A game-changing injury or a poor substitution?

Lazio’s 3-1 win over Juventus was one of the more remarkable Serie A games I have seen recently. For the first hour Juve took the game to the hosts and were completely on top. The interchange of positions, crisp passing and fantastic movement were topped off by an excellent team goal to put the Bianconeri deservedly ahead. Then Rodrigo Bentancur got injured and Maurizio Sarri put on Emre Can in the Uruguayan’s plance. The game completely changed, Lazio got a foothold and crucially got the vital equalizer on the stroke of halftime. On resumption, Juve looked like a team of strangers and never threatened. Lazio deservedly won.

The question that Sarri has to ask as he ponders his first defeat as Juve boss, was whether he made the right choice in bringing Can on or was Bentancur so inspired that no other midfielder could match him on the day? That neither Miralem Pjanic nor Blaise Matuidi were able to shoulder responsibility will be cause for concern and the fact that the manager hasn’t yet been able to inspire Adrien Rabiot to reach standards that are expected at Juve is also troubling. I still think Juve made the right choice in appointing Sarri to develop a more progressive style of football. But why is it that after a brilliant month of aggressive football in October, Sarri’s team is starting to resemble Allegri’s version from last year? The key could be the pedestrain midfield. Without that base playing well, it’s going to be hard for Sarri’s revolution to take off.

Assessing Gladbach’s win over Bayern

It’s important to look at Gladbach’s win over Bayern with objectivity. First of all Borussia Park has always been a difficult place for Bayern to visit. Even Pep’s Bayern lost there a couple of times and it’s clear that the Foals raise themselves to another level when they host the perennial champions.

However, it’s been a long time since Gladbach welcomed Bayern as equals, at least according to the table. I think this clearly weighed on the league leaders once the game got underway because the occasion got to them. For the first 60 minutes Bayern were getting a flashback of last weekend, where they dominated Leverkusen, created chance after chance but failed to score.

It was almost like Bayern needed to score for Gladbach to feel like their natural place in the pecking order was restored. Now more comfortable as passionate underdogs, the home side finally dug in, fuelled by Marco Rose throwing caution to the wind and bringing Breel Embolo on. They duly equalized, in some part down to Bayern’s lackadaisical set piece defending, but one sensed the tide had turned.

In truth, despite being roared on by a passionate crowd, I can’t recall Gladbach doing anything particularly incisive other than Marcus Thuram giving Bayern’s defence a bloody nose with his runs and trickery. A draw seemed likely, and I don’t think the hosts would have been too disappointed.

Then came the penalty in stoppage time, again thanks to that man Thuram. Considering what was at stake, left back Remy Bensebaini showed incredible composure to wait and pick his corner exactly to give the leaders a memorable win.

The result means Gladbach stay on top of the Bundesliga for the 8th consecutive week. Despite this remarkable run, it’s too early to say the Foals are contenders, let alone favourites. That being said, the nature of this win, when they were nowhere near their best for a long time and still managed to beat the champions while coming from behind, speaks volumes for their confidence. If they can maintain this momentum till the winter break and keep a position in the top two, then come January, we really can say that Marco Rose’s men are genuine title contenders in Germany.