The football battle in the middle of the park determines the outcome of the game. Over ninety minutes, the midfield who have successfully nullified their opposition have practically guaranteed a victory, hence making it vital to have the perfect duo to do the business. But just who can boast about having two of the best men for the job?
Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere have already started to make waves at the Emirates but until both are fully fit and raring to go from the start, there still needs to be a learning curve. Manchester City’s David Silva and Yaya Toure possess the perfect skills to complement one another but an inability to transform that partnership into Europe in two successive seasons means there’s still work to do.
Xabi Alonso and Mesut Özil have created an ideal understanding at Real Madrid and you could argue Barcelona’s Xavi and Iniesta already hold the crown. Their telepathic connection means all other competition is blown out of the water. But you’d be wrong.
Chelsea may just have sacked Roberto Di Matteo but it wasn’t hard to see the midfield duo of Oscar and Juan Mata were starting to click. Yet even with the dangerous Eden Hazard in their ranks, the Champions League holders were completely outplayed by a devastating duo belonging to the opposition.
Juventus’ Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio.
The Italian side created chance after chance and but for a resilient Petr Čech could have scored more than the 3-0 victory they enjoyed in Turin. Having dominated possession, Marchisio and Pirlo continued to recycle possession from the increasingly effective Arturo Vidal. As they overran the likes of Ramires, Oscar and John Obi Mikel, they were able to play in strikers Fabio Quagliarella and later on, Sebastian Giovinco.
Much was the command of Juventus’ midfield, Chelsea were largely restricted to counter attacking and long-distance shooting. Pirlo attempted ten long passes, the most in midfield for any team and completed seven of those, ending up with an overall 71% passing accuracy rate. Teammate Marchisio had a 62% rate but both players ended up playing further up the pitch than any other midfielder in the game, with Pirlo adding an assist too.
What is more, Vidal was credited with a goal and an assist as well as he claimed man of the match in a game which showed just how good the Italian champions are.
Recent success sparked the transfer of Paul Pogba from Manchester United, who came straight into the side to play with whom he believes are ‘great players’. “There are three players in Italy who have truly impressed me,” he told Sky Sport Italia. “They are Pirlo, Marchisio and Zlatan Ibrahimović. Pirlo is a great player and I, like him, can play in front of the defence.”
“I would say that I'm more mature because I've been playing with the best,” he added. “I've learnt a lot.” He wasn't the only one to heap praise on an extremely gifted midfield. Former Italy head coach expressed his admiration of current Italian playmaker Marchisio. “He's become world class, at the same level as the top midfielders in Europe,” the 63-year-old told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“When I first called him up to the national team I expected him to be as such, like Lampard or Gerrard, players who know how to show their strengths in front of goal.” As battles for midfield go on, you don’t have to look far to see the biggest talents to hit Europe. Having amassed a considerable achievement of winning Serie A completely unbeaten in the 2011/12 season, Juventus look to take charge on a bigger stage.
And it all starts with Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio.
The unstoppable duo.