The Early Sub: Juventus 2015 vs. Juventus 2017

The teams of 2015 and 2017 for Juventus were very different but were after the same exact goals. Both clubs, lead by Max Allegri had achieved the Domestic Double by winning Serie A and the Coppa Italia. Both were looking to complete the holy treble by also winning Europe’s most prestigious trophy for clubs. Both were top notch clubs that very well could’ve won the Champions League, but alas they fell short to Barcelona in 2015 in Berlin and again to Real Madrid earlier this month in Cardiff. Both clubs achieved the same things in silverware and advanced to the final of the Champions League. So why not compare them? I’m going to analyze each position between both clubs that just fell short of achieving European glory.

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Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon

1 of 3 positions on this list that hasn’t changed since that final in Berlin. Gigi has been goalkeeper for Juventus since 2001. He’s won Serie A 10 times, while winning the Coppa Italia 4 times (3 times with Juventus and once with Parma). He’s the greatest Italian goalkeeper of all time and even has a World Cup to show for it. Unfortunately for the legendary keeper, he’s fallen short of the Champions League three times (2003, 2015, 2017). Next year will be his final chance to win the legendary Double Ears. But which version of Gigi was best? The 2015 or the 2017 version? Both were excellent, and had a terrific backline ahead of him that consisted of Chiellini and Bonucci commanding the defense. But it has to be said that the 2015 version of Gigi was superior. He had an average rating of 7 for Juventus in the Champions League while only garnering a rating of 6.7 this season. Gigi is still a top class keeper but you can just see the age show on some shots for the 39 year old. The Casemiro goal in the final this season was a prime example. Of course the shot was difficult to judge due to the massive deflection, but a younger Gigi makes that save, and that goes without saying. But I also think a 2015 Gigi, tips that ball away with his fingertips and keeps the game tied. The Italian is an ageless wonder, but the 2015 Gigi was just a bit lighter on his feet then this season’s Gigi. Edge: 2015 Juventus

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Center backs

The other two positions that hasn’t changed since the final against Barcelona are right here. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, perhaps the best center back pairing on the planet. Both were and are world class defenders, and were an enormous reason for why both clubs made it to the final. Prior to the final against Madrid, Juventus had only conceded three times in 12 games. That’s one goal every four games, absolutely stonewalling Europe’s best consistently through the season. Comparing that to 2015’s Juventus who had conceded 7 times prior to the final and you pretty much know which version of this incredible partnership is better. Unfortunately for this dynamic duo, they became unraveled by the individual brilliance that is Real Madrid and Barcelona. They had no answers to their pace, creativity and merciless attack. Barcelona lopped up two goals in the second half against Juve and Real Madrid put up three. Both finals were tough for the Italian champions, but it was their defense that had gotten them there in the first place and that was absolutely clear in this year’s version of the Champions League. Juventus’ brilliant defense had shut down Barcelona and the young energetic Monaco on their way to the final. Their wonderful form had many believing that they could shut down this Real Madrid attack that had scored in every single fixture they played this season in all competitions. They were performing at another level and were more stifling this season then in 2015. Edge: 2017 Juventus

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Wingbacks/Fullbacks

Max Allegri can often employ a three in the back system with Andrea Barzagli taking a place in the backline and Juan Cuadrado being sacrificed. This allows the fullbacks to push up and join in the attack by providing width and whipping balls into the box. Allegri implemented this system often in 2015 and in 2017 but used two different sets of fullbacks to do it with. The fullbacks in 2015 were Patrice Evra and Stephen Lichtsteiner while the 2017 set is Alex Sandro and Dani Alves. Evra and Lichsteiner were a capable duo, able to become attackers and look to provide width. Evra had done it for years with Manchester United, and had no problem taking that skillset to Juventus. Since that final in Berlin, Lichtsteiner has found himself demoted to second choice right back while Evra moved on to Marseille in France. Although they were quite capable, Alex Sandro and Dani Alves were clearly superior. Dani Alves was causing 99 problems for Barcelona down the right wing with the Brazilian knowing that his compatriot Neymar wouldn’t track back to defend his crosses. After dispatching of Barcelona in the Quarterfinals, Alves scored a worldie of a volley against Monaco in Turin that stamped who Monaco was dealing with in the Semifinals. That goal was symbolic, and had the world believing that they were witnessing the best team in the world this year. Unfortunately it did not come to pass for Juventus but they were gunning for it, and looked like the best team in the world for a second. That performance by Dani Alves gives him the edge over Lichsteiner. Alex Sandro is also considered one of the top left backs on the planet right now which is more then Patrice Evra was able to say in 2015. Edge: 2017 Juventusclaudio-marchisio-andrea-pirlo-cropped_y8atwqq3pguc1au50lhwtzqiu

 

