There is going to be one man in the entire universe tonight who will sleep most peacefully and gleefully than anyone else, and his name is Massimiliano Allegri.
Following the utter shower of hate he had received after Juventus lost 2-0 at Atlético Madrid three weeks ago, it would have come as no surprise to any fans had he put out a token lineup and tactical effort and seen Juve bow out of the Champions League, and then leave the Bianconeri meekly at the end of the season having won a Scudetto in each and every year he has been here.
However, that is not who Allegri is, and he answered his critics today with a resounding 3-0 masterclass at home that left Diego ‘El Cholo’ Simeone looking futilely for answers somewhere in his nether regions.
Juventus started the game like their tails were on fire, and overwhelmed Atleti, making the famed Spanish side looking more like Il Provinciale than wanting to attend the Champions League Final at their own stadium.
“We weren’t perfect, but we did do well to remain concentrated. There was the risk of taking a hysterical approach to the game, as the idea of the comeback had been talked about so much, but we had 95 minutes to get the job done. We did very well and the team deserve congratulations.
“It would’ve been really strange for Cristiano Ronaldo to end his Champions League season with only one goal… He did well and the lads all contributed, including the fans providing a marvelous frame for the match.
“I think we gave a wonderful evening of football to all those passionate about the sport in Italy.”
Lest we forget, Ronaldo finally arrived at the Champions League stage with a well-taken hattrick, and also kudos to the fans in the Juventus Stadium who carried the players to this famous win with their voices.
“The lads put in a great performance. They had technique, precision, aggression and it’s what we had planned for the first leg, but I thought about it and made some changes. We didn’t spread the play enough.
“Everyone had been waiting for so long for this game, there was the possibility of a neurotic performance, so I told the lads to stay calm and keep their balance, otherwise we’d run a big risk.”
Juve’s was not the only comeback in this Round of 16, and Allegri commented on that too, but insisted Juve were not the favourites now that Real Madrid and Paris St Germain were out.
“This is a very difficult tournament and when two teams are on a relatively similar level, these things can happen.
“No, Juventus are one of the contenders to win the Champions League. If we had gone out after a performance like that, there would’ve been little to say.
“If you don’t play in the Round of 16, you can’t dream of winning the Champions League, it doesn’t take a Harvard degree to know that. If you go through the group phase, you can hope, otherwise you focus on the Europa League. It’s one step at a time.”
About his decision to go with Emre Can and Leonardo Spinazzola who both have very good games -
“We wanted to take this approach in the first leg, but we managed it in the second. If Martin Caceres had been in that position, we would’ve been more defensive, whereas Emre played the ball well. I needed someone who could push forward with the ball and he did it very well.
“He defended strongly and showed good character. In my view, it was Emre Can’s best performance since he’s been at Juve. He proved himself tonight.
“Spinazzola had an excellent game on the left, Federico Bernardeschi did really well too. It’s a step forward for Bernardeschi and I am well aware of how good he is. We needed a great performance to go through and we did it.”
Did this send a message to his doubters who have crowed long and loud at his loss in Madrid?
“Those who criticise are not my problem, it’s their problem. What else am I supposed to do? In five years we’ve won four and three-quarters Scudetti, reached the Champions League Final twice, won the Coppa Italia four times.
“What more can I do? They’re the ones who need to get treatment, not me. In any case, criticism can be educational, and it’s fun for me too.”
Juve legend and former goalie Gianluigi Buffon sent a message of congratulations on Instagram to the Bianconeri that Allegri acknowledged.
“We thank Gigi, as he wrote Juventus history. We watched the PSG game the other day and were sad to see it go that way, but we’ll try to go all the way to Madrid so he can come with us.”