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Alex Sandro and Dani Alves: Juventus' Deadly Brazilian Duo

Published by Bleacher Report on Sun, 25 Sep 2016


Just as they have in each of the two previous seasons, Juventus have got off to a slow start in 2016/17. Both times, coach Massimiliano Allegri has arrested his sides poor form, but despite the fact he has yet to do so this term, the Bianconeri continue to rack up wins in domestic competition.Palermo were their latest victims, the Old Lady travelling to Sicily and emerging from a stern test at the Stadio Renzo Barbera with a hard-fought victory on Saturday, winning 1-0 courtesy of a shot from Brazilian star Dani AlvesthatEdoardo Goldaniga diverted into his own net.With a UEFA Champions League outing against Dinamo Zagreb awaitingon Tuesday evening, Allegri made a number of calculated gambles against the Rosanero, resting Giorgio Chiellini and Paulo Dybala while fielding Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic together for the first time in a competitive match.It almost paid immediate dividends, the former narrowly missing from close range after just 12 seconds. But from then on, the first half became ill-tempered. Miralem Pjanic curled a vicious free-kick toward the near post from an acute angle, only to see Josip Posavec somehow manage to punch it out from under the crossbar.Higuain saw one effort blocked by Palermos Giancarlo Gonzalez before Pjanic picked out the striker with a wonderful long ball from midfield. The Argentina internationals first touch was equally sublime, but the Rosanero goalkeeper sped off his line to pluck the ball away at the decisive moment.When Daniele Rugani hobbled off four minutes before the break, Allegri surprisingly sent on Juan Cuadrado in his place, shifting to a lopsided 4-3-3 formation. The Colombian winger couldve scored straight away, but Mario Lemina went for goal himself rather than pass to his unmarked team-mate.Pjanic had another good opportunity to score after a poor punched clearance from Posavec, hitting the goalkeeper with a lobbed effort with the goal gaping. Juves luck changed somewhat after the break,Alves hopeful long-range cross-shot taking a massive deflection offGoldaniga to leave his goalkeeper helpless.Mandzukic almost added a second with two efforts that Posavec did brilliantly to deny. The Croatia international then saw a third chance correctly ruled out for offside. Palermo had a few opportunities to equalise, including a dangerous Alessandro Diamanti free-kick and a near-post shot from Ilija Nestorovski, but Gigi Buffon was equal to both.With the home side looking dangerous, Allegri sent on Chiellini and reverted to 3-5-2, only to see Kwadwo Asamoah limp off. That meant Juve had to end the game with 10 men, and the clubs official website revealed that both the Ghana international and Rugani will undergo fitness tests on Sunday."We'll take the points and bring them home," Allegri told Sky Italia (h/t ESPN FC) shortly after the final whistle. "When you win 1-0, it means that you suffer, but you have to consider that winning here is not easy because [Palermo] are a tough team.The performance appeared to owe more to his own teams struggles than anything positive from their opponents, but it was a result that was once again determined by one of Juves Brazilian wing-backs.Working hard for the side and providing balance, attacking thrust and defensive solidity, bothAlves and Alex Sandro have been essential to the positive results gained by the Bianconeri so far this term.His effort against Palermo may have gone down as an own goal, but Wednesdays victory over Cagliari had already seen the former Barcelona man net for Juventus (shown below), picked out by Pjanic and smashing home from outside the box.That effort capped a wonderful display that saw Alves feature heavily, the Sardinian side having no answer for his powerful running and creativity. According to WhoScored.com, the 33-year-old touched the ball on 138 occasions, a staggering 40 more times than any other player on the pitch.The same source showed he completed 84.7 per cent of his 98 pass attempts while also ensuring the Rossoblu got little joy down his flank, making three tackles and one interception.But it was his effort to keep the momentum in Juves favouras he helped retain possession and build attacksthat was truly noticeable, particularly as he routinely did so from a central position.As can be seen in the shot above, Alves made a number of runs right at the heart of the Cagliari defence, pushing them backward and opening up space for the likes of Higuain to capitalise upon.It was far from a one-off incident, but the game marked the first time this season whenAlves was the most effective wing-back, with compatriot Sandro making a strong case to be Juves player of season so far.The 25-year-old has been simply devastating, his ability to defend soundly before breaking forward to supply chances a vital part of Allegris game plan. It was something he did last term whenever he was given an opportunity, but thus far in 2016/17, he appears to have supplanted Patrice Evra in the coachs first-choice XI.Starting all six Serie A fixtures, the only game he wasnt named in the lineup from the outset was the 0-0 Champions League draw with Sevilla, and the Bianconeri sorely missed his ability to create chances in that clash.According to WhoScored.com, Sandro leads all Juventus players in that category, creating an average of 2.8 scoring opportunities per game. Yet his impressive attacking output has not come at the expense of defensive diligence, the same source showing he is averaging 2.5 tackles, 2.3 interceptions and two clearances per outing.While Juventus may have lost, Sandro showed just what he is capable of in the recent match with Inter Milan, shrugging off his marker to lay on a simple goal for Stephan Lichtsteiner.He did so with a low, deadly cross that any defender risked turning into his own net, a wonderful weapon that opponents repeatedly struggle to cope with. Clearly and constantly working to get better, the man himself is delighted with the progress he has made since joining the Bianconeriin 2015.I think I am improving each day, thanks to my team-mates and the staff, Sandro said to Serie As official television station recentlybefore going on to cite Roberto Carlos and Cafu as the examples for full-backs should follow (h/tFootballItalia).With their continuous raids forward but smart tactical awareness, theBrazilian pair are slowly beginning to replicate what those two great players did when were fielded together. For now, it is a lofty comparison to make, but the duo are the closest facsimile of that Selecao combination in years.They are helping the Bianconeri overcome their early-season struggles and may well take their partnership into Brazils famous gold shirts, but Juves deadly wing combination will first look to take care of business against Dinamo Zagreb and Empoli.You have been warned.
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