Avoiding complacency key against Nordsjaelland

Posted by Mina Rzouki

Juventus woe Shakhtar celebPA PhotosJuventus slipped up in their last Champions League outing, drawing 1-1 at home to Shakhtar

Swimming in a pool of confidence after overcoming Napoli, the only team that inflicted defeat on them last season, Juventus have proved their maturity and desire to continue furthering the project in hopes of reclaiming glory. While they have dazzled on a domestic level, however, they have hesitated in Europe with a disappointing performance in the home draw with Shakhtar Donetsk.

Against the Ukrainians and despite playing at home, Juventus surprised many with how much they struggled to contain the attacking threat of their opponents. They took too long to settle, failed to control the game and were left overwhelmed by the likes of Willian, who ran rings around the players who so often perform admirably for the Old Lady.

Having managed to collect only two points from two games, the Bianconeri simply must win their upcoming game against what are perceived to be the group’s whipping boys – Nordsjaelland. Unfortunately for the Italians, this game will not be as easy as they hoped it would be.

Despite their short history and recent scandalous past, this small Danish team play a modern style of football that focuses on delighting the crowd. Thanks to the foundations laid out by previous coach Morten Wieghorst, current boss Kasper Hjulmand exploited the strengths of his squad to better their style of play to create a footballing fairytale. Inspired by the likes of Barcelona, Nordsjaelland play a short passing game that revolves around controlling possession with the majority of their attacks coming though the wings. Graceful in their manner, the team wants to play football, boasts excellent passing accuracy and are rarely ever bullied into foregoing their footballing philosophy.

In their last match against Chelsea, the Danes boasted territorial supremacy in the first half of the match but despite their ball-playing skills, they lack the attacking players necessary to excel in the final third of the pitch. In comparison to all the other teams partaking in the Champions League, Nordsjaelland have produced the third least amount of shots on goal.

Much of this has to do with the absence of a true striker with Mikkel Beckmann acting as the lone forward – a man who has scored only once in the league this season and is classified more as an attacking midfielder capable of playing on either wing that an actual striker. Hardly the goal threat, their most prolific goalscorer comes in the form of wide player Joshua John, the Dutch player on loan from FC Twente. Domestically, John has scored eight goals in eight starting appearances and has impressed with his agility, speed and acceleration.

Despite the youngster’s position on the left-hand side, Nordsjaelland have tended to attack mainly down their right. Weak when going through the centre of the pitch, their lack of great talent up top sees them struggle to penetrate effectively with most of their shots coming from outside of the box.

Their defensive strength comes from their ability to control possession but those tasked with defending often opt to intercept rather than tackle, in keeping with their elegant footballing philosophy. However, having conceded six goals in two games, it’s safe to say that while their back-line has managed well domestically, it has struggled to contain Europe’s attacking threats. Considering Juve’s offensive ability, the Danes will need to watch out for the Italians’ penchant for scoring from set pieces. One corner or a foul drawn out from a dangerous position could result in another defeat for the Champions League newcomers if Andrea Pirlo has anything to do with it.

For Juventus, it is a must win game and thus they cannot afford to be complacent. While both Mirko Vucinic and Gianluigi Buffon have recovered in time to make the trip, Antonio Conte will be relying on squad depth to carry them through this away fixture. The likes of Stephan Lichtsteiner have been left behind in Italy so that he may rest while Kwadwo Asamoah did not make the journey on account of an injury he picked up on the weekend. As such, Paolo De Ceglie will probably play on the left with Martin Caceres likely to take his place on the right. In defence, Lucio may well replace Andrea Barzagli, while Napoli hero Paul Pogba is rumoured to be set to take Arturo Vidal’s position in midfield.

Unlike their previous Champions League matches, Juventus should avoid a slow start and must take the initiative immediately to stop the Danes from controlling possession. The current Bianconeri side play a dynamic game but their heavy schedule means they cannot continue chasing their opponents and they need to hold on to the ball to preserve their energy. If they display the same determination witnessed on Saturday night then their maturity and talent should be enough to draw out a good result on the night.

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