They won yet another Serie A title which, on paper, would have you thinking it was a good year – but the 2019/20 campaign was anything but a success for Juventus, who crashed out of the Champions League despite a 2-1 win over Lyon on Friday night.
Questions have been asked of manager Maurizio Sarri and his tactics since he arrived. His Sarri-ball system took Italy by storm with Napoli, but failed to have the same impact at Chelsea, leading to an implicit assumption that it would only work in Italy.
It hasn’t worked this time around. It really hasn’t worked, and now Juventus must make a decision over whether Sarri stays or goes.
The elimination at the hands of Lyon was the same old story for Juventus. I Bianconeri enjoyed a lot of possession but just didn’t do anything. The passing was just so slow and lethargic, and the only time Juve looked like threatening was when Cristiano Ronaldo or Federico Bernardeschi brought out something individually brilliant.
The first goal shouldn’t have come about, as Memphis Depay was punished for being unable to detach his arms, and the second was a wonderful long-range strike from Ronaldo. There was very little team skill or tactic to either.
That has been the criticism of Sarri. One year and one Serie A title later, fans still can’t figure out what he actually brings to the club. Juventus’ positive moments don’t come from his tactics, but rather the sheer brilliance of the individual parts of the team.
Their superiority over the majority of Serie A helped mask over their frailties. Juventus might not have deserved all their victories, but they were just too good to lose. However, that’s not how things work in the Champions League. If you can’t hang, you’ll usually know about it.
Juventus are supposed to be better than Lyon, who won’t even be in the Champions League next year unless they win the whole thing, yet the French side rarely looked genuinely threatened. Lyon set up resolutely and allowed Juve all the possession they wanted, safe if the knowledge that they probably wouldn’t do much. And they didn’t.
It means Sarri’s tumultuous debut season has come to a nightmare end. Juventus failed to win the Coppa Italia, they only won the Serie A title by a comparatively pathetic one point, and now there’s no Champions League glory either.
The league title victory alone is just not good enough from a Juventus coach at this point, at a club who are shelling out the best part of twice as much as their rivals on wages. The club will know it, the fans will know it and Sarri will know it. Sacking your boss after he leads you to a title seems a bit rash on paper, but it’s all about how you win at Juventus, and Sarri hasn’t got the job done in that regard.
How do Juventus proceed from here? Sarri will already be looking for the answer to that question, but Juve chiefs may not be prepared to listen to him anymore.
Manchester City progressed to the Champions League quarter-finals on Friday thanks to a 2-1 (4-2 on aggregate) win over Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.
City added to their 2-1 aggregate lead within nine minutes when some sloppy play from Raphaël Varane allowed Raheem Sterling to convert a simple tap-in, before Real levelled it up on the night just shy of the half-hour mark, thanks to a trademark header from Karim Benzema.
Gabriel Jesus gave the Cityzens a healthy advantage in the second half though, capitalising on some lacklustre defending to give them a two-goal aggregate lead.
City will travel to Lisbon for the mini-tournament, where they will face Lyon next Saturday for a place in the final four.
Ederson (GK) – 7/10 – Made a number of solid saves throughout the game, keeping Real Madrid at bay throughout the night. Apart from the first-half goal, the Brazilian barely put a foot wrong in between the sticks.
Kyle Walker (RB) – 6/10 – Dealt with Eden Hazard effectively, but didn’t have much to do. Put in a decent shift on the right flank, keeping the visitors’ attack quiet on his side of the pitch.
Fernandinho (CB) – 6/10 – Used his experience to reduce the number of opposition chances, though occasionally struggled to keep the lid on Benzema.
Aymeric Laporte (CB) – 6/10 – Generally put in a solid display at the heart of defence, winning the majority of his duels. Sometimes struggled to cope with Benzema’s explosive play, but was decent overall.
João Cancelo (LB) – 7/10 – Was very positive going forward, drove forward with the ball on a few occasions. Could have done better with his passes in the final third, but did well to move the ball up the pitch.
