clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Champions League Preview: Juventus vs. Atlético Madrid

New, comments

Oh, you know, just a game where a whole lot of Juve’s concentration this season is on the line. No pressure, right?

Club Atletico de Madrid v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

There are defining moments in every club’s season. Some are more notable than others simply based on what said team is trying to accomplish. Staying up is a monumental for the likes of Chievo or Frosinone, while obviously Juventus’ goals and aspirations are much, much bigger than just domestic silverware.

We are approaching Juventus’ defining moment.

At least, that’s what we hope.

After a first leg against Atlético Madrid that resembled a whole lot of crap, Juventus’ room for error when it comes to keeping this season where the main goal has been to make a deep Champions League run has basically gone to next to nothing. Getting dominated in Madrid is one thing, but come Tuesday night in Turin there will have to be the near-perfect game based off what we saw in the first leg.

Essentially, this is what will have to happen:

  • Trailing 2-0 on aggregate after the first leg, Juventus will need to score two goals against one of the best defenses in Europe AND pitch a shutout just to force extra time.
  • If Atlético Madrid scores once in Turin, Juventus will have to score at least four goals if they want to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
  • Based on the first leg, Juventus will have to play a near-perfect game in order to even have a chance against Atlético Madrid.

That is what we like to call in the business as “not ideal.”

Juventus’ first-leg performance can be described by a lot of different words — and none of them are really nothing that resembles anything positive. From that point of view, there’s nowhere to really go but up in the second leg that is being played in Turin rather than a packed Wanda Metropolitano that wants to see Juventus get absolutely destroyed.

With so much riding on Juventus’ European success this season, the club’s 90 minutes or so away from seeing all of that Champions League ambition be put off until next season. As much as Max Allegri has played down the possibility of Juve getting bounced from the Champions League in mid-March rather than April or May, the potential of Juventus not playing European football this season beyond Tuesday night is as real as it has ever been. It will, regardless of Allegri says, a massive letdown and, based on who Juve signed this past summer, deemed a pretty big failure. (“BUT LOOK AT HOW CRISTIANO RONALDO’S OLD TEAM DID IN EUROPE THIS YEAR!!!” some folks screamed from the mountaintops.)

Max Allegri doesn’t want to dub this as the Game of the Year mainly because he knows that, even with a win and advancement into the Champions League quarterfinals, then there’s still at least two more European games to go that will be declared as the Big Game(s). And while does have a point, this is the Game of the Year because we want there to be another Game of the Year. This isn’t just another fixture where we can pass off a sub-par effort and then move on to the next one five days later.

Juventus need to win. Juventus need to do just about everything right. And still, because of who they are playing, that still might not be enough. We hope it will be enough to flip a 2-0 aggregate scoreline from Atlético Madrid’s favor into Juve’s, but we just don’t know.

If that ain’t Game of the Year material, with all that is riding on this on top of it, I don’t really know what is.

GOOD NEWS

When it comes to this tie specifically, I don’t really know what to say.

...

Yeah, I got nothing about this that is really all that good.

Side note: MOISE KEAN. (There we go, that is good news.)

BAD NEWS

  • Juventus trail 2-0 on aggregate
  • Alex Sandro, who was fantastic over the weekend against Udinese, is suspended.
  • There are lots of injuries again — some new, others long-term issues that are far from breaking news. Basically, Juve will likely be without Douglas Costa, Mattia De Sciglio, Juan Cuadrado, Andrea Barzagli and Sami Khedira come Tuesday’s second leg.

THREE KEYS

1) How the hell is Juventus going to break down Atlético Madrid’s defense?

This from a post-game reaction article that our friends at Into the Calderon put up after Atlético Madrid’s 1-0 win over Leganés on Saturday:

Atlético were without both senior left backs, a center back and Koke — who’s tasked with holding everything together from midfield — and turned in an expert showing at the back. Atleti’s famous defense has been mostly watertight since the Real Madrid loss, and this return to normalcy could not have come at a better time.

Oh good. Just what I wanted to hear.

One of the lasting images that has been stuck in my mind ever since the first leg is from when Paulo Dybala was trying to make a quick turn into space and get the ball onto his left foot only to have said space disappear in about a half-second as three Atléti players surrounded him just like that. It summed up just how good — and effective — Atlético Madrid’s defense was, and, like our friends at Into the Calderon say, is starting to become consistent after a rough couple of weeks at the beginning of the calendar year.

