Massimiliano Allegri has stressed that Juventus will have to do more than just defend in the second leg of their Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid. Juventus took a 2-1 lead from last week’s first match in Turin, meaning that they only need to avoid defeat at the Bernabeu on Wednesday to reach the club’s first final in 12 years. Yet, while Juventus’ defensive strength was in evidence in getting the goalless draw they needed at Monaco in the quarterfinals, Allegri insists they won’t be able to rely on the same strategy against the firepower of the Spanish giants.
“We can’t just think about defending, also because the more we have the ball, the less chance they have of scoring,” he said in his pre-match press conference, reports Juventus’ official website. “Possession was practically even in the first game and tomorrow we’ll need to be even better. We’ll need to play with cool heads and be aware that, in contrast with Monaco, where we could aim for a goalless draw given their characteristics, getting a similar result here will be almost impossible.
“Bossing the game against Real, especially when they play at home, isn’t possible and I don’t think they’ll afford us a great deal of space in which to operate. So we’ll require courage and a decent performance from a technical standpoint.”
Juventus’ chances of repeating their semifinal win over Real Madrid 12 years ago have been given a boost by the return from injury of key midfielder Paul Pogba. The France international started and scored in Juventus’ 1-1 draw with Cagliari on Saturday and Allegri has made it clear that he is now ready to start in the Spanish capital.
While, having already clinched their fourth straight Serie A title, Juventus were able to rest several players at the weekend, Real Madrid have been afforded no such luxury. Indeed, a week on from a full-throttle 3-2 win over Sevilla, Madrid were involved in another intense battle against Valencia on Saturday. Worse still for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, a 2-2 result meant they fell four points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona with just two matches remaining.
It leaves the pressure firmly on Ancelotti to keep Madrid in with a chance of becoming the first team to win back-to-back Champions League titles. His preparations for the second leg have not been helped by fresh abuse from the Bernabeu crowd directed toward goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas, as well as Gareth Bale’s agent hitting back at criticism of his client by suggesting the blame lay with the Welshman’s Real Madrid teammates. Ancelotti, however, expects everyone to be pulling in the same direction for such a critical match.
"All Madridistas will be together as one against Juve,” he said, according to the club’s official website. “The fans have helped us in a lot of situations, such as against Atlético and Bayern. Tomorrow will be the same.”
Despite an injury scare against Valencia, Real Madrid will have Toni Kroos available, while Karim Benzema is also back in contention after a month on the sidelines. Yet it remains to be seen whether the French striker or Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who has performed impressively in his absence, will be selected.
"[Benzema’s] in good shape and he's 100 percent available,” Ancelotti said. “He has recovered and he's ready. He could play from the start, or in the second half. Chicharito brings us penetration and keeps the opposition backline on its toes, while Benzema makes the whole team play better. With him, we can play a higher-quality attacking game because he makes the others play better. He has recovered well from his problems, but he hasn't played for a month. That's the doubt for me.”
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1, ESPN Deportes