Kevin de Bruyne (CM) – 7/10 – One of the standout players on the pitch, had an outstanding game in midfield. Drove forward and was lively the entire game, created numerous chances and worked extremely hard from start to finish.
Rodri (CM) – 7/10 – Kept City’s midfield together while effectively protecting the defence, did well to keep the hosts in charge of the midfield battle. Helped control the game, very complete display alongside De Bruyne.
İlkay Gündoğan – 6/10 – Far from a dazzling display from the German, but moved the ball well and complemented the other two midfielders well.
Phil Foden (RW) – 7/10 – Had a really impressive game in attack, looked comfortable among very experienced European players. Caused trouble for the Real Madrid defence all night long, and was very bright and creative up top.
Gabriel Jesus (FW) – 8/10 – Did very well to steal the ball off Varane to assist the opening goal, stayed lively throughout the game. Remained alert for the second goal, took his chance with a very nicely taken finish.
Raheem Sterling (LW) – 6/10 – Did well to open the scoring, but missed a series of glaring chances that could have killed the game off. Kickstarted City’s performance, but wasted more opportunities than he took.
Bernardo Silva (RW) – 5/10
David Silva (LW) – 5/10
NIcolás Otamendi (CB) – N/A
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – 7/10 – Made some superb saves throughout the game to keep Real Madrid in the tie much longer than they should have been. Was unlucky for both goals.
Dani Carvajal (RB) – 6/10 – Was out of sync with the defensive line on a few occasions, but had an average game overall defending and going forward.
Éder Militão (CB) – 5/10 – Got lucky with some individual mistakes, but was generally very comfortable at the back. Kept solid in defence but was dragged down by Los Blancos’ overall defensive performance.
Raphaël Varane (CB) – 3/10 – A costly mistake inside the opening 10 minutes gifted the hosts the opening goal. Another poor piece of defending handed City their second goal. What more is there to say?
Ferland Mendy (LB) – 6/10 – Had an average game at left-back, could have contributed more in attack but could not break past City’s midfield.
Toni Kroos (CM) – 6/10 – Worked very hard all night and made a string of key passes, but could not make a difference in a frustrating night.
Casemiro (CM) – 6/10 – Put in a decent shift alongside Kroos, but the Brazilian rarely threatened the hosts. He had one or two chances to go forward and impact the game, but struggled to leave his mark on the game.
Luka Modrić (CM) – 7/10 – The Croatian the standout performer in Real’s midfield three, with very positive passing and creativity. He could have scored a crucial goal were it not for a big save from Ederson.
Rodrygo (RW) – 6/10 – Did well for Los Blancos’ goal, bursting down the wing and sending in a good cross. Otherwise did not contribute much in attack, could have done more in a mediocre performance.
Karim Benzema (FW) – 7/10 – The veteran forward was Real’s biggest threat throughout the game, taking his goal very nicely. He could have had one or two more too, were it not for some great goalkeeping and solid defensive play.
Eden Hazard (LW) – 5/10 – Fitness issues? Not up to speed with the team? Just having a bad night? Whatever the reason, the ex-Chelsea man failed to leave his mark on the tie. He looked alright in the opening quarter but faded out quickly, and didn’t make a difference in the second half.
Marco Asensio (RW) – 5/10
Lucas Vázquez (RB) – 5/10
Federico Valverde (CM) – 5/10
Luka Jović (LW) – 5/10
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Juventus picked up a 2-1 win over Lyon in Friday’s Champions League last-16 tie, but were still sent crashing out of the competition thanks to Lyon’s away goal.
Lyon’s early positivity was rewarded with a penalty after just ten minutes as Houssem Aouar was controversially deemed to be tripped in the box, and Memphis Depay converted a delightful Panenka to extend the French side’s lead. However, hero became villain soon after as Depay’s questionable handball gave Cristiano Ronaldo the penalty he needed to equalise shortly before the break.
Juventus controlled proceedings in the second half and needed 15 minutes to grab a goal through Ronaldo’s long-range drive. The Italian side pushed and pushed, missing two great headers which could have sealed their spot in the next round, but Lyon held firm and were the ones celebrating when the whistle was blown.
