Juventus will have it all to do when they welcome Atletico Madrid to Allianz Stadium for their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg fixture on Tuesday.
Four of the eight UEFA Champions League quarter-finalists have been identified, with a few stirring comebacks being produced. Juventus will be out to engineer a comeback to remember of their own, when they play hosts to Atletico Madrid at Allianz Stadium in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.
The Bianconeri made it to the Last 16 stage of the competition by finishing atop a fiercely contested Group H ahead of Manchester United. Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, were unlucky to have finished behind Borussia Dortmund after both outfits had finished level on points at the end of the group stage.
As far as recent form is concerned, Juventus have been imperious, bar their defeat in the first leg three weeks ago. In domestic football, Massimiliano Allegri’s men been beaten just once all season – in the Coppa Italia by Atalanta – and they will be eager to finally bring that form to Europe.
Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, have not been nearly as dominating as their opponents. But, recent results suggest that Los Colchoneros are starting to perform at their topmost levels at just the right stage of the season, with Diego Simeone’s men winning each of their last five games,
The first leg, played at the Wanda Metropolitano last month, saw Atletico Madrid coast to a 2-0 win over Juventus, courtesy goals from centre-back pairing Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the UEFA Champions League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Massimiliano Allegri has a number of pressing concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Atletico Madrid. On Tuesday, the Juventus boss will be without as many as six first-team players due to injuries and suspension.
Alex Sandro misses out owing to a one-match ban following the booking he received in the first leg last month. In the absence of the Brazilian defender, Leonardo Spinazzola is likely to be handed a rare start in the UEFA Champions League when Atletico Madrid come visiting.
The other players who are unavailable for the visit of the Spanish heavyweights are Andrea Barzagli (thigh), Mattia de Sciglio (thigh), Sami Khedira (heart) and Douglas Costa (hamstring), while Juan Cuadrado (knee) was not a part of the Champions League squad to begin with.
Meanwhile, Allegri is likely to revert to the 4-3-3 formation after making use of an unusual 3-4-2-1 this past weekend against Udinese, recalling a number of regulars who were rested. Wojciech Szczesny should retain his spot in goal, while Joao Cancelo is expected to line up as the right-back.
At the heart of the Juventus defence, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are certain starters. In midfield, Emre Can, Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi pick themselves in the three-man unit, meaning Rodrigo Bentancur ought to be on the bench as a backup option.
Another useful substitute will be Moise Kean, who has stepped up impressively in recent weeks, and hit a brace against Udinese most recently. As for the front trio who will be a part of the starting lineup, Mario Mandzukic and Cristiano Ronaldo are automatic selections, with the final spot being contested by Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi.
The Argentine has seen his stock plunder over the course of the season, with reports of a possible move to Manchester United also doing the rounds. Bernardeschi should thus, get the nod over Dybala yet again.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Spinazzola; Can, Pjanic, Matuidi; Bernardeschi, Mandzukic, Ronaldo
Like his opposite number, Diego Simeone is beset with a few injury and suspension issues as well before the crunch UEFA Champions League tie against Juventus. On Tuesday, the Atletico Madrid manager will have four first-team players unavailable for selection.
While Lucas Hernandez (knee) and Filipe Luis (calf) miss out due to their respective injuries, Thomas Partey and Diego Costa find themselves being out of contention owing to their respective one-match bans, incurred after being shown a yellow card each in the first leg. El Cholo however, has plenty of cover in his squad to compensate for their absence.
The unavailability of Hernandez and Luis is the only pressing concern for Los Rojiblancos, as it would possibly see Juanfran starting as a makeshift left-back, with Francisco Montero being an alternate option. On the opposite flank, Santiago Arias should start, with the Colombian being looked upon to create the chances from out wide.
The central defensive partnership should be manned by the first leg’s goalscoring heroes Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez, although this time, the onus will be on them to keep Cristiano Ronaldo & co. at bay instead of finding the back of the net. Behind the defensive line, there is no looking past Jan Oblak in the Atletico Madrid goal.
The midfield quartet pick themselves as well, with Koke and Thomas Lemar starting out wide, while Rodri will have Saul Niguez as his partner in the central areas. Up ahead in attack, Alvaro Morata ought to start in the absence of Costa, while Antoine Griezmann tends to be one of the first names on the team sheet.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Arias, Gimenez, Godin, Juanfran; Koke, Rodri, Saul, Lemar; Griezmann, Morata
- Atletico Madrid are the opponent Juventus have faced the most number of times in the UEFA Champions League without ever winning (D1 L2) or scoring (31 shots, 0 goal).
- Atletico Madrid are unbeaten in the UEFA Champions League against Italian opposition under Diego Simeone (W5 D2). In those seven games, they have only conceded one goal, by Kaka in a 4-1 win against AC Milan in March 2014.
- Juventus are hoping to avoid losing three successive games in Europe’s premier club competition for the first time.
- Atletico Madrid have won just one of their last eight knockout games away from home in the Champions League (D2 L5), beating Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 in February 2017.
- Six of the last seven goals conceded by Juventus in the Champions League have come from set-piece situations (2 from penalty, 2 from indirect free-kick, 1 from corner, 1 from direct free-kick).
Player to Watch
If ever there was a player who fit the moniker Mr. Champions League perfectly, it’s Cristiano Ronaldo. The former Manchester United and Real Madrid superstar has made it a habit to show exactly what he is made of in the biggest club competition in the world, having almost singlehandedly guided his previous two sides over a number of campaigns.
But, the Portuguese talisman is yet to come to the party for Juventus in the UEFA Champions League, having managed just a solitary goal in six appearances so far in the current edition. Atletico Madrid have famously been one of Ronaldo’s victims previously and it will hardly be a surprise if he manages to hurt them once again.
What does go without saying though, is that it is now or never for Cristiano Ronaldo, if he is to continue his scintillating run in the Champions League, having won the competition in each of the last three seasons.
Juventus 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid have the all-important lead in the tie, with a two-goal cushion certainly being quite comfortable for a defensively astute side such as theirs. But, as PSG found out against Manchester United last week, there are no certainties in football, and a Juventus side with Cristiano Ronaldo in it can certainly not be ruled out.
Los Colchoneros’ recent away record in the UEFA Champions League also makes for a dismal reading, with Borussia Dortmund handing them a 4-0 thrashing in the group stage as well. However, Juventus are yet to find the back of the net even once against Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League and a well drilled visiting defence should make it difficult for Ronaldo & co. to score once again.
Expect this tie to be a tense, closely contested affair, with Juventus drawing first blood to make it a one-goal tie. In the end, however, we are anticipating Diego Simeone’s men to hold on and even score a goal themselves. The Hard Tackle predicts a 1-1 draw that should send Atletico Madrid through to the quarter-finals.