Tuesday, April 3 – 8:45pm local time – Juventus Stadium, Turin
Massimiliano Allegri will be opening old wounds as he prepares to line up his side against Real Madrid in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
Memories of last year’s finale in Cardiff a year ago are without question still fresh in the minds of the Juventus players as they look to make amends for that 4-1 defeat.
It may neither attract the same viewership nor hog all the headlines in the build-up as the 2017 decider did, but that doesn’t in any way lessen the importance of the match.
Both sides have prepared for the decisive Champions League tie in rampant fashion, putting up convincing wins over the weekend.
Juventus took a massive leap towards clinching their seventh consecutive Serie A title with a 3-1 victory over AC Milan at the Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
Paulo Dybala handed the hosts the lead with a ferocious strike during the opening exchanges, but his former teammate Leonardo Bonucci levelled matters with a smashing header halfway through the hour mark.
The Old Lady, however, scored late in the second half through Juan Cuadrado and Sami Khedira to secure three vital points, thus stretching their lead at the summit to four points after Napoli registered a 1-1 draw away to Sassuolo.
Real Madrid were likewise easy on the eye over the weekend as they cruised to a 3-0 victory away to Las Palmas.
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Gareth Bale grabbed the opportunity by the scuff of the neck as he bagged a brace in the absence of the rested Cristiano Ronaldo, while Karim Benzema converted from the spot in a routine Madrid win.
Although the Los Blancos are beginning to find their feet in the La Liga, their frivolous start to the campaign coupled with inconsistent results along the way has, by all accounts, blighted their title defense.
Sub-par performances in the Spanish League have Real third on the table, some thirteen points away from runaway leaders Barcelona and a point behind local rivals Atletico Madrid.
Real’s efforts on the domestic front have been so far below their usual standards that the only piece of silverware they could clinch this season is the Champions League crown.
The promise of a third consecutive European title may be all that is keeping Zinedine Zidane from the blood-soaked executioner’s block at the Bernabeu.
The Frenchman’s team selections over the weekend would suggest he is well aware of his predicament.
Although Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo are fully fit, both players sat out against Las Palmas with a view towards Tuesday’s trip to Turin.
Cristiano Ronaldo odds and specials
▪ Cristiano to score at anytime – +120 at William Hill
▪ Cristiano to score/Madrid win – +260 at Ladbrokes
Cristiano Ronaldo is a well oiled, self-driven machine whose career has been littered with multiple accolades and a firebrand kind of football.
His workhorse demeanor may have dwindled a bit at 33 years of age, but his remarkable aerial ability and fluidity with both feet will make him a constant threat to the Juve goal.
One man who will be desperate to stifle Ronaldo’s influence is Gianluigi Buffon, against whom the Portuguese superstar scored a double in the Champions League final last season.
Given the unpredictable nature of the away goals rule, Real Madrid will fancy their chances in Italy and who better to knock the wind out of Juventus than Ronaldo, who already has 12 goals in Europe this season.
Real Madrid registered emphatic home and away victories against Paris Saint-Germain to advance into the last eight on a 5-2 aggregate, whereas Juventus beat a jittery Tottenham Hotspur side 4-3 to book their place in the quarter-finals.
The match is set to be a cracker, with the likes of Dybala and Higuain expected to pose an attacking threat that could match Real Madrid’s expensively assembled front line.
Prediction: Both sides to score – -111.11 at William Hill
Juventus vs. Real Madrid recent results
Juventus 1-4 Real Madrid (June 3, 2017) – Mario Mandzukic 27’ Cristiano Ronaldo 20’, 64’ Casemiro 61’ Marco Ascensio 90’
Real Madrid 1-1 Juventus (May 13, 2015) – Cristiano Ronaldo 23’ (P) Alvaro Morata 57’ Juventus 2-1 Real Madrid (May 5, 2015) Alvaro Morata 8’ Carlos Tevez 57’ (P)
Real Madrid 2-1 Juventus (October 23, 2013) – Cristiano Ronaldo 4’, 29’ (P) Fernando Llorente 22’
Juventus 2-2 Real Madrid (November 5, 2013) – Arturo Vidal 42’ (P) Fernando Llorente 65’ Cristiano Ronaldo 52’ Gareth Bale 60’
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