Let’s get into some player ratings.
Wojciech Szczęsny (GK) – 6/10 – Helpless to stop the penalty and didn’t really have much to do after that.
Juan Cuadrado (RB) – 5/10 – Played with a little too much urgency and was guilty of needlessly losing possession with some rushed passes.
Matthijs de Ligt (CB) – 6/10 – Enjoyed a tough battle with countryman Depay and generally came out on top throughout.
Leonardo Bonucci (CB) – 6/10 – Solid at the back but missed an outstanding chance to bag what could have been a winning goal.
Alex Sandro (LB) – 7/10 – A real threat in the second half, using his pace and creativity to cause countless problems down the left.
Rodrigo Bentancur (CM) – 6/10 – Unfairly penalised for the penalty but recovered well to pose some real threat in attack.
Miralem Pjanić (CM) – 5/10 – Guilty of a few too many sideways passes before being hauled off after an hour.
Adrien Rabiot (CM) – 6/10 – Lyon struggled to deal with the Frenchman’s power and directness with the ball at his feet, but the end product was sadly missing.
Federico Bernardeschi (RW) – 7/10 – Showcased the kind of creativity and excitement which fans have been begging for this season. Could have netted an excellent solo goal in the first half.
Gonzalo Higuain (ST) – 5/10 – Lack of mobility was exposed by Lyon’s defensive line, who sat back and marshalled Higuain all night.
Cristiano Ronaldo (LW) – 8/10 – Endured a tough start but soon went full Ronaldo, stealing the show with a great goal.
Aaron Ramsey – 6/10
Danilo – 6/10
Paulo Dybala – N/A
Marco Olivieri – 6/10
Anthony Lopes (GK) – 6/10 – Made a fantastic save to deny Ronaldo from a first-half free kick but could do very little about the goals.
Jason Denayer (CB) – 6/10 – Solid enough during his time on the pitch. Enjoyed dealing with crosses towards Higuain.
Marcelo (CB) – 7/10 – Made a ridiculous challenge to deny Bernadeschi what would have been a certain goal. A real tie-winner.
Fernando Marçal (CB) – 5/10 – Found Bernardeschi far too much to deal with for the first hour and looked to be playing catch-up.
Léo Dubois (RM) – 4/10 – Energetic early on but was completely overwhelmed by Ronaldo…which is fair enough really.
Maxence Caqueret (CM) – 7/10 – A solid European debut from the 20-year-old, whoplayed with a real fearlessness as he ran at Juve’s defence.
Bruno Guimarães (CM) – 5/10 – Struggled at the base of Lyon’s midfield, failing to protect the defence or bring anything to the attack. Houssem Aouar (CM) – 7/10 – Was outstanding early on, dribbling around Juve’s defence and spraying passes around, and was Lyon’s main way out of the defence all evening.
Maxwel Cornet (LM) – 6/10 – Impressed in the first half but saw his impact fade as he was tasked with more defending after the break.
Memphis Depay (ST) – 6/10 – Took his penalty with real swagger but looked deflated after controversially giving one away. Looked up for it but struggled to translate that into chances.
Karl Toko Ekambi (ST) – 6/10 – A surprise starter, he looked threatening but was quickly swallowed up by Juve’s back line. Withdrawn shortly after the hour mark.
Nope, no getting up at 3am to watch your club in a largely pointless preseason tournament before the 2020/21 season kicks off in a few days. Thanks to the current ongoing pandemic, what remains of the Champions League is still yet to be played, and while it’s physically exhausting for football teams and likely to affect the upcoming season, it makes for a great summer for fans.
The Champions League came to a halt just over halfway through the round of 16, back in the Before Times, and the quarter-finals can’t commence until the rest of the second-leg ties are played out. RB Leipzig and Atalanta have already played their second legs and booked their place into the makeshift knockout tournament in Lisbon, as have Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.
The knockout tournament is an unusual format and a nice break away from the norm – and will no doubt shake up the competition. Teams have to play less, meaning the chance to win Europe’s elite prize is technically easier than ever before…or meaning that one single mistake can be a team’s undoing.
