Champions League: Juventus eye revenge against Real Madrid
Galacticos coach Zinedine Zidane urges the holders to play with ambition in Turin
Juventus host Real Madrid in the first-leg of their Champions League quarter-final tonight, in a repeat of last season’s final.
On that occasion the Spanish club romped to a 4-1 victory to give them a second consecutive Champions League title. However, they will face a tougher opponent over the two legs of this season’s quarter-final.
Not only is Real’s form not what it was last season, but Juventus are now a more accomplished team, coming from behind to beat Tottenham at Wembley last month while on Saturday, they moved four points clear at the top of Serie A with a 3-1 win over AC Milan.
Asked about tonight’s clash, Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri said: “We will fight against Real Madrid with realism and ambition… It will be a great game, but our priority remains Serie A.”
Real, in contrast, lie third in La Liga, four points behind Atletico Madrid and a whopping 14 shy of leaders Barcelona. With their rivals practically guaranteed the domestic crown, the Galacticos’ focus is a third straight European title, a feat last achieved by Bayern Munich in the 1970s.
For Real coach Zinedine Zidane, the quarter-final clash is a reunion with a club for whom he made more than 150 appearances before signing for the Madrid side in 2001. He was a member of the Spanish team when they last played in Turin, a 2-0 defeat in the last 16 of the 2004-05 Champions League
“It’s another game, another competition. We know we have to go to Juve with ambition and we have to go there to score,” said Zidane, in the wake of his side’s 3-0 win over Las Palmas on Saturday.
Juventus have Juan Cuadrado and Giorgio Chiellini fit again after injury lay-offs and Zidane has also received a boost on that front with centre-back Nacho Fernandez fit to travel despite limping off with an ankle injury on Saturday.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcelo and Toni Kroos were rested on Saturday and Gareth Bale took advantage of their absence to stake a claim for a place in tonight’s starting XI.
The Welshman scored twice, but Zidane was staying mum as to whether he would continue using him from the bench in the Champions League.
“I’m very pleased with his performance,” he said. “You’ll have to wait and see if he plays [tonight].”
It was Bale’s pace that caught the eye against Las Palmas, the 28-year-old outstripping their defence to open the scoring midway through the first half. His second was from the penalty spot and Karim Benzema scored in a similar fashion in his 400th appearance for Real.
That will send Real in good heart to Turin, but veteran Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is determined to avenge what happened in last year’s final as he winds down the clock on his astonishing career.
“The best team won, but we weren’t that bad to be beaten so heavily,” said the 40-year-old Juventus legend, who is scheduled to retire in a matter of weeks.
“Real Madrid might be the favourite, but the tie is 50:50. We must be ambitious. There is history and then there’s the present.
“Juventus are also a great team, one which knows how to win titles.”
Tonight’s Champions League fixtures:
- Juventus vs. Real Madrid (7.45pm)
- Sevilla vs. Bayern Munich (7.45pm)
- Liverpool vs. Manchester City (7.45pm)
- Barcelona vs. Roma (7.45pm)
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