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UEFA Europa League Preview: Juventus vs. Benfica, Leg 2 — Winning is the only thing that matters

Jamie McDonald

Giampiero Boniperti's famous quote about Juventus couldn't be more appropriate right now.

"Vincere non è importante, è l'unica cosa che conta."

Juventus enter the second leg of their Europa League semifinal tie with Benfica needing to win. There's no other way for them to add an extra home game to the schedule other than to beat Benfica tomorrow night at Juventus Stadium. I could sit here and try and be funny. I could write some lengthy explanation as to why Juventus need to win.

Or, I could just get right to the point.

The result in Portugal wasn't the be-all, end-all in this two-legged semifinal encounter. Carlos Tévez's second-half strike gave Juventus some life — something they didn't exactly have much of before he found the back of the net. Juve's No. 10 gave them hope and something to lean on heading into Thursday night's second leg.

He gave them a chance to achieve what the goal has been ever since they were dumped out of the Champions League on that stupid, sorry excuse for a field in Istanbul back in December — make it to the Europa League final at Juventus Stadium.

But to take advantage of that, Juventus need to win. As it stands, that's their only option.

No draws. No funny business. Nothing like that will work if Juve want to play one more game in the Europa League.

Juventus need to win to make it to the Europa League final in front of their hometown crowd. That's as simple as simple gets. A 1-0 win and the ticket is booked. A 1-1 draw, and Juve are watching from their couches as Benfica try to win the Europa League for the second straight year.

Winning is the only thing that matters. Remember what one of the club's true icons said. He knows what he's talking about. And in this case — just like every other one — there's no reason to disagree with him.


The second leg is at Juventus Stadium, a place where Juventus hasn't lost a game all season.


Juventus are down 2-1 on aggregate, not exactly the best of scenarios — but also not the worst, to be fair — after Juve's trip to Portugal six days ago.


1. The health of Arturo Vidal.

The knee injury was still there during Juve's trip to Portugal a week ago. It's been lingering around for weeks and we've been waiting (somewhat) patiently for the injury to completely go away so we can have our King Arturo back. Antonio Conte said before Juve's Monday night trip to Sassuolo that they're doing everything possible to get Vidal to 100 percent before Benfica visits Juventus Stadium. So now, all we have to do is wait, right? As much as we might want to wring the neck of somebody so that they give us an answer sooner, we can only sit and wait for the word to come down. And when it comes to somebody as important as Vidal, you don't take chances. He's way too important to mess with.

2. How Juventus handle the Benfica counter attacks.

At times, it was almost like Benfica countered with jetpacks attached to their backs. They were quick, they were dangerous, and they created a lot of havoc for the Juventus defense no matter which side of the field they were coming from. It really didn't matter the situation was, Benfica used the counter to their advantage last week and Juve were probably lucky they weren't hurt by it more than they were. Now the matter of attention becomes how Juventus adjust their tactics and/or personnel to counter Benfica's counter. And it's not just a matter of Juve defending well in the final third. It's the defense, the midfield, everybody. This is where Conte really has to do his homework because if it's anything like the first leg, it might be lights out time.

3. The effectiveness of Carlos Tévez.

The European goal-drought is over and the monkey is officially off Carlitos' back. Now, where does he go from here? Tévez was pretty lively even without the goal in the first leg, but ending the goal drought almost certainly is a big weight off his shoulders. Just the fact that people won't talk about it during the course of a match is something that I welcome with open arms. But to actually have it happen and get it out of his mind completely, may be quite a development. He played well against Sassuolo on Monday, scoring his 19th league goal in the 3-1 win. It really does seem like he's really starting to get back into good goal-scoring form the last couple of weeks. And we all know that when Tévez plays well in the second leg, Juventus' chances of reaching the Europa League final become that much greater.

4. Who will start alongside Tévez?

Even though the Italian press correctly predicted that Mirko Vucinic would start next to Tévez in the first leg, I must say I was a little surprised that Conte went with what everybody was saying he would. And based on how ineffective Vucinic was for the vast majority of his time on the field in the first leg, a change as to who plays next to Carlitos could — and probably should — be in order. The question is this: Who is it going to be? It's really hard to get a grasp on where somebody like Fernando Llorente fits into the equation in the second leg. But if Conte wants to roll with what has basically had the big amount of success up top this season, then there's no doubt in my mind it should be Fernando starting next to Tévez tomorrow night.

5. Turning around the 2-1 deficit.

Save the best for last, right? Well, maybe not the best, but the most important thing Juventus needs to do tomorrow night. The "easiest" way? Juventus need a goal and a shutout to ensure a spot in the Europa League final. Okay, so that might not the easiest thing since it's the semifinals of the Europa League and Benfica is a good team, but it may be the easiest when it comes to advancing. No messing around with Benfica away goals, get a goal, get a win, get a spot in the Europa League final. It could be that simple. Or could be stressful as hell. I'll let all of you be the judge of that.

In short: "Vincere non è importante, è l'unica cosa che conta." Bingo.

My starting XI (4-3-3): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio; Tévez, Llorente, Giovinco

(Yeah, you read that right. It probably won't happen, but I went there.)