With the knockout tournament edging closer, here’s every team left in the Champions League ranked by how likely they are to win the competition.
They’re already trailing 3-0 to the joint favourites to win the competition. To say Chelsea face an uphill battle when they visit Germany for the second leg would be an understatement.
Consider that those three Bayern goals are all away goals, too, it’s probably beyond Frank Lampard’s side.
Leipzig impressed all viewers by dumping out Tottenham in the round of 16 before play was stopped, comprehensively dispatching them with an aggregate score of 4-0.
They face Atletico Madrid in the quarter final and, while the game proves to be a spectacle for the fans of the tactical side of the game, the loss of Timo Werner in attack will significantly reduce the threat of Die Roten Bullen.
Before his sale, they had a better chance. Now? Not so much.
An early goal on Friday night gave the impression that Lyon could cruise past a spent Juve side into the last eight. That didn’t happen, because Cristiano Ronaldo exists.
They did make it through though, a brilliant rearguard effort proving just enough, and now they’ll face…Manchester City.
Unfortunate draw for the French.
Atalanta have shocked the footballing world with their efforts this season. They achieved a commendable third-placed finish in Serie A and have already booked their place in the Champions League quarter final with victory over Valencia before the lockdown.
Unfortunately for them, awaiting them in the next round are Paris Saint-Germain. While the French champions don’t boast a particularly great Champions League record, they are likely to do the job over one leg now that Josip Ilicic is unavailable.
It’ll be a short stay in Portugal for the Italian side.
Napoli’s seventh place in Serie A was hugely disappointing, but their Coppa Italia triumph proved that they can do well in a mini-knockout tournament. They visit Catalunya for their second leg against Barcelona with the score locked at 1-1, and their hosts’ poor form since the restart will have them rubbing their hands together.
Whoever advances, however, must face Chelsea or Bayern Munich. Bayern are favourites to win the competition, and if Chelsea beat Bayern…well. Scary.
Despite them looking the poorest they have in recent memory, Barcelona have invaluable experience in the Champions League…and Lionel Messi.
Even if they do beat Napoli, their fate will be the same in the next round, which is why they only sit once place above their Italian opponents.
Les Parisiens have been drawn against Atalanta in the quarter final and, while that won’t be a walk in the park, it would be a sizeable upset if PSG didn’t go through.
Their ventures among Europe’s elite have been disappointing, but with the firepower they have, now is as good a time as ever to turn their fortunes around. A win puts them just two games away from lifting the Champions League.
They’ve struggled in recent years but, having experienced a Champions League final in 2016, Atletico have a strong chance of making it there again this season.
They finished 17 points behind La Liga champions Real Madrid this season, but if they can draw a line under that and go again here, they could be the surprise package.
A lack of Timo Werner is going to hurt RB Leipzig in their quarter-final, and Diego Simeone will ensure his side give nothing away over the course of 90 minutes. They could sneak their way through into the latter stages, with the games being down to one leg.
If Manchester City are ever going to win the Champions League, surely now is the greatest chance they will get.
Pep Guardiola in charge, Real Madrid dispatched, and only three games separating them from the trophy with some questionable competition in their way.
There’s a reason they’re joint favourites to win it alongside Bayern Munich, but they have to live up to the hype. Now more than ever.
Since Hansi Flick took permanent charge of Bayern Munich, they’ve looked virtually flawless.
They stormed to an eighth consecutive Bundesliga title and barely broke a sweat doing so following the restart, and already hold a 3-0 lead over Chelsea. They look light years ahead of both Napoli and Barça, their quarter-final opponents.
A Manchester City/Bayern Munich semi-final is a real possibility and would make for incredible viewing, but the experience and cutting edge quality of Die Roten is likely to see them through to the final. Who would they face there? Who cares. They’re the best team there.
Ah, Bournemouth. After a valiant five-year stay in the Premier League, they’ve finally dropped back down to the second tier in one of the oddest seasons in English football history.
