Tactical Analysis: Sevilla @ Juventus 0-0 UCL Sep-14th-2016 Juventus frustrated by Sevilla’s defense

This is the first UCL match for Juventus this season. Juventus failed to capture all 3  points at home. In this analysis we will focus on the defensive tactics used by Sevilla and why Juventus failed to break them.

Juventus field the usual 3-5-2. Comapred to the match against Sassuolo, Evra replaced Alex Sandro, Asamoah replaced Pjanic and Dani Alves replaced Lichtsteiner. For Sevilla, I cannot comment on whether they did anything unusual because I haven’t really watched any of their previous games. The only thing I want to note is that they fielded a 4-3-3 instead of a 4-3-1-2 as listed by UEFA (or by the TV channel I was watching).

Sevilla’s defensive tactics

Sevilla was more concerned about not losing than scoring in this game. There are several key tactics they used in their defensive phase:

1. High man-oriented press

Sevilla tried to disrupt Juventus’ build-up with a high man-oriented press.


These resulted in a lot of tackling opportunities in the Juventus’ half.



These highly energy-demanding tactic was mainly used in the first 10-15 minutes of each half. It successfully disrupted Juventus’ build-up.

2. To create overloads in the defense on the flanks.  

Juventus often initiates their build-up through their center backs to the wing backs. In this game Sevilla often created overloads in the defense phase with Vitolo / Pablo Sarabia dropping back to midfield or even defense.



With the constant retreat of both Vitolo / Pablo Sarabia, Sevilla often played a very narrow 4-5-1 formation when defending deep in their own half (you can almost call it a 6-3-1). One point to note is that both of the Sevilla’s full backs (Escudero / Mercado) were not tasked to defend the flanks. Their main job was to man-mark Khedira and Asamoah. The task of defending the flanks actually fell to Vitolo and Pablo Sarabia.


The reason for such tactic is to prevent the penetration of both Khedira / Asamoah. This has been a very powerful weapon for Juventus in the league games so far, especially those runs from Khedira.

Sevilla’s overloads in the defensive phase prevented Juventus’s attacks on the flanks during the majority of the game, especially in the first half.


3. Eliminating Dybala from the build-up

With the departure of Pogba, Dybala often drops back to the midfield help build-up. With that in mind, Sevilla often put two or three defenders on him as soon as he received the ball in the middle or final third in this game.



The goal is obviously to minimize any damages created by Dybala.

Juventus early success

1. Juventus’ high press

Sevilla’s focus on defense (and therefore lack of any offense) prevented Juventus from developing any dangers through their build-ups. However it still managed to threaten Sevilla with several dangerous opportunities from Khedira and Higuain in the early stage of the game. This is because of their very successful high press in the early part of the first half. It specifically exploited the very long distance between Sevilla’s players in their build-up, especially between the defenders and the midfield.



This is also complicated by two more factors: 1, the very advanced positions their full backs (Mercado in particular) occupied during their build-up. 2, Rami’s weakness in his left foot (where he was the left center back).


When being pressed, Rami often turned inside to his right foot before he passed. The problem is that it delayed the pass and invited more pressure from Juventus players. The eventual passes were often intercepted by Juventus and led to several counter-attack opportunities, including the 1v1 opportunity of Khedira and the Sergio Rico (Sevilla’s goal keeper).

2. Juventus’s very potent attack in the middle through Bonucci and Higuain

Bonucci’s laser passes often directly or indirectly found Higuain before Sevilla’s transition from their high press to their deep defending 4-5-1, resulting in several very dangerous plays by Juventus in the first 15 minutes of the game. Consider the follow examples.

First example:



Second example (Khedira’s second chance assisted by Dybala after his one-two with Higuain):



The third example:



The latter two passes resulted in two very dangerous opportunities.

Sevilla’s counter tactics

1. Stay compact during build-up to counter Juventus’s high press

We discussed earlier that there was a very long distance between the Sevilla’s defenders and midfielders. This created a problem during their build-up where Juventus’ high press exploited. The obvious adjustment would be to stay compact. This was achieved particularly by having the two central midfielders N’Zonzi and Iborra dropping back to provide more passing lanes.




This helped them to control possession while preventing counter attacks opportunities by Juventus.

