It's unbelievably been 12 years since Juventus have made it to the last four of Europe's premier club competition. The last time that the Old Lady were at this stage, the Stadio Delle Alpi was still Juve's home ground, the team contained champions such as future Juve coach Antonio Conte, Lilian Thuram, Gianluca Zambrotta, Edgar Davids, Paolo Montero, and lesser appreciated players like Alessandro Birrindelli, Gianluca Pessotto, Marcelo Zalayeta and one of my favourites, Igor Tudor (see Juventus vs Deportivo of that same season). I don't think I need to mention our "big 3" of that time, do I?
Coincidentally — or not — on that last occasion, Juventus also played Real Madrid; a Real Madrid going through it's first Galacticos era. That Real Madrid team included megastars like ex-Juve midfield maestro Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldo (the real one), Raul and Roberto Carlos, among others. Juventus were very much the underdogs, especially considering that Real Madrid were defending champions, having won the previous season. They added Ronaldo the following summer, and were fresh from sweeping aside an imperious Manchester United team at Old Trafford. Juventus, for their part, had beaten Barcelona on away goals in the previous round.
On May 14, 2003, Juventus went into the second leg of the semifinal down 2-1, having lost at the Bernabeu to goals from Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos either side of a David Trezeguet away goal. What took place that night, in front of a packed Stadio Delle Alpi (a rare occurrence in those days), was one of the greatest performances by a Juventus team in European competition.
Every player was on song that night. The defence, midfield and attack all combined to produce an assured, aggressive and confident performance that nullified the threats posed by the most expensive team assembled (at that time). Despite giving up a penalty and a late goal, things could hardly have gone better for the Bianconeri on that night.
I remember that game so vividly; from Alex Del Piero making Fernando Hierro propose to him before finishing past Iker Casillas for Juve's second, to Thuram's imperious display at the back. I still get emotional thinking about it *sniff sniff*. It was so beautiful...
Can this year's class repeat the heroics of that '03 class and get past Real Madrid in the last four of the Champions League? Just a few hours till we find out whether they have what it takes. There will definitely be no shortage of motivation, given what can be possibly achieved if they do.
Whatever the result, as always, fino alla fine! Forza Juve!