All faith should not be gone. After all, we’ve seen Juventus here before, haven’t we?
Luckily, Juventus is usually staring three-goal deficits in the face when the first leg of a Champions League tie goes awry. (Here’s looking at you, Real Madrid, and that still-bogus penalty call.) This time, it is only two.
The positives? Juventus, when playing well, has the potential to beat any team in the world. The squad is a collection of world-class stars, and ones that are at their best with their backs against the wall. It can be said that manager Massimiliano Allegri over-analyzed the first leg of their Round of 16 tie against Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano. The game was set up to be a cagey battle played out in the midfield — which, of course, is exactly how Atletico likes it. And it cost Juventus dearly, putting Juve in a rather intimidating two-goal hole coming back home for the second leg.
But, in that light, the time for tinkering is over. Juventus, at home, is now forced to come out like caged beasts to try and eliminate their deficit. Atletico is, arguably, the strongest defense in Europe, but any wall under siege can crumble. Juventus, without a doubt, have a team capable of scoring three goals against any opponent.
The real question is this: How often have teams scored three goals against Atletico this season? Borussia Dortmund slammed them at home in the Champions League group stage to the tune of 4-0, and a middling Real Madrid team defeated their city rivals 3-1 a month ago on Feb. 9. So, it can be done, and only quality teams have done it, but Juventus definitely fits that bill.
Three goals is the ideal. If the Bianconeri can keep a clean sheet and put three in past the Atleti defense, they will win outright on aggregate without the need for extra time. With two goals and a clean sheet, there will be extra time — and potentially penalty kicks — to decide Juve’s Champions League fate. Not an ideal, but still a coin flip, a 50/50 chance of advancing, which is better than the current gloomy outlook.
How often has Atletico given up two goals this season? Six times, which is roughly 6 percent of their total matches. At first glance, that number leads you to believe that Juventus is virtually doomed. But, after a couple of breaths, you begin to consider certain other factors are at play. La Liga is a very top-heavy league, with three giants in Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atleti the only teams that are ever truly in competition for the league title each season. So, similar to Juventus, league games should be taken with a grain of salt in most cases.
What should excite you is what Dortmund was able to do to Atletico in the group stage of the Champions League against a healthy Atletico Madrid side. (Juventus are fortunate that starters Diego Costa and Thomas Partey are suspended for the second leg due to yellow card accumulation.) Borussia Dortmund walloped Atleti with four unanswered goals at home. Atletico did beat Dortmund 2-0 in the next match at the Wanda Metropolitano, which makes you wonder if Atleti are a different team at home than they are when they have to travel.
Let’s dive back into the numbers. Atletico Madrid is 7-3-7 in all competitions away from home this season, with just three clean sheets and three games where they were shut out. For reference, at home they are 15-2-1 on the season. With half as many wins away from home, it is clear they are not the same team when they travel.
Those statistics should be the most uplifting thing you have read today. Atletico Madrid are, in a manner of speaking, half as good away at home, according to the numbers. This opens the door for Juventus, who will come out guns blazing with their backs against the wall, to squeak out the result we are all so desperate for.
Back to Juventus. The conservative game plan by Allegri in the first leg three weeks ago was quite obviously the wrong choice. Juve were bad that day, no doubt, and no matter how the team was fielded, they would have probably looked flat. But, with that being said, Juve did Atletico Madrid a favor in the formation we were in.
Allegri will not be able to tinker and overthink this rematch. The Bianconeri’s tactics are now as straightforward as it gets. Attack, attack, attack. Be relentless. Push forward. Juventus will have to attack in waves — and they now have Atletico Madrid on home turf at Allianz Stadium. And if their away form is any indication, they will not be able to weather our storm with the same fervor as before.
So, keep your heads up, Juventini. We are not out of this just yet.