2. Switching to a compact 4-4-2

To prevent Juventus’ penetration through the middle, Sevilla switched to a narrow and compact 4-4-2 during defensive phase after 15 minutes of the first half. A previous problem for them is that Bonucci could pass through their presses to reach Dybala or Higuain. This is complicated by the fact that Vitolo and Pablo Sarabia had to press Juventus’ center backs in their high press while they also had to chase Erva and Dani Alves in their deep defending 4-5-1 set-up. It took a long time for them to achieve such transition. To solve this, Sevilla instead settled to a very narrow 4-4-2 formation.



Although it prevented them from using a very disruptive high press, it was successful to prevent Juventus from penetrating in the middle. Consider the following data:

Bonucci’s forward passes in the first 15 minutes of the first half


Bonucci’s forward passes from 15th minute to the end of the first half


You can see most of his passes became horizontal after Sevilla switched to a 4-4-2. There was less long passes from the defensive third to middle or attacking third. But more telling is the passes received by Higuain.

Higuain’s passes received in the first 15 minutes of the first half


Higuain’s passes received from 15th minute to the end of the first half


Higuain received way less passes in the middle or final third after Sevilla switched to a 4-4-2.

These adjustments really affected Juventus’s ability to attack Sevilla. In the second half Sevilla also switched to a 3-5-2, with Pablo Sarabia playing the right wing back and Mercado playing the center backs. Iborra usually moved up to press Juventus center backs, temporarily switched to a 3-4-3. This can be switched to a 3-5-2 with him dropping back to midfield when defending deep. It allows them to transition between defensive shapes very quickly (instead of having Vitolo and Pablo Sarabia covering a lot of distances). The 3-4-3 allows them to match up Juventus players during high press. The 3-5-2 allows them to control possession better. It also allows them to maintain overloads in defense.

Juventus’ struggle to score

Finally we will discuss why Juventus struggled to score in this game.

1. Failure for the crosses to reach target 

Despite Sevilla’s solid defense, Juventus still managed to generate several scoring opportunities. We discussed some of them earlier. But what they really failed to convert in this game was their crosses.


Only about 30% of their crosses reached their teammates. And most of these were in not dangerous position. This screams for Mandzukic.

2. Is it a lack of creative passes or a lack of creative movement?

The substitution of Pjanic improved the potency of Juventus’ offense. A common criticism for Allegri in this game is that by not using Pjanic, it decreases Juventus’ creativity due to his excellent passing. However, the actual data tells a somewhat different story. The only parameter that improved drastically after his introduction was the team’s passes to the attacking third.

Juventus’ passes to the attacking third in the second half before Pjanic’s substitution


Juventus’ passes to the attacking third in the second half after Pjanic’s substitution


The success rate increases from 71% to over 85%

This was not really due to Pjanic’ passing #16-3.jpg

Although with a very high successful rate, his passes would only increase the team’s success rate to 4-5%. The only parameter that really improved was Bonucci’s forward passes success rate.

Bonucci’s forward passes in the second half before Pjanic’s substitution


Bonucci’s forward passes in the second half after Pjanic’s substitution


His forward passes success rate increased from less than 50% to 100%! What really happened was that after Pjanic’s introduction, Dybala did not come back to the midfield to collect the ball. Most of those failed forward passes by Bonucci actually aimed for Dybala. Because he was often targeted by multiple Sevilla’s defenders, it actually provided a lot of the space for other Juventus players to operate.

Pjanic’s passes were successful but not really threatening. The most dangerous plays from Pjanic was when he received passes.


Although above data fails to capture his take-on ability (he really only had one take-on), it nevertheless provides a glimpse of what Juventus lacked in this game: the lack of creative movements. This is probably because Dybala had to take on a lot of responsibility during their build-up and he was marked by multiple defenders for the most of the game. No one other than Higuain really ran into the space (also the lack of it). Pjanic was dangerous in this game because of his movement, therefore someone must have passed him the ball. It would argue that there was at least enough creativity provided by players like Dani Alves or Khedira.


Juventus created several chances (Khedira x2 and Higuain hit the post). This game is similar to the Fiorentina or the Lazio game except Juventus did not finish the few chances they could generate. Sevilla played an excellent defensive game. My man-of-the-match is Iborra.

Random thoughts

1.Went to New Orleans this week for vacation. Amazing city, so much fun, you guys should go.



I was told that apparently lots of our readers are from Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

All of passing data are from www.fourfourtwo.com statzone

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