic. Against Milan, Khedira assisted on Juan Cuadrado’s winner and added an insurance goal himself.
In Cardiff, Real Madrid simply overran the Pjanic-Khedira combination in the second half. Until Paulo Dybala’s expulsion, Bentancur and Khedira held their own against Real’s talented midfield.
In the end, Real’s first two goals came from uncharacteristic blunders from Juventus’ backline.
60 minutes is not enough
Despite the early goal, Juventus were far from outplayed until the 60-minute mark.
Up to that point, both sides had completed more than 90 percent of their passes. In reality, Juventus had played some of their most attractive football of the year lacking only a finishing touch.
But by the time Allegri brought on Juan Cuadrado, Blaise Matuidi and Mario Mandzukic, the match and the tie had been decided.
Perhaps another of Allegri’s blunders was committed before the match. The Juventus manager told the media he expected Dybala to have a great match and be decisive.
Rather than seizing the moment, the 24-year-old Argentine melted. While not lacking effort, Dybala couldn’t shake rugged marking and failed to convert free kicks in striking range before being sent off.
It will take more than a win
After the match, Allegri stood up for his players and would not criticise them. Nor did he criticise himself.
While praising Ronaldo and his mates, Allegri tried began the process of refocusing himself and his side on the Serie A campaign.
It’s hard to image the Biaconieri dropping points to lowly Benevento Saturday but it will take more than a win against a provincial side to restore the lustre of Juventus’ brand.