Juventus surprised everyone by taking a 2-1 lead out of the first leg of their Champions League semifinal with Real Madrid. Do they have what it takes to complete the upset on the road?
It’s time to finalize the Champions League final. After Barcelona did what they needed to surpass Bayern Munich and earn one spot, now we get to see if Juventus have what it takes to hold on to the one-goal aggregate advantage they have after surprising Real Madrid in Italy a week ago and winning the first leg 2-1. That away goal could prove vital, but it goes out the window as soon as Juve score — and you know Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata will be extremely eager to break that window wide open.
One thing is guaranteed: between the tactical chessmatch that Carlo Ancelotti and Max Allegri will put on and the sheer level of effort both squads are capable of putting out, this match will be a no-holds-barred battle from start to finish. Neither team will have a remotely easy time winning this one, and many fans will be entertained — but fans of Madrid and Juve will be chewing their fingernails until the final whistle.
Juventus are only missing a pair of backups in Martin Caceres and Kwadwoh Asamoah plus a few more players even lower down the depth chart, but Real Madrid are still missing Luka Modric, a key cog in their midfield machine. Without him, they’ve been making due with mix-and-match swaps of players from other positions. It’s mostly worked so far, but it’s definitely been a less than ideal situation.
Projected lineups (left to right)
Real Madrid (4-2-3-1): Iker Casillas; Marcelo, Raphael Varane, Pepe, Dani Carvajal; Segio Ramos, Toni Kroos; Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale; Karim Benzema
Juventus (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Patrice Evra, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Stephan Lichtsteiner; Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba; Arturo Vidal; Alvaro Morata, Carlos Tevez
Ronaldo and Bale vs. Lichtsteiner and Evra – The battle out wide will be crucial to this match. Juventus’ fullbacks have done well all season long, but the pace and power that Ronaldo and Bale bring to the table are a whole different beast compared to your typical Serie A wingers. Lichtsteiner and Evra did a fair job against them a week ago — if they can repeat that performance, Juve might just have a chance.
The transition game – Whichever team can move better from attack to defense and vice versa will win this match, period. Real Madrid and Juventus are two of the best in the world at that transition, lending them great effect both on and against the counter. When the stakes are this high, though, that can cause cracks and mistakes, and any mistake will be ruthlessly punished with teams this good.
Iker Casillas vs. Gianluigi Buffon – These two venerable goalkeepers can keep an entire attack at bay on their own, but as age takes it’s toll, both have been periodically prone to fits of poor play. If one of them has an Old Man day, then this could be a baaaaad day for his team.
Juventus have all the fight and heart you could wish for, but against the elite talent of Ral Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu? Sorry Juve fans, but this one ends with Real Madrid advancing to the final.