Roma vs Juventus Tactical Analysis: A Remarkable Comeback

In Round 21 of Serie A, one of the key battles of the week took place at the Stadio Olimpico as Roma hosted Juventus in Sunday’s late game.

Both clubs went into this game with the intention of closing the gap on the top four spot, with the Bianconeri having the slightly better starting position as they looked to extend their unbeaten run to seven games. Jose Mourinho’s men, on the other hand, were looking to bounce back from a 3-1 defeat to Milan in midweek that also saw them receive two sending-offs.

The match could be considered one of the best thrillers of the Serie A season so far, as Juventus pulled off an astonishing comeback to overcome a two-goal deficit and win 4-3.

The following tactical analysis will break down the key patterns of play for both teams and explain the intricacies of their tactical approach to the game.

Team Lineups and Formations


As for the teams’ lineups and formations, there were some unexpected changes on both sides. For Roma, the biggest surprise was that Mourinho switched from a three-man backline to a back four, while Juventus kept their 4-3-3 formation, which interestingly featured Moise Kean up front instead of Alvaro Morata.

In the switch to a four-man backline, Chris Smalling and Roger Ibanez formed a center-back duo, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Matias Vina took on the full-back role. The traditional central midfield duo of Jordan Veretout and Bryan Cristante operated in midfield, while 18-year-old talent Felix Afena-Gyan surprisingly started the game on the left wing.

Juventus, on the other hand, did not change its tactical formation, but had some personnel changes. Left-back Mattia De Sciglio came in place of Alex Sandro, Adrien Rabiot made way for Rodrigo Bentancur in midfield, and Paulo Dybala and Federico Chiesa were arguably the biggest threats in Juve’s attack.

Tactical Analysis – Roma

Roma were much more intense in the first 45 minutes in terms of their approach to positional attacks and when they did not have the ball. The hosts had more or less the same amount of possession as Juventus (49% vs. 51%), but overall they were more determined and effective than the visitors. They recorded 11 shots in the first half, 8 of them from inside the penalty area, and scored 1.45 xG (Expected Goals). However, it all went wrong for Mourinho’s men in the final half-hour, despite Roma scoring twice in less than ten minutes earlier to take a 3-1 lead.

The home team’s positional play depended heavily on how Juventus set up defensively – whether they pressed deeper into Roma’s half or retreated into a hybrid of deep and mid-block. When Juve opted for a more passive style of defending, Roma would build up from the back, shuffling the ball back and forth in midfield to force their opponents to defend narrowly, which then opened up the flank areas. Maitland-Niles and Vina were active on both wings throughout the game, as was left winger Afena-Gyan: they often combined with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lorenzo Pellegrini in the inside channels or played crosses into the penalty area.

On other occasions, when Roma could not play the ball out from the back so easily and were pressed deeper into their own half, the home team chose a more direct approach. They either tried to play a direct vertical pass between the lines into the feet of Tammy Abraham, or they hit the ball long into the channel for Afena-Gyan to utilize his speed.

Tactical Analysis – Juventus

Juventus were second-best for long stretches of the game and struggled to impose themselves on Roma, who made it difficult for the Bianconeri to get into the rhythm of the game. The visitors were quite ineffective in terms of converting possession, scoring only 0.23 xG in the first 45 minutes. The fact that Roma pressured Juventus quite aggressively in the first half and also during the entire 90 minutes, allowing only 10 PPDA (Passes Per Defensive Action) while Juventus allowed 18, did not make things easier.

In the cases when Roma retreated to the mid-block, Juventus had a similar concept to the home team, which focused on bringing the ball forward through the flanks. However, the main difference between the two teams was in the final actions in the final third. The visitors either tried to feed the forwards, Kean or Chiesa, who then played the ball back to the midfielders in the center zone, or to condense the wide space, especially the left flank, to draw the Roma defense to the ball side, creating more space in the center zone in front of the goal. In addition, shifting play to the right flank was also an option.

Juventus’ comeback was initiated by some minor adjustments to the players’ positions on the pitch. The introduction of Alvaro Morata and his regular movements on the wing allowed the central midfielders, especially Locatelli, to move further forward and sometimes act as a center forward in the penalty area.

Expected Goals (xG) Statistics



A Roma win would have seen Mourinho’s side push Juventus into fifth place and most likely keep them out of the race for the Serie A title, and a two-goal lead should have secured victory for the Giallorossi. But Roma were simply too open at the back at a crucial stage of the game and found no means to prevent Juventus from scoring. Considering Mourinho’s sides are known for their pragmatism, it was an incredibly open game and the Portuguese coach will have to find a way to get his team to finish games off if they still want to challenge for the top four.