Juventus
    08.12.2015 14:30 - in: Champions League S

    Sevilla strikers and the Bianconeri backline

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    In what will be only the second meeting between the Bianconeri and the Blanquirrojos, Juventus.com looks at the respective strengths of the two sides set to match up tonight in Seville

    In a season of several changes to personnel, there remains one particularly familiar sight in the Bianconeri ranks.

    The recent reversion to a back three of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini has restored the sort of solidity and stability to the defence that has played such an instrumental role in Juventus' successes over the last four and a half years. And, low and behold, the Turin club have not conceded in their last three matches since the trio of centre-backs all started playing together again.

    "The quality of Juventus’ defence is truly unique for its organisation, discipline and consistency. They have three superb centre-backs in Barzagli, Chiellini and Bonucci."

    Unai Emery 7/12/2015

    Massimiliano Allegri first switched to a three-man rearguard in his team’s last Champions League outing at home to Manchester City. The English outfit had plenty of possession on the evening (58.8 per cent) while knocking the ball around at will, completing an impressive 86.5 per cent of their 623 passes (183 more than Juventus managed across the 90 minutes).

    Despite all of this, the hosts’ defensive organisation managed to restrict the Premier League heavyweights to six shots from within the penalty area (five fewer than the amount enjoyed by Juventus) and only two on target, compared to the Bianconeri’s three.

    Despite having a smaller share of the possession, Juve (left) restricted City (right) to just 20 touches inside the box, exactly the same number of times that the hosts saw the ball inside the visitors' penalty area.

    En route to victory, Bonucci made a total eight clearances, while Barzagli and Chiellini won back the ball on six and seven occasions respectively. The latter also excelled in terms of interceptions (four), while also blocking two goal-bound City shots.

    It would be a similar story at the Stadio Olimpico last Friday, where Juventus established another early lead and successfully contained a Lazio outfit eager to prevent a fifth defeat in six matches, who stepped up their search for a way back into the encounter with a 63.3 per cent stake in possession, playing 584 passes compared to their visitors’ 346.

    Allegri’s men, however, stayed immensely compact in central areas and managed to limit the Biancocelesti to just three shots from inside the box, blocking five of their total 11 attempts on goal.

    The Bianconeri (right) effectively absorbed the Biancocelesti (left) pressure by having the central areas well marshalled, while posing a threat on the counter attack with two widely positioned wing-backs.

    Against Palermo, meanwhile, the whole team successfully countered an early onslaught from Davide Ballardini’s charges to then take control of proceedings and play much further up the field, scoring three goals and preventing their hosts from forcing Gigi Buffon into a single save.

    Looking to become the first team to break down the Bianconeri backline since Empoli’s Massimo Maccarone exactly a month ago are Sevilla.

    The Blanquirrojos only mustered one shot across the full 90 minutes when the sides met each other for the very first time on 30 September, but Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini can expect a very different test tonight at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.

    Unai Emery’s men have scored 19 of their 26 goals in all competitions in front of their own fans this season and the last time that they drew a blank at their ground was back on 30 August, when they suffered a 3-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid.

    Kevin Gameiro tussles for the ball with Giorgio Chiellini at Juventus Stadium on 30 September.

    Emery has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation across all competitions this campaign, where Kevin Gameiro has more often than not been deployed in the central striking role.

    The former Psg man has, in many ways, all the attributes of a complete forward, capable of leading the line on his own, breaking in behind the backline with clever movement and pace, and having the requisite composure in front of goal to convert the chances that come his way.

    Gameiro has proven he can do just that and is Sevilla’s top scorer this term with six goals in all competitions, five of which have been scored at the Sanchez-Pizjuan.

    A look at the table below shows how the Frenchman is outperforming other La Liga forwards in 2015/16:

    Regularly seen roaming down the Blanquirrojos’ left side of attack this year is Yevhen Konoplyanka. The Ukrainian has been a revelation since signing in the summer from Dnipro, who were beaten finalists in last season’s Europa League final, won of course by his current side.

    His combination of trickery, pace and precision from crosses has seen the 26-year-old provide seven assists in all competitions, whilst also getting on the scoresheet four times in the process.

    Konoplyanka, like the rest of his team-mates, endured a quiet evening at Juventus Stadium, but the Bianconeri can expect a much tougher assignment in keeping him quiet on his home turf, where he has had a hand in eight goals this term, seven of which contributed to victories for the Andalusians.

    Yevhen Konoplyanka mustered Sevilla’s only shot at Juventus Stadium in September.

    Moving on to what would be an extremely intriguing match-up, tonight could well see Fernando Llorente face his former team-mates for the first time since swapping Piedmont for southern Spain over the summer.

    The striker has been starved of game time in this year’s Champions League, but the experienced forward has started his side’s last two home matches and Emery will be tempted to take advantage of any knowledge Llorente may be able to use to get one over on his ex-colleagues.

    While the 30-year-old has netted at a respectable rate of a goal every 148 minutes in La Liga, he offers much more in terms of holding up the ball and laying it off to players in the white and red around him.

    Comparison between Fernando Llorente's passes to team-mates (left) and the balls played to him (right).

    Here you can see from whom Llorente receives his passes and to whom he makes them, in what is undoubtedly an area in which Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini will need to be well rehearsed in order to stunt Sevilla’s build-up play tonight.

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