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Wednesday March 13 2019
Berna's big break

One of the most impressive aspects of Juventus’ Champions League comeback against Atletico Madrid was Federico Bernardeschi’s performance, writes Emmet Gates.

It had never been done. Couldn’t be done, went the logic. Juventus had never reversed a 2-0 first-leg defeat in Europe. And they weren’t just fighting history, they were fighting Cholo Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, who many in Italy have likened to a Serie A side.

And yet, remarkably, almost unfathomably - and totally in keeping with recent seasons of the Champions League - they pulled it off. The 3-0 result and performance was as comprehensive as they’ve produced in this competition since the quarter-final first leg against Barcelona two years ago.

While Ronaldo (and rightly so) will be at the centre of every headline for a performance borne out of sheer force of will and unflinching self-belief in a competition he has come to define, one of the standout performers on the night was Federico Bernardeschi.

This felt like Bernardeschi’s coming-of-age. It was a performance where he made that quantum leap, from having potential - and 18 months into his time at Juve, largely unfulfilled – to someone worthy of playing for Italy’s biggest club.  This was, by some distance, his finest game in black and white.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival in Turin last summer has had a knock-on effect on Bernardeschi. Last season, many Juve fans - and Fiorentina fans before them - could recall their frustration in seeing Bernardeschi attempt a moment of unneeded flashiness, promptly followed by a flick of his long hair. 

In fact, it could be argued that at times he was more interested in playing with his hair than the ball.  There was a lack of work ethic, an immaturity that was affecting his game.

Ronaldo’s transfer changed that. Bernardeschi, in what could be seen as a symbolic reawakening, went for the classic short back and sides and knuckled down. He started the season brightly, scoring on the opening day of the season against Chievo, before his form faded during the winter months.

It was the final 10 minutes of the first leg against Atletico that gave Max Allegri the idea of starting him from the off in the return fixture. Bernardeschi replaced an insipid Paulo Dybala in Madrid and showed more than the Argentine had in the previous 80, forcing Jan Oblak into a terrific save from a left-footed piledriver in the dying moments.

And so, to last night. From the kick-off, the winger busied himself, eager to receive the ball and make things happen with a dynamism that Juve sorely lacked in Madrid.  He was at the heart of everything good about the Bianconeri. When not in possession, Bernardeschi pressed and hounded the Atletico players, maintaining Juve’s superiority. He, as much as Ronaldo, set the tempo.

His wonderful left foot set up Ronaldo’s opener, hanging the ball towards the back post, knowing that the Portuguese would aerially dominate Atletico’s defence. Sixty minutes later he won the crucial penalty after a strong foray deep into the Atletico area, which saw Juve do the unthinkable and completely turn the tie around. 

With such a performance, it now begs the question as to whether Dybala will make another start in the Champions League this season. Allegri’s 4-3-3 is clearly better suited for a player of Bernardeschi’s characteristics. Furthermore, Dybala’s lack of mobility can be a hindrance, especially away from home. 

While Dybala hasn’t really kicked on from his own breakout performance against Barca two years ago, last night might just be the turning point towards Bernardeschi becoming the assured, dependable, confident player Juve thought they had bought two summers ago.

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Have your say...
Considering it's been almost 15 years since Italy has had any consistent offensive or creative players, I'm hesitant to start hoping that Berna will continue with this form over the next few seasons. As the article mentions, hopefully Ronaldo's presence will be the secret ingredient to consistent high-level performances from Berna; the realization that being one of the best players in the world is nearly impossible, and he'll have to sacrifice everything to do so over the next few years.
on the 13th March, 2019 at 3:48pm
And later on, Allegri will changed everything and back into negative football.

This is how juve should play, unleash them bloody hell

@viktor you think just those two who excell last night? The whole team performed brilliant, cancelo, spinazolla, both Chiellini and Bonucci , pjanic rule the midfield, emre can turn to defensive when cancelo stormed forward

Totally well played
on the 13th March, 2019 at 3:31pm
I'm just waiting for the great messages of support from the Interisti on here..........(tumble-weed).......
on the 13th March, 2019 at 2:54pm
Great comeback.. but lets be honest for a second. Did Atletico even try to maintain some kind of football? I have rarely seen such as uninspired effort of a team in CL knock outs rounds as Atletico showed. Don't get me wrong, for the good of Italian football I'm happy but I have to say, without Ronaldo.. And Berna, Juve played an jut above average game. Now, trash talk as much as you want, this game was extremely unbalanced in terms of performance
on the 13th March, 2019 at 2:37pm

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