Juventus
    Juventus
      08.09.2016 14:00 - in: Serie A S

      Season snapshot: Juve-Sassuolo

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      Two tightly contested matches played against two contrasting backdrops. Juventus.com looks at what can be learnt from last season’s meetings with Sassuolo

      Matchday 10: Sassuolo 1-0 Juventus. (12th, 12 points)

      Matchday 29: Juventus 1-0 Sassuolo. (1st , 67 points)

      Last term’s two encounters with Sassuolo seemed to sum up Juventus’ 2015/16 season better than any other fixture.

      While cases could be made for the likes of Roma and Napoli, both victors over the Bianconeri in August and September respectively, the exchange of defeats with the Neroverdi in October and March stand apart not only for their similarities but also for their relative timings and overall importance in the campaign.

      There was the first, a debilitating 1-0 loss in the Autumn of 2015, the fourth of the Bianconeri’s eventual total of five league reverses, and the triumphant return in the Spring of 2016, a switching of the scoreline sealed by Paulo Dybala’s superb curling finish, arguably his best goal of the season.

      With the pair set to face off this weekend at the home of the champions, Juventus.com revisits those two contrasting encounters to see what lessons can be learnt from them ahead of Saturday evening.

      Sassuolo 1-0 Juventus: the low point

      Juventus headed to the Mapei Stadium at the end of October on a troubling but seemingly recoverable run of form.

      Defeats to Udinese, Roma and Napoli and draws with Chievo, Inter and Frosinone had seen them slump to 12th place after nine games. Impressive victories against Manchester City and Sevilla in the Champions League, and Bologna and Atalanta closer to home aside, Juve were struggling for fluency and hadn’t made a poorer league start in over 10 years.

      Any promising signs sparked by a run of three clean sheets on the bounce were quickly extinguished - only to be reignited once more the following weekend in the Derby della Mole - on a wet Wednesday night in Reggio Emilia.

      First, Nicola Sansone placed an unstoppable free-kick into the top corner on 20 minutes, at the time presenting Massimiliano Allegri’s men with the unenviable statistic of having conceded at the opposition’s first attempt in five out of their opening ten matches.

      Things then went from bad to worse moments before the interval as Giorgio Chiellini was dismissed for two bookable offences. In spite of dominating proceedings after half-time, the one-man disadvantage and one-goal deficit proved too great for the Bianconeri to salvage anything from the game.

      The result itself was damaging, but it was what happened afterwards that was truly remarkable. Speaking within an hour or so of the final whistle, Gianluigi Buffon and Patrice Evra delivered two interviews that many have earmarked as the turning point in the Old Lady’s fortunes. 

      Evra echoed the captain's words, adding prophetically that, as things stood, the Bianconeri were wasting the opportunity to make Serie A history.

      “I’m angry. When you play for this team you must always believe you can win the title every year. This is clearly not the best time to talk about it, but when I wake up every morning, I tell myself I could be lucky enough to lift a fifth consecutive Scudetto. A message to my team-mates? Let’s respect this shirt. We didn’t do that in the first half against Sassuolo.”

      Patrice Evra 28/10/2015

      Three days later the duo’s words were heeded as goals from Paul Pogba and Juan Cuadrado set up an unforgettable derby day victory over Torino, a night that together with the post-Sassuolo rallying cries of Buffon and Evra triggered a staggering run of 15 consecutive Serie A  wins and ultimately a place in the history books. 

      Juventus 1-0 Sassuolo: back on track

      When Juventus and Sassuolo met for a second time five months later, the contrast could not have been clearer.

      By March, the champions had overhauled Napoli at the top of the table, kept nine consecutive clean sheets and could count on the scoring services of Paulo Dybala, by then on the richest vein of form in his career to date.

      By the full-time whistle on 11 March, all of the above remained intact. Juve were six points clear of their nearest rivals, victorious in all of their last 11 home matches and stood just four minutes away from breaking a national record for minutes without conceding: a far cry from the lows of the Autumn.

      After our loss (against Sassuolo) in Reggio Emilia in October, no one gave us a chance of competing for the title. Everyone had written us off and now here we are. 

      Paulo Dybala 11/03/2016

      As had been the case earlier in the season though, Sassuolo would give nothing away to their hosts and were twice denied by Buffon, the captain making fine stops from a pair of menacing Sansone efforts from distance.

      At the other end, the tie was decided by another moment of magic as Dybala helped himself to a 14th league goal of the campaign, improving on his previous personal best of 13 with Palermo in 2014/15, and what a goal it was too. While the build-up was “a move lifted straight from the training ground” according to its assist-maker Cuadrado, the finish was pure inspiration.

      La Joya had already demonstrated his predatory instincts with telling strikes against Fiorentina, Roma and Milan to mention but a few victims to his talents earlier in the season but this was something else altogether. The movement off the ball, the first touch, the quick glance, the magical shot into the top corner: pure Paolo.

      A further eight wins would follow to take the Bianconeri’s points tally to 79 from a possible 84 since losing to the same opponents all that time ago.

      All eyes on Saturday

      While this year’s double-header with the Neroverdi is unlikely to bear the same importance - for starters, Juve are already well off the mark with maximum points from their opening two games - there are still lessons to be learnt from the 2015/16 campaign.

      The first is that Sassuolo, enjoying a largely winning beginning themselves between Serie A and the Europa League qualifying rounds, are one of the toughest sides in the top flight to beat as demonstrated amply by last season’s tightly fought exchanges.

      The second is that if the tales of the previous 11 months are anything to go by, Saturday’s meeting at Juventus Stadium could well be decided by one moment of class.

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