Relegation also brings the end of Eddie Howe’s tenure at the club, with the 42-year-old leaving the Cherries after eight years in his second spell at the Vitality Stadium.
Having over-achieved for so long, the sad reality is that this was always on the cards for a club who, not too long ago, were fighting to stay in the Football League. Even then though, Bournemouth’s limp performance this season – after years of fight and passion – will be bitterly disappointing.
Here’s a look back over Bournemouth’s campaign.
A valiant effort at Goodison Park wasn’t enough to save the Cherries, as Aston Villa’s draw against West Ham ensured their survival at the south coasters’ expense.
The aggressive, fast-paced brand of football they’ve been synonymous with over recent years disappeared this season – replaced by a string of slow, tired performances completely devoid of passion or penetration.
Bournemouth have always had a shaky defence. Howe loves an overlapping full-back, and commits to winning games by taking the fight to the opponent – a tactic that has proven successful. Those defensive frailties had always been offset by that attacking threat, but this year the goals dried up.
After scoring 14 goals and providing ten assists in 2018/19, Callum Wilson could only muster eight goals and three assists this term. Similarly, Ryan Fraser, one of the league’s standout performers last season, saw a staggering decline in output.
With their forwards firing blanks, Bournemouth continuously came up short. A string of embarrassing defeats after Christmas to Brighton, West Ham, Watford and Norwich highlighted how far off the pace they were..
Results scarcely improved and Bournemouth managed just four wins in 2020 – two of those coming in the final weeks of the season as a late rally gave them some hope.
FA Cup: Fourth Round
Bournemouth recorded their biggest winning margin of the season as they brushed aside Championship newcomers Luton Town in the FA Cup third round, the Cherries winning the match 4-0.
They played Arsenal in the next round and despite facing a youthful Gunners team, Howe’s side struggled to gain control of the match. Two goals before half time from Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka should have been a wake-up call for Bournemouth, but their lacklustre performance continued in the second half.
They came alive in the dying seconds when Sam Surridge pulled one back but, much like their late league resurgence, it was too little too late. A disappointing performance – one that typified their season.
Carabao Cup: Third Round
Bournemouth scraped past League Two side Forest Green after young keeper Mark Travers saved three penalties in a penalty shootout following a goalless draw.
Howe would have demanded a better performance from his side in the following round against another lower league side, League One’s Burton Albion. He was left frustrated again as the Cherries were thoroughly outplayed at the Pirelli Stadium, the home side winning 2-0. Bournemouth could only muster one shot on target in a dismal performance against a side two leagues below them.
You dread to think where Bournemouth would have ended up without Nathan Ake this year. The Dutchman was a level above his teammates this season, his performances not deserving of a side whimpering towards relegation.
Far too good for the Championship, Bournemouth fans can have no ill-feeling about his impending departure, especially as the significant transfer fee paid by Manchester City may be vital in getting the Cherries back to the top flight.
A standout season last year saw Ryan Fraser linked with a host of top teams. After no move materialised last summer, his manager would have hoped the winger would apply himself this season, guaranteeing himself a move to a top club when his contract expired.
It’s fair to say that didn’t happen. The Scot produced just one goal and four assists all season and barely looked bothered at times, admitting that the summer’s speculation has contributed to his downturn in form. He burned all bridges with Bournemouth fans when he refused to sign a short term deal after the restart as the club were battling relegation.
Now without a club, he’s gone from being linked with Arsenal and Tottenham to Crystal Palace and Fulham. Things could have been very different for Bournemouth and Fraser if he’d actually kept his mind clear this year.
It’s difficult to be too critical of Howe given the fantastic job he’s done in the last few years, but he just seemed to run out of steam this year.
He hasn’t been helped by the board, mind – Arnaut Danjuma the latest in a series of attacking flops signed by the Cherries.
The fans may have hoped he’d stick around and try to get the team back into the Premier League, but Howe left the club shortly after the season finished.
A season no Bournemouth fan will want to remember in a hurry. A disappointing end to an otherwise brilliant story.