Champions League: Real Madrid vs Juventus – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
No club has ever come back from a 3-0 home defeat in the Champions League. Can Juventus?
19:45 BST, Wednesday 11th April, Santiago Bernabeu (Madrid, Spain), BT Sport
No club has ever come back from a 3-0 home defeat in the Champions League knock out stages. This, though, is the scenario facing Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus on Wednesday.
To make matters worse, they head to Madrid with Real entering a rich vein of form, a vein of form that correlates strongly with Cristiano Ronaldo’s upturn of form in the second half of the season.
Where the Portuguese goal machine only managed to pick up four goals in the first half of the season, he now finds himself on 23 goals in La Liga with 15 of these coming in the last seven games.
The stats don’t get any better for Juventus if you look at Ronaldo’s Champions League performances this season: 14 goals in nine with five coming in the three knock-out games that Real Madrid have played since coming through their group.
Juventus, then, have everything to play for. However, where Juventus have succeeded this season is in dragging themselves past opponents rather than blowing them away.
With the Serie A race tipping in favour of the six-time winners, Juventus fans can hardly claim their team have looked faultless in their pursuit – then overtaking – of Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli.
In a league season, this sort of approach might play dividends. But the Champions League is a different beast. With Paulo Dybala suspended, surely only a miracle can save them now.
Last Time Out
Real Madrid 1-1 Atletico Madrid (La Liga)
La Liga has not been favourable to Real Madrid this season. Lagging behind their cross-city rivals, Real Madrid were offered a chance to narrow the gap between them on Sunday.
However, with the league title out of sight and Champions League qualification next season all but guaranteed, Zinedine Zidane decided to treat the present iteration of Europe’s top competition as the priority.
With Luka Modric and Isco starting on the bench, Cristiano Ronaldo was also brought off at the 64th minute. This was not before he scored a by-now-unsurprising volley from a Gareth Bale cross.
Despite causing problems for Diego Simeone’s side, then, this heavily-rotated Real Madrid side could not put the game out of sight: within five minutes of Ronaldo’s goal, Antoine Griezmann had equalised after Vitolo hooked the ball back to him in front of Keylor Navas.
Benevento 2-4 Juventus (Serie A)
When Sassuolo visited the Allianz Stadium, the recently-humiliated Paulo Dybala was quick to make amends for his Champions League red card against Real Madrid last week with a wonderful curling shot into the top right corner of Christian Puggioni’s goal.
However, when Cheick Diabate scored and equaliser within ten minutes, the Bianconeri’s task started to look a little more tricky than they might have anticipated.
It was Dybala to the rescue again: the Argentine scored a penalty after the VAR determined that Miralem Pjanic had been fouled in the box.
But Benevento weren’t simply going to roll over, that man Diabate heading home from a corner.
Fortunately for Juventus, the referee was on hand to help them recover, giving Dybala the chance of a hat trick after Gonzalo Higuain was brought down shortly after coming on. The penalty was duly dispatched.
With the game now firmly under control, Juventus sealed the three points when Douglas Costa curled one in that was almost a carbon copy of Dybala’s opener.
Real Madrid Lineup
With Nacho Hernandez out with a muscle problem and Jesus Vallejo suffering from a knock in training, Real Madrid will be without two of their central defenders. In addition, Sergio Ramos is suspended after picking up a yellow card in the first leg against Juventus.
Vallejo has been training with the squad ahead of the match on Wednesday but he must go through a late fitness test before being okayed for the starting XI. If he doesn’t start, expect Casemiro to drop into the central area and see Real Madrid shift their midfield around a little.
Federico Bernardeschi continues to be kept out by a troublesome knee problem. He will join Paulo Dybala and Rodrigo Bentancur on the bench, the Argentine being sent off in the last fixture with Bentancur picking up a yellow card that keeps him out.
Key Battle: Isco (Real Madrid) vs Douglas Costa (Juventus)
This match could become a battle between two No.10s as both teams will be looking for the first goal in the tie.
With Paulo Dybala out, Douglas Costa could be moved into the middle to replace him. Having scored a wonderful curling effort against Benevento that neatly replicated Dybala’s earlier goal, this replacement makes sense.
Costa has slowly become a regular this season, although only six of his 24 appearances in Serie A have taken him to the full 90 minutes.
As a result, this chance to deputise for Juventus’ scampish No.10 could be important for the Brazilian as he looks to stake a place in the starting XI.
While Real Madrid’s most likely source of a goal will be Cristiano Ronaldo, their most likely source of creativity will be Isco.
The man who looks unstoppable with a ball at his feet offers something that his teammates do not. While there have been rumours of the Spaniard moving to the Premier League, Real Madrid will know that he is an important member of their team going into the future.
A good performance here will only reinforce this and could mean that Real will need to move sooner rather than later to secure a new contract.
How important could the centre back problem be for Real Madrid?
With Los Blancos down to the bare bones of their central defensive capabilities, Zinedine Zidane has a tricky choice ahead of the game against Juventus.
Sergio Ramos is suspended, Nacho Hernandez continues to be blighted by injuries and Jesus Vallejo is being rushed back from injury to fill the berth alongside Raphael Varane in the Real Madrid starting XI.
If Vallejo doesn’t pass a late fitness test, there are no classical centre back players to replace him. Most likely, Casemiro will be shifted back, allowing Marcos Llorente to move into the space he has vacated. The other option could be playing a fullback in the central area.
Both of these options would present Juventus with weaknesses to exploit. But which would be worse? And could it be enough for Juventus to find their way back into the tie?
Will Juventus be able to prevent an early goal?
As things stand, Juventus need to score at least three goals at the Santiago Bernabeu. This is a feat that only Barcelona have achieved so far this season. If Real score, then that figure becomes an as-yet-unreached four-goal deficit.
As a result, Real will likely come out strongly in the early stages in a bid to put the game to bed early and allow themselves the wherewithal to rest players ahead of an increasingly busy schedule going into the final months of the season.
At the outset, then, Juventus should sit back and seek to soak up the pressure in a bid to retain a platform upon which to build as the match progresses.
Prediction: Real Madrid 3-1 Juventus
It’s hard to see this one going anything but badly for Juventus. Even if they can keep Real Madrid from scoring in the first half, at some point they will have to score themselves. Once they start to go forward, they will leave themselves open at the back and so will likely cede some goals late in the game.