That’s the kind of collective defensive effort Juventus is going to have to break down.

Sounds fun, right?

If Juventus wants any chance of making this whole “GET READY TO COMEBACK” mumbo-jumbo possible, then it’s going to have to start with actually doing something offensively. Not what we saw in the first leg. Nothing even close to it, really.

That means Juventus will actually have force Jan Oblak to make a save. Like, a difficult kind of save, not one where he’s pretending he’s Wojciech Szczesny playing against Udinese this past Friday night. (He didn’t do much of anything, in case you’re struggling to remember Tek actually doing something other than fielding a backpass from Daniele Rugani.)

Shots on goal, those are good. Same goes for scoring goals. Juventus need at least two of them to make this thing more than just a little interesting. They’ve known that for three weeks, too.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

2) Can we get a superhuman Cristiano Ronaldo effort in the Champions League?

For so many years, so many freaking years, Juventus has been on the wrong side of Ronaldo’s Champions League dominance and/or heroics. We’ve seen goals, lots of goals. We’ve seen game-winning goals on top of that, too. We’ve seen them in the group stage. We’ve seen them in the knockout rounds — as recently as last season. (You knew that already.)

Here’s the thing: Ronaldo is now on Juventus’ side.

The biggest reason why Juventus has set its sights on Champions League glory this season has, well, not exactly had a great Champions League campaign to date. In 479 European minutes this season, Ronaldo has one more goal than any of us do. That’s far from the Ronaldo standard and far from what we’ve come to expect from the competition’s greatest goal scorer.

Now, the great hope is that a game off against Udinese has allowed Ronaldo to recharge his batteries, get some juice back in his legs and give him the ability to be the Champions League Goliath that he has been so many times before. The past couple of weeks Ronaldo has looked a lot like the Juventus team in general — slow, tired and relatively ineffective.

The hope, obviously, is that going nine days in between appearances gets Ronaldo back to where he can be the Ronaldo that is a Champions League battering ram that takes no prisoners on his way to scoring goals and leading his team to wins (and eventually trophies).

We’re past the whole “Ronaldo is facing his former city rivals” thing now. As Juve stand potentially 90 minutes away from seeing their Champions League campaign end much, much earlier than they want it to, there’s nobody other than the guy wearing No. 7 who they will need to be at his best with so much on the line.

He’s done it plenty of times before. And he’ll have to do it again Tuesday night, but this time in a performance that would actually benefit Juventus rather than leave us incredibly angry.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

3) Can Juventus’ midfield come close to being an effective unit?

Oh, boy. Where do we begin here.

I’ll basically sum up the midfield-specific views from the first leg in two simple sentences below:

  • Atlético Madrid midfield good.
  • Juventus midfield not very good at all.

And there you have your recap of how each midfield played in the first leg.

Now, because of both injuries and suspensions, Mister Allegri is likely going to be forced to get a little creative with his formation. The hot rumor in the days leading up to kickoff Tuesday night is a three-man defense, which means a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-1-2 is in play. That obviously means either two or three central midfielders are going to get the start Tuesday night.

With a lack of both fullbacks, true wingers and central midfielders, a three-man backline with some kind of combination after that could be the best bet for Allegri.

Either way, with Atlético Madrid really finding a nice little groove over the last month or so, it’s safe to say that Juve’s midfield is going to have to do its damndest to try and match the importance of the opposition. You need to look no further than the first leg in Madrid to see just how big of a role Atléti’s all-energy, all-everything midfield in the club’s success.

MATCH INFO

When: Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy

Official kickoff time: 8 p.m. local time in Italy and around Europe; 7 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 4 p.m. Eastern Time; 1 p.m. Pacific Time

HOW TO WATCH

Television: TNT, UniMás, Univision Deportes (United States); BT Sport 3 (United Kingdom); Sky Sport Uno, Sky Sport 2 (Italy)

Online/mobile: B/R Live, Watch TNT, Univision Deportes En Vivo, Univision NOW (United States); DAZN (Canada); BT Sport Live (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.

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.