The good news is that the moments of magic from Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa against Lokomotiv Moscow means that the penultimate game of the Champions League group stage isn’t as much of a pressure cooker as it could have been if not for those two fine men.
That means, as we’ve known for two weeks now, that Juve’s spot in the Champions League Round of 16 is as secure as it can be. There’s no more sitting and waiting for Juventus to grind out a win just to make sure it will be playing Champions League football come the new year. That was locked up in Russia, which is a lot more than we might have expected before Douglas Costa made that run. The only thing left to do now is to play for the top spot in the group — which, knowing who’s coming to town, is basically going to be decided Tuesday night in Turin.
Unless it isn’t.
Atlético Madrid returns to the scene of the round of 16 comeback for the ages late last winter. What’s on the line is much different than that night, one where Cristiano Ronaldo did Cristiano Ronaldo things in the Champions League once again. This night, with Juventus holding a three-point lead over Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid side in Group D, could see Juve wrap up the top spot in the group if they avoid a loss Tuesday.
But, unlike the last European opponent where it was just a couple of weeks in between meetings, it’s been nearly three months since Juventus and Atlético Madrid last played one another. Back then, Atléti was showing signs of being a team in transition, battling both some injuries as well as the fact that there were clear and obvious holes after summer departures that still had to be completely filled.
Over the last 2 1⁄2 months, Atlético Madrid has gotten back to looking like an Atlético Madrid team we’re used to seeing.
Sitting in third in La Liga after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Granada,
Just take these two stats into account:
- In its first four league games, Atlético Madrid allowed four goals.
- In its last 10 league games, Atlético Madrid has allowed five goals.
That second number stat is much more in line with a Simeone-coached team at Aléti. You kind of figured that, at some point, Simeone was going to get things straightened out defensively even though he saw some longtime fixtures at the back leave over the summer. But, what has Atlético Madrid done so well ever since they got so good under Simeone’s watch? Not allow other teams to score all that much at all — and that’s happening again.
The problem with Atlético Madrid this season is that in its 14 league games, Simeone’s side has drawn exactly half of them. Turn a couple of those draws into wins and Atléti is sitting atop the La Liga table with a comfortable lead. And it’s not like they’ve been all that consistent in the Champions League, either, since their wild draw with Juve on the opening day of the group stage.
We’ve seen Juventus grind out result after result for pretty much the last month’s worth of games. We also saw how Juve could play when things are clicking for a decent part of the first meeting between these two highly-regarded clubs before their defense suddenly forgot how to do what they’re usually pretty good at.
Sure, Juventus may already have a spot in the Champions League Round of 16 already locked up. But, as we know, there’s still business to take care of — and that right there, plus Atlético Madrid looking more like the Atléti of old in recent weeks, is enough to make sure that there’s enough at stake to try and finish out the home portion of the group stage out on a good note.
Sunday afternoon’s training session recap was a busy one when it came to injury news. Here’s the short version:
- Matthijs de Ligt did in fact dislocate his shoulder early in the second half of Saturday’s win over Atalanta. There was no mention of de Ligt missing any kind of game time.
- Federico Bernardeschi was diagnosed with a bruise to the right hemithorax after having to be subbed out in the first half of Saturday’s win.
- As Maurizio Sarri indicated after Saturday’s win, Douglas Costa did in fact suffer a thigh injury. He will be out for around 15 days, according to Juve’s official website.
Now, for a quick recap from Sarri’s pre-match press conference on Monday:
- Sarri wouldn’t completely comment on the conditions of de Ligt and Bernardeschi, saying that they need further evaluation before kickoff on Wednesday night.
- Same goes for Cristiano Ronaldo, although Sarri did note that CR7 trained with the entire group on Sunday — which is probably a pretty good sign when trying to figure out if somebody will play or not.
- Sarri said this: “To see Dybala, Higuain and Cristiano together is difficult because of their characteristics.” So, if you were wondering if there would be an attacking trident — or even one where Dybala is playing as a No. 10 behind Ronaldo and Higuain — with those three fellas any time soon, I guess you might want to think again.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
I mean, it has to be the guy who was rested over the weekend with the sole purpose of potentially being ready for Atlético Madrid’s trip to Turin, right? Yep, let’s go with him.
Whether you think there’s drama or if you think there’s absolutely no drama, it’s hard to deny the last four or five weeks in Ronaldoville have been low key and totally normal.
Sarri, again, said there are no issues with Ronaldo during his pre-match press conference on Monday — which, obviously, is something that you want to see for a final confirmation rather than continuously hearing while he’s in front of microphones. And, I think it’s safe to say, the only way that really happens at this point is what all goes down once Ronaldo actually does return to the field.
It seems like that will happen Tuesday night.
What condition Ronaldo will be in is on the mind of many seeing as we heard about this knee injury he’s suffering from ever since the Substitutions Heard ‘Round the World against Lokomotiv Moscow and Milan and then he went out and played and scored a hat trick during the international break. That was followed up by Ronaldo saying he was both healthy before scoring said hat trick and then a couple of days later saying that he has been injured — which, again, didn’t exactly clear much of anything up.
But, the sole reason why Ronaldo didn’t play over the weekend against Atalanta was to make sure that he was healthy for Atlético Madrid. And we all know how much Ronaldo likes to play against — and usually terrorize the defense — his old city rivals from his Real Madrid days.
Basically, as long as Ronaldo is on the field, the spotlight is going to on him. And with the kind of two or three weeks we’ve seen surrounding him, that spotlight is probably going to be even brighter than it usually is.
When: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 3 p.m. Eastern Time; 12 p.m. Pacific Time
HOW TO WATCH
Television: Galavision (United States); Canale 5, Sky Sport Uno, NOW TV, Sky Calcio 2 (Italy)
Online/mobile: B/R Live, Univision NOW (United States); DAZN (Canada); BT Sport Extra (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia (Italy)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven’t already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.