The good news: Juventus are going to Cardiff.
The bad news: N/A.
Unless you’re counting the fact that Juventus will be playing Real Madrid, who are playing some pretty damn good football at the moment, and who have some player named Cristiano Ronaldo who puts the ball across the goal line in between the posts and makes goals happen, and who also have Marcelo, and also Dani Carvajal — he was injured against Atletico in the first round, but may be back — two fullbacks who are the envy of every team in Europe except, well, Juventus. (Although brief side note: Marcelo is really good, and is like an Alex Sandro-Juan Cuadrado mix.)
The only other piece of bad news is that making it this far into the Champions League would make a loss hurt that much more. I’m not being pessimistic. Real Madrid are a very good side, and Juventus will be the underdog, and there’s a very distinct possibility that Juventus lose, that Gigi Buffon retires without a Champions League trophy, and the Bianconeri flop a second time in three years in the final. It won’t be easy.
But if it happens: Forza Juve. This is our team, win or lose. And it’s a damn fine team.
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- The first 10 minutes of the game were not very extraordinary from a Juventus perspective, but you had to appreciate it from a neutral perspective. Monaco were doing everything they could to break one early and get things rolling, and they very nearly made it happen.
- Juventus settled into the game, sort of. I’m of the opinion that Juventus need to be almost flawlessly clinical against Real in the final, and that certainly wasn’t the case on Tuesday night: Gonzalo Higuain missed a golden opportunity in the first half, and then completely flubbed a volley attempt in the second half; right before the Dani Alves goal, Paulo Dybala had a chance to put the icing on the cake and failed; Mario Mandžukić, before he stuffed in his own rebound — which I don’t want to take away from, because the window of space with which he had to work was not very big, and he tapped it home with a fair bit of dexterity — missed a golden opportunity, with credit to the keeper. The finishing just wasn’t quite top-notch, and it needs to be in Cardiff.
- Good for Mandžukić. He has a chance to win a second Champions League trophy, and hopefully he quelled some of the hate he receives on this site. Do Juventus need a true winger on the left, next year if possible? Yes. But has Mandžukić played the hell out of that left wing as best as he possible can? Yes. Yes he has.
- Then the Dani Alves goal. There are no words for it.
- After the first half the game was pretty boring for about twenty-five minutes. Everybody knew Juventus was going to win, and Juventus almost scored a few more goals, and then on a random corner pretty much everyone not named Kylian Mbappe decided to take a brief nap, and he scored, and then it got interesting again.
- Then Kamil Glik. I actually thought this take from our SB Nation brethren (and sistren?) was pretty good: Glik was absolutely doing it intentionally, and it was pure trash and he’s a scumbag for doing it, but tactically it was a reasonable move. I.e., trying to distract everybody and create a little opening. But of course it didn’t work, because Juve are gonna Juve.
- Buffon kissing Mbappe >>> [literally everything else]
Onto the awards:
Sidewalk of Turin Award
For a weak(ish) performance masked by other factors.
This would be wrong.
Piazza San Carlo Award
For a potentially overlooked yet stellar showing.
Can I get an “amen” for Miralem Pjanic here? He made a couple bad passes, but his work as a central defender ahead of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini was absolutely stellar, not to mention the slight change of role when Claudio Marchisio replaced an injured Sami Khedira — *author briefly says a prayer to every known deity* — but he was great. He logged four tackles, and he possessed the ball a lot like he normally does, and he played a couple beautiful through-balls with perfect weight that set up scoring opportunities.
Juventus don’t have a lot of depth up front — that’s one area of practically glaring weakness that hasn’t yet been exploited during this magical Champions League run — but the Bianconeri certainly do have some wonderful depth at midfield when fielding a 4-2-3-1. The idea of taking of Khedira and putting on Claudio freaking Marchisio is kind of crazy when you think about it. Both are getting older, that’s true. And both have had some serious injury issues. But that was a luxury tonight, and there was no hiccup from Max Allegri’s forced midfield switch. Bravo, Miralem.
For a notable demonstration in both grit and flair.
Mario Mandžukić scored a goal (!). When Juventus played Atalanta, I offered to buy every woman in Turin dinner if Mandžukić scored the game-winner. He came semi-close.
Mandžukić came semi-close again on Tuesday night. His first opportunity was one he should’ve put away, but credit to his Croatian teammate Danijel Subašić for a pretty brilliant save. And then Mandžukić came semi-close again, when he headed a beautiful cross from Dani Alves right into the Monaco keeper. But, as they say, third time’s the charm, and Mandžukić had much less time to wait — about one third of a second — before getting what was surely his last chance, and he tucked it home.
And then there’s all the normal stuff for which he’s received a fair amount of praise already — the defensive work, the tracking back. For goodness sake, did you see that long ball he played to Higuain? Did you notice he won 10 (!) battles in the air? And did you see him get all salty there at the end?
That, folks, was Mr. No Good at his absolute finest.
Parco Valentino Award
For an urbane demeanor distributed amongst the squad.
Chiellini was on fire — and he knew it.
And he needed to be. Because Monaco stormed out of the gates and looked threatening for, honestly, most of this game. Their attacking style, at least to my novice eye, was so completely different than Barcelona, and it also seemed to find some more success. Monaco switched fields often, and threw crosses in frequently. They used Mbappe’s speed and Radamel Falcao’s positioning and Silva’s creativity. They weren’t overly tactical the way that Barcelona is wont to be — against Juventus, that is, because against most everybody else it obviously works out for them the vast majority of the time.
But Chiellini was always there. Once he even celebrated his clearance. He deserves it.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award
For the man of the match.
Not too long ago there was a legitimate Stephan Lichtsteiner vs. Dani Alves discussion about who was better at right back.
This is how Alves trundled through the Champions League semi-final: assist, assist, assist, goal.
(I’ll fight you if you don’t count Mandžukić’s goal as an Alves assist.)
Alves as a winger gives Juventus a completely different look besides Cuadrado, and it leaves just a hint of firepower coming off the bench. The lineup discussions ahead of Cardiff will be plenty interesting to watch, but right now let’s enjoy this; let’s enjoy an Alves volley on a corner that’s sending us to a date with Ronaldo and Real.