Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has refuted the suggestion that his side have nothing to lose going into their Champions League semifinal with holders Real Madrid, insisting that they have the quality to prevail. Allegri has guided Juventus to the final four of the Champions League for the first time since they beat Madrid en route to losing the final to Milan in 2003. But, while the man he replaced last summer, Antonio Conte, often lamented the Bianconeri’s inability to compete with Europe’s elite on a level footing, Allegri is bolder about his team’s chances of bridging the financial gap.
“It's a semi-final, they are champions of Europe so compared with us they could have a slightly better chance; but it's not a semifinal where you can say we've got nothing to lose -- we can lose the chance of being in the final,” he said in his pre-match press conference, according to Uefa.com. “We've got to remember what we've done so far, that we have a chance, while not forgetting that we're up against very strong opponents.”
Ahead of the first leg in Turin on Tuesday, Juventus wrapped up their fourth successive Serie A title with a 1-0 win over Sampdoria. But having maintained their domestic dominance, the focus is now on reestablishing the club as a major European force after the blow of the Calciopoli scandal nine years ago. In the late 1990s and early 2000s Juventus were one of the continent’s most consistent outfits, reaching four finals in eight years. But it will remain a great disappointment that they only one won of those and, despite being by far the most successful Italian side in terms of league crowns, they have only two European Cups to their name, behind both Milan and Inter.
That one of their five defeats in the final of the competition came against Real Madrid in 1998 will only increase the hunger from the club’s fans to make the most of this opportunity. It’s a major blow then that one of their key men, Paul Pogba, will be missing for at least the first leg. But the France international is not the only influential midfielder who will be absent from the two squads. Real Madrid will be without Luka Modric for both matches after the Croatian picked up a knee injury two weeks ago.
Adding to the champions’ woes, striker Karim Benzema will also be missing. However, there is more positive news, with Gareth Bale now back in the fold having made an impressive return from injury by setting up Cristiano Ronaldo’s decisive goal in a 3-2 win at Sevilla on Saturday. That victory kept Real Madrid just two points back and firmly on the coattails of Barcelona at the top of La Liga.
For manager Carlo Ancelotti, the fixture represents a return to the club he coached for two years at the turn of the century. He won’t have fond memories, at least about his exit from the club, having had his dismissal announced during halftime of Juventus’ final game of the 2000-2001 season. Despite his achievements at the Bernabeu, the Italian will know that he could be subjected to a similarly unceremonious departure should Real Madrid fail to make it past his former club. If Madrid are to get the result they need in Turin, Ancelotti believes that an improved defensive performance will be required against a team that will pose different problems to their quarterfinal opponents Atlético Madrid.
“We’ll need to attack so that we can gain a decent result from the first leg but more importantly, we need to defend much better than we have been lately,” he said, reports Spanish publication AS. “It’s going to be a very even tie. Juve are different to Atlético; they have other characteristics so I’m expecting a different kind of game. Juve are a side who like to have possession of the ball.”
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1, ESPN Deportes
You can get live updates during the match, here.