Creative Midfielders

The defense may belong to this year’s version of Juventus but the 2015 version boasted one of the best sets of midfielders in Europe at the time. Juventus’ lineup of midfielders was so good that they set out 4 midfielders in a diamond formation and just scrapped wingers. Marchisio and Pirlo would be the creative sparks, finding knifing passes to their front two and setting up goals left and right. The Italian duo were just stunning and were on top of their game en route to the final. This was also Pirlo’s final season in Europe as he faced off another one of his generations’ great creative midfielders, Xavi, in the final. Unfortunately the sensational Italian duo couldn’t do it in the final but were intergral reason for their march to Berlin in 2015. Juventus source of inspiration from the middle of the pitch this season had come from Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado. Dybala would sit behind the two main strikers of Higuain and  Mandzukic and look to find space and push the attack. Juan Cuadrado would float out to the right look to use his pace to find width for the attack or use his dribbling trickery to cut inside. Dybala is a possible future Ballon d’Or winner at Juventus but Juan Cuadrado isn’t particularly a long term option for Juventus. In addition, he had himself sent off after being subbed on in the final against Real Madrid. He definitely shouldn’t have been sent off since Sergio Ramos was faking his death on the ground and Cuadrado undeservedly received his marching orders. But Cuadrado wasn’t all that effective for the Juve attack and only had one goal and one assist to show for it in the Champions League. Dybala was individually brilliant and an unbelievable player but the duo of Marchisio and Pirlo were just both so great. They were perfectly in sync to each other and performed to the top of their ability. Since then, Marchisio has been seeing more of the bench while Pirlo has gone on to NYCFC here in the United States. Edge: 2015 Juventus

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Holding Midfielders

Another category that just flexes how good this midfield unit was for Juventus in 2015. Juventus had two of the best box to box midfielders in the world two years ago and were key to Juventus’ spectacular 2015. They had the ability to cut out passes and making important tackles in the middle of the field and to begin counter attacks. Pogba had dished out 3 passes in 10 games for Juventus from the holding midfield position while making 2 tackles a game. Meanwhile, Arturo Vidal was completing 4.3 tackles a game and springing counter attacks forward to the more creative midfielders. They could both cover so much ground and cut out attacks before they begin which added support to the backline. It was one big engine for Juventus and it worked to near perfection as they marched to the double. Since then, Vidal has moved to Bayern Munich and will look to continue pursuing trophies with the German giants. Meanwhile, Paul Pogba has gone back to Manchester United for a world record fee. This year the role of holding midfielders belonged to Sami Khedira, who was on the 2015 Juventus team, and Miralem Pjanic, who was newly acquired from Roma. Pjanic was stellar this season achieving a 7.2 rating throughout the Champions League and being a wonderful creative spark from the midfield. He provided 3 assists and dished out 1.7 key passes a game. He’d also complete 2.1 tackles per game and making 1.5 interceptions. He smoothly transitioned into Allegri’s lineup and was a key piece to the squad every game. Sami Khedira was his partner but he was limited by injury for part of the season and would have trouble being an influence into the game. He recorded a 6.5 average rating in the Champions League while completing less then a tackle per game. Pjanic was excellent this season but this year’s duo just can’t matchup with the two world class midfielders of Vidal and Pogba. Edge: 2015 Juventus

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Strikers

Each squad had two main strikers on their side and both were prolific and dangerous. The 2015 version of Juventus had Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata at the helm of the attack. Tevez netted 7 goals for Juventus in the Champions League while Morata netted 5 goals. 2014/2015 was the first season for Morata in Turin where he would spend two seasons before returning to Real Madrid last summer. His skillful on the ball and full of pace and energy, Morata is a predator in the box, and has a terrific goals to games ratio in his career. He would even go on to score Juventus’ only goal of the 2015 final against Barcelona. Carlos Tevez would leave for Boca Juniors after the Champions League final after a terrific couple of seasons for Juve. Tevez was Juventus’ top performer in the Champions League for the 2015 season, recording an average rating of 7.6. Alvaro Morata would record a fantastic 7.4 rating as well for the Turin side when partnered next to Tevez in the Champions League. This year, the roles were assigned to Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic. This year in the Champions League, they scored a combined 8 goals in the Champions League with Higuain netting 5 of them. Mandzukic would often float out to the left side and try to take on the defense from the wing. Higuain would often get into the box and would be a target for anyone looking to lob in a ball. Together they created a handful for the defense and would even combine for one of the best Champions League goals of all time. Tevez and Morata were more about skill and pace while Higuain and Mandzukic relied on strength and used a direct route to the goal. Two different styles that both were effective and prolific. Although the Higuain/Mandzukic partnership is a wonderful one, it’s hard to argue 12 combined goals and both their ratings were superior to Higuain and Mandzukic. Edge: 2015 Juventus

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2015 vs 2017

Both teams were very different but both were very successful. Each were worthy of competing for Europe’s top crown but who would win in a match between each side? The 2015 Juventus side had plenty of pace and could counter attack as well as any side. The 2017 side is a defensive unit that won’t budge, making it near impossible to score goals. Bonucci and Chiellini were just on another level this season and Dani Alves was playing like the best right back on Earth against Barcelona and Monaco. Not to mention that Alex Sandro may just be the best left back on Earth as well. Khedira provides the support and Pjanic is a more then capable defender. Vidal and Pogba were two of the best midfielders on Earth together and wreaked havoc on opponents from the middle of the pitch. It’d be a difficult choice and would be quite the match, but this year’s Juventus side just had a fire about them that seemed unmatched until the final. They were on a mission and were just sweeping opponents aside as they piled up the clean sheets against Europe’s best. Truly right up until the final, it really looked like Juventus were the best team on Earth, but they’ll have to settle for 2nd after losing to Real. The 2015 side were fantastic and were more then capable, but they sort of seemed happy to be there and weren’t expecting to challenge for Europe like that. Due to that, I’d give the edge this year’s edition of Juventus. Edge: 2017 Juventus

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