Juventus fail to shine but Cuadrado lone strike enough to seal victory
Juventus defeated Sampdoria 1-0 to collect another three vital points away from home, but after a terrific start to the match, game management was what got the Bianconeri over the line.
Attacking from all angles, Juventus intimidated Sampdoria and took control of the game, exploiting their superiority to score a quick goal. Swift movements coupled with great combinations resulted in entertaining football.
However, when Paulo Dybala left the pitch with a suspected thigh injury, Juve suffered a decline and after half-time Sampdoria pushed forward with intensity, forcing their opponent to chase and expend too much energy. Yet their final pass was never quite good enough, resulting in another win for the Old Lady.
Juventus attacked beautifully, particularly in the first half, using the full width of the pitch. Boasting a range of varied skills, the side switched play often, alternated their attacks and overwhelmed Sampdoria. The ability to attack in such a manner is crucial for the upcoming match against Barcelona, where Juve will need to use the size of the Camp Nou's pitch against the Catalans.
After such a spectacular first half, full of creativity and verve, it was disappointing to see Juve drop the tempo and end up in a situation where they expended energy chasing the ball. The side must better learn how to maintain a balanced performance throughout as well as keep the right tempo. While exhaustion is normal at this stage of the season, the difference shouldn't be so visible between the two halves of the game.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Massimiliano Allegri studied the opponent well, deploying a side that played an offensively marvelous game in the first half. The decline in the second half made the coach visibly angry, but his substitutions helped stop Sampdoria from causing too much damage.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Gianluigi Buffon, 6 -- The legendary goalkeeper broke the record held by the great Giampiero Boniperti as he has now played more minutes for Juventus in Serie A than any player in the club's history. His reward was to be barely tested throughout the match.
DF Dani Alves, 6 -- Good at taking players on and rotating the ball in the final third as Juve looked to pierce the defence. Master of the dark arts, his theatrics were frustrating to watch but done in an effort to help Juve close out the game.
DF Andrea Barzagli, 6 -- Barzagli has been suffering of late and Fabio Quagliarella took full advantage, overcoming the defender several times. Must react quicker as he's presently not the reliable player we know him to be.
DF Daniele Rugani, 6 -- Boasting the composure and experience, the defender was calm and assured at the back. Truly deserves a starting place more often.
DF Kwadwo Asamoah, 7 -- An excellent cross led to the winning goal, while his defending rescued the side on several occasions, especially from Patrik Schick's brilliance. Still committed too many mistakes, but redeemed himself well enough.
MF Sami Khedira, 6 -- Once again, always in the right place at the right time, making good runs forward while reading the game impeccably well. Slowed down in the second half.
MF Miralem Pjanic, 6 -- Recovered and rotated possession. Dictated the tempo impressively but suffered a little in the second half. Still, there is a feeling he is capable of even more.
MF Juan Cuadrado, 7 -- Scored a terrific goal, made excellent runs forward and combined beautifully with Dybala. His pace and movement threatened Vasco Regini while he exploited space well.
MF Paulo Dybala, 6 -- Always pushing the team forward with ingenuity and creativity, combining beautifully with his teammates. Taken off early, his absence was keenly felt.
MF Mario Mandzukic, 5 -- Not sure if he can be considered an offensive player anymore. Great at winning aerial duels and rescuing the side defensively, but his intense style of play robs him of efficiency going forward. Juve need him to be better going forward and perhaps sacrifice a little less for the sake of attacking brilliance.
FW Gonzalo Higuain, 6 -- Still not at his efficient best and not scoring the goals he needs to, although he was thwarted by some good goalkeeping. Managed a lovely turn and tried to provide for the team.
MF Marko Pjaca, 5 -- A mediocre performance. Looked scared to contribute defensively, and while he combined well with Higuain on occasion, he looked alarmingly confused by the tactics.
MF Mario Lemina, NR -- His pace and energy gave Juve a lift but little more than that.
DF Stephan Lichtsteiner, NR -- Had no time to make an impact.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.