By now, the full-on anticipation and the nervous energy has set in. It makes me ponder the question "How did you sleep last night?" to those of us who live in the states and still have daylight shining brightly when kickoff time arrives at Juventus Stadium.
It's time for Juventus vs. Real Madrid, boys and girls. The first half in 180 of absolute and probably required stress, potential joy, potential heartbreak, even more stress thrown in and probably everything in between tonight.
Juventus are back in the Champions League semifinals for the first time since the 2002-03 season. We know that by now. All of that is great, of course. There are plenty of clubs that wish they could be here and have Juventus watching at home as a result. Juve are one of the final four teams in the biggest club competition there is. Who wouldn't like that?
But now is the time for Juventus to step on the field and see how the match up against the reigning European champions, Real Madrid. In come Ronaldo, Bale, James and Casillas. Even with injuries to both striker Karim Benzema and star midfielder Luka Modric, Madrid's lineup is still as powerful and potent as it is star-studded.
Juventus, sans the long-term absences of Paul Pogba, Kwadwo Asamoah and Martin Cáceres, are as healthy as they've been in weeks. Everybody you expected to be called up was called up. (Although Juve will have to do with Rubinho, which means some kind of crazy unibrow powers won't be happening on the bench.)
They have the chance to do something special. The task is a tall one, but it's always going to be that way at this stage of the game. What better way to signal Juve's back — even more than they already are — than to beat the gold standard?
.@carlitos3210: "It will be a difficult, open and hard fought semi-final. There's no favourite, the team that makes the least mistakes wins"— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) May 4, 2015
Never change, Carlitos. Go right ahead and score all the goals you want over the next two legs.
Starting lineups for both Juventus and Real Madrid will be posted RIGHT HERE when they become available. Let there be goals, but only Juventus ones. But if Real Madrid does find the back of the net, may Juventus answer them 10-fold. That sounds like a pretty good plan, doesn't it? Other than having Simone Padoin come on in the 87th minute as a way to tell us Juventus is about to win the first leg. (That's just a given, though.)
UPDATE: LINEUPS ARE IN!
Juventus XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Marchisio, Pirlo, Sturaro; Vidal; Morata, Tévez
Juventus bench: Storari, Barzagli, Padoin, Pepe, Pereyra, Llorente, Matri
Real Madrid XI (4-2-3-1/4-4-2): Casillas; Carvajal, Varane, Pepe, Marcelo; Kroos, Ramos; Bale, Isco, Rodríguez; Ronaldo
Real Madrid bench: Keylor Navas, Coentrao, Chicharito, Lucas Silva, Arbeloa, Jese, Illara
How to watch
TV: Fox Sports 1 (U.S. - English), ESPN Deportes (U.S. - Spanish), Sportsnet World (Canada), Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, Sky Calcio 1 (Italy), TV3, TVE La 1 (Spain), ITV1 UK (U.K.)
Online: Fox Soccer 2Go (U.S.), Sportsnet World Now (Canada), Sky Go Italia (Italy)