Champions League: Juventus vs Real Madrid – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Juventus host Real Madrid at the Allianz Stadium on Tuesday for the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal fixture.
19:45 BST, Tuesday 3rd April, Allianz Stadium (Turin, Italy), BT Sport
A re-run of last season’s final, Juventus will look to avenge themselves of the loss at the hands of Real Madrid and make their way into the semifinals of this year’s iteration of the competition.
While Massimiliano Allegri’s side put themselves in the driving seat for the final stretch of the Serie A season with a late win over AC Milan on Saturday, Real Madrid saw their rivals Barcelona retain their unbeaten status for the season against Sevilla with a couple of goals at the death.
For Juventus, the Champions League represents the raison d’être and to fall at the quarterfinal stage would raise questions amongst their supporters even despite the pedigree of their opponents.
As far as Zinedine Zidane is concerned, though, Europe’s most prestigious cup competition could be the only thing standing between him and the exit of the Santiago Bernabeu.
This, then, offers one of the ties of the quarterfinal stage: two teams saturated with talented players, with the narrative of last season’s final playing in the background and both coaches needing to win.
Last Time Out
Juventus 3-1 AC Milan (Serie A)
With Napoli having slipped up against Sassuolo earlier in the day, Juventus’ clash with an AC Milan rejuvenated under Gennaro Gattuso offered them the chance of opening up clean air at the top of Serie A.
When Paulo Dybala hammered in a long shot on the eighth minute which somehow evaded Gigio Donnarumma in the Milan goal, it seemed as though it was going to be a walk in the park for Max Allegri’s side.
However, with Milan kicking into gear, it was the away side who would have the run of the game for the next 60 minutes or so. A goal was coming and, when it did, there was little surprise at the source: Leonardo Bonucci, lately of Juventus, popped up from a corner, eluding both of his former centre back partners Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli to head the ball past Gigi Buffon.
However, in true Bianconeri style, it was the home team who ran out victors. With ten minutes to play, Sami Khedira, who had been unimpressive up to that point, found himself in a wide left area with the ball at his feet. Looking up, he saw an unmarked Juan Cuadrado who he found with a delicious cross to head home comfortably.
With three minutes to go, provider turned scorer: Khedira receiving the ball from Douglas Costa fired the ball past Donnarumma just inside his near post. The final score was perhaps an unfair reflection of the game overall but, as the old adage goes, ‘winning games you don’t deserve to win is the sign of a champion’.
Las Palmas 0-3 Real Madrid (La Liga)
With Cristiano Ronaldo rested for the Champions League clash against Juventus, Real Madrid eased past Las Palmas in Gran Canaria on Saturday. The home team put up very little resistance and, by the 51st minute, the game was already over.
When Luka Modric found Gareth Bale with a searching through ball, the Welshman made no mistake, firing high across Leandro Chichizola into the far top corner of the Las Palmas goal.
From this point on, it was Las Palmas who did all the hard work for Real Madrid, conceding two penalties either side of the interval which were finished by Karim Benzema and Bale respectively.
Zidane will be hoping that his gamble pays off. Ronaldo has become something of a Champions League talisman for the Frenchman this season and he will need to be on top form at the Allianz Stadium on Tuesday.
The injuries are starting to stack up for Juventus. With Federico Bernardeschi out indefinitely through injury, he’s joined by Alex Sandro who picked up a hamstring injury over the international break.
Mario Mandzukic is hoping to return to fitness ahead of the game against Real Madrid but, in happier news, Juan Cuadrado is back, having scored against AC Milan at the weekend.
In addition, Miralem Pjanic and Mehdi Benatia are both out through suspension.
Real Madrid Lineup
Zinedine Zidane was hoping to go into the Champions League quarterfinals with a clean bill of health attached to his squad. However, this was scuppered when Nacho Hernandez walked off early on in the Las Palmas fixture.
Elsewhere, the Frenchman will be pleased to have Isco and Sergio Ramos available, with both returning to training on Monday.
Key Battle: Paulo Dybala (Juventus) vs Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
While it is not fair to reduce these two sides down to their star players, it is certainly true that both sides have relied on them in recent months.
Paulo Dybala, whilst not performing so much on the European stage, has carried Juventus through their Serie A fixtures as the season slowly comes to a conclusion. The opening goal on Saturday may have been cancelled out by Leonardo Bonucci’s header but his late winner against Lazio and his brace against Udinese were fundamental to the fact that a seventh consecutive Scudetto is in Juventus’ hands.
Given one of the reasons that Bonucci left in the first place was put down to a ‘disagreement’ between the defender and his young Argentine teammate after the Champions League final – the older man questioning Dybala’s attitude during big games – this is the sort of stage upon which the midfielder can begin making his reparations.
As for Ronaldo, an equal and opposite problem has punctuated his season: clinical in European competition, it is only in recent months that his goal-scoring rate has picked up in La Liga.
Having only scored four goals at the halfway point of this season, the Portuguese now has 22 goals to his name in the Spanish top division, suggesting that the opening half of the season was anomalous in some way.
In the Champions League, though, there have been no such problems: Ronaldo currently has 12 goals in eight games, including three against Paris Saint-Germain in the Round of 16.
Whichever of these two goal-scoring proficients, then, can turn up on the night, their team is likely to come out on top.
Are either team better than they were last season?
With these teams taking each other on in the final last season, there are legitimate questions about whether either side has progressed since then.
While Real Madrid find themselves 13 points off the title race in La Liga, Juventus have been chasing Napoli for the Scudetto for much of the season.
Of course, this year Napoli have been playing football the like of which has seldom been seen in Italian football during Juventus’ period of dominance but there still remains questions to be asked about the way the Biaconeri play as a unit through the course of the season.
Jonathan Wilson, in a recent Guardian article, has talked about the Disneyfication of football being a bad thing for the spectacle of the beautiful game. Real Madrid’s clash with PSG was a good example of this: a pitch brimming with stars and yet the stars failing to produce top quality football in the event.
Will Tuesday’s game be more of this? Or will we be served up the sort of football we expect to see in the Champions League?
What did we learn about Juventus in the Spurs fixtures?
When Juventus came through their Round of 16 fixture with Tottenham despite looking dead and gone when Son Heung-min’s goal went in in the second leg, it looked as though they would benefit from the experience.
However, with a fixture against Real Madrid the reward, it remains to be seen how the Turin-based outfit will do. Did they succeed against the odds as a result of a combination of passion and panache? Or were they simply lucky?
As many pointed out, Juventus looked second best for around 160 minutes of the 180 minutes they went against Tottenham. It is unlikely that sort of form in this fixture will give them the same kind of return.
Prediction: Juventus 1-2 Real Madrid
Such is the imbalance in world football at present that Juventus can turn over AC Milan late on in a game one week and then succumb to defeat in the same manner against Real Madrid in the next week.
Real Madrid have been disappointing on a number of occasions this season. But when it has mattered they have produced results. Expect it to be no different on Tuesday.