Danjuma visits Vlahovic’s garden this Wednesday at Juventus Stadium (9:00 p.m., Movistar). The clash in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16 (1-1 in the first leg) of two of the most extraordinary appearances of the season concentrates the expectation of the tie. A long procession of representatives of the world’s richest clubs have traveled to Turin to contrast live the ability of these two attackers, each forced to overcome colossal obstacles. The Dutchman’s challenge is to lift Villarreal above their financial and tactical possibilities. The Serb’s challenge is to drag Juventus out of the depressive crater that has suffocated the institution and the squad since the pandemic triggered the financial turmoil and the economic dilemmas overlapped with the football identity crisis.
Szczesny, Danilo, Alex Sandro, Arthur Melo, Daniele Rugani, Matthijs de Ligt, Cuadrado, Manuel Locatelli, Morata, Dusan Vlahovic and Rabiot
Rulli, Aurier, Alfonso Pedraza, Parejo, Albiol, Pau Torres, Yeremy Pino, Capoue, Gerard Moreno, Giovani Lo Celso and Arnaut Danjuma
“We have to play a long game, very calmly and with a lot of head,” said Lo Celso, as if leaving crumbs to interpret where he will lead his march. The Villarreal midfielder, Unai Emery’s faithful squire since his time at PSG, anticipated the plan: be careful. Don’t speed up. Do not circulate the ball very quickly, lest Juventus counterattack. First of all, caution. Caution against Juventus whose coach, Allegri, does not want to get into the mess of ball control.
Danjuma and Vlahovic share a common destiny. Not only have they presented their figure credentials in the same season. To thrive, they must overcome the restrictions placed on them by their coaches. Painfully overcome the reformist experiments of Sarri and Pirlo, Juventus has put itself in the hands of Massimiliano Allegri. As if to clear up unknowns, the strategy of the most conservative institution in Italian football now consists of returning to the safety of the past. The 4-4-2 doctrine, the defensive principles, the low block and the counterattack prevail. He did exactly that in the first leg, at La Cerámica, against a Villarreal who responded with similar caution.
The paradox of the tie is that it measures two of the fittest attackers in Europe at the head of two teams more ordered for prudence than for daring. If Allegri prefers not to have to dominate the games in the rival field, Emery does not like his players to touch the ball quickly. He prefers slow maneuvers because he considers them safer. Trigueros, the player who sees the game faster and more clearly in his squad, has paid for it, postponed several times to the bench at the cost of his confidence and his precision when he has left. And Danjuma has paid for it, whose unchecking does not find a better interpreter than Trigueros.
Emery must decide between conflicting impressions. If there is a coach who can boast of having made the discovery of the year, that is the Villarreal coach, whose commitment to the signing of Danjuma was as personal and determined as it was misunderstood in the club environment. Emery hit the nail on the head: Villarreal never invested 20 million euros better. Now his challenge is to get his discovery to put all his gigantic potential on the field. For that he needs to line up Trigueros, a footballer who has inspired doubts in him due to his apparent physical fragility. Will Trigueros last 90 minutes at full throttle? There are calculations that only harm.
Emery: “Being competitive means adapting”
“We want to be competitive in 90 minutes and in a possible extra time and in penalties,” Emery said on Tuesday, when asked to explain what Lo Celso was referring to when he spoke of a long game. “Being competitive is adapting to the rival,” said the coach. “Juventus wins more than draws and almost doesn’t lose, from a great defensive strength and taking advantage of the rival’s mistakes. Few things happen in their games, and almost all in their favor. You can count on the fingers of one hand the chances they get in each game”.
Emery fears that Villarreal will fall into the counterattack trap if he risks too much in making plays. “Juve with Arthur can control the game from possession,” he said. “One of our weapons will be defense. We will have to defend very well, very together. And we have to defend with the ball. They are going to put more pressure on us in our field than in the first leg”.
It is possible that Emery projects a kind of trap. A backlash trap against the backlash doctors. “In their field they will try to risk more and push harder,” insisted Lo Celso. “Surely the Juventus Stadium crowd will help make that happen.” Danjuma and Vlahovic, face to face, two of the most daring players of the moment, commanded by two prudent coaches. The god of football never draws straight lines.
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