Juventus take on Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final tomorrow, and manager Massimiliano Allegri spoke with the media ahead of the game which is a rematch of last season’s final.
“Tomorrow we’re going to play the first leg of this two-legged clash, this Quarter-Final against a team that since 1996-97 has always been in the Champions League and since 2011 has always been at least to the Semi-Finals.
“Eliminating a team like that would be another step forward and something to really hang our hats on, but we’re absolutely aware that we’ll be taking on the best team in the Champions League.
“Our ambition is to play on the same level and be able to beat them.
“They’re absolutely frightening when there’s an open pitch, they can reach the box in two or three passes so we’ll have to be really attentive and we’ll have to use our defence as a foundation to attack.
“Of course we have watched the final again several times, and I would say that the team, especially in Europe but also in Serie A, has improved a lot, especially in managing the difficult moments during the match.
“In Cardiff in the first 15 minutes of the second half mentally we suffered and we just gave up a bit, and they were able to score the third goal right after the second. In that moment we left the competition and - particularly because this is a two-legged match - that’s something that cannot happen again.
“So the important thing is to stay very focused and stay in the match without giving anything up.”
On his approach on preparing the team for tomorrow’s game.
“We have to be very intelligent in knowing how to manage the match, because as I’ve said before, they have such technique, precision and accuracy - above all they’re very fast, because we basically all have the technical qualities - but they’re very fast and very accurate when they break.
“So we’ll have to react appropriately in defence and of course we need our fans because our fans will have to help us.
“Whatever happens tomorrow it’s an occasion, it’s the first leg so everyone has to be proud of the fact that the team has reached two Champions League finals in the last three years.
“The match in Cardiff was a very important lesson to grow and to improve, we had a good first half and then in the second half we should have managed the ball much better and we had to deal with it in a more calm way.
“That’s something that influenced us, from a psychological view the team has certainly made huge strides since then.”
Juve’s opponents have struggled in their domestic La Liga, but have turned it on at the highest level.
“Real Madrid are very serene whenever they play these kind of matches, we’ve improved in that regard and we have to further improve because Juventus already have all the technical qualities.
“We have a great chance and then of course it also takes a bit of luck. I’d like the team to play the way they did in the first half in Cardiff and manage the ball better and of course to be very focused on the entire match.
“At this level if you get distracted for even a second the opponents have such quality that they’ll seize on the opportunity immediately.
“We’ll have to be very focused on the match, something that didn’t happen in Cardiff at 2-1. Basically we weren’t alert and you can’t think about playing against Real without being concentrated.
“We may well concede, but it’s 180 minutes so we’ll also have chances to score goals because they also allow you those kind of chances.
“The important thing is always to be focused, concentrated and committed.”
Key players Miralem Pjanic and Mehdi Benatia are suspended, so who will step in for them?
“Either Claudio Marchisio or Rodrigo Bentancur, one of the two will play tomorrow. Then I will have to evaluate between Daniele Rugani and Andrea Barzagli, after that I will evaluate who will play up-front.
“Both Mario Mandzukic and Alex Sandro are in very good shape, I’ll have to see tomorrow whether or not they play. I think Mandzukic could be a very good substitution tomorrow if he starts on the bench. He’s important for us for his great physicality and he could be an important option for us, as well as Juan Cuadrado who has come back.
“We have basically the whole squad available apart from the two suspended players.”
Regarding Real’s key weapon Cristiano Ronaldo -
“We have to be very good as a unit [to stop him]. I think we need to congratulate Ronaldo because for a player to be 30 or 31 and change his playing style completely is something extraordinary.”
If he thought Gareth Bale or Isco would get the start tomorrow.
“You’d have to ask [Zinedine] Zidane, I’m the Juventus Coach. I don’t understand the question…
“I’d say Bale, but maybe Isco, I don’t know.”
Paulo Dybala has been in good form lately too.
“He’s in great shape, he’s been working really well and he’s grown a lot mentally.
“I’m sure you saw that in Saturday’s match, the goal he scored clearly showed he’s in great shape and I’m sure he’ll play a great match tomorrow.”