Juventus: Can the Italian Champions Overcome Bayern Munich?
"We have come to Turin to score." Those are the words of Arjen Robben ahead of Wednesday night's clash with Juventus. The bold statement flies in the face of conventional wisdom, because leading the two-legged tie by two goals, Bayern Munich could reasonably just sit back and defend for 90 minutes.
The German giants are known for their attractive, attacking style of football and having just been crowned German champions despite there being several weeks left in the Bundesliga, they've arrived in Turin with the pressure off and full of confidence.
Speaking on the weekend after his team secured their 23rd league title, Bayern President Uli Hoeness said:
In all the years I've been at FCB, I can't remember us being so outstanding and winning the league by such a massive margin six games from the end. It's a wonderful answer to the last two seasons. The current team has huge character and great personalities. I'm very proud of the team and the coach. It's not just that we’ve won lots of matches, it's the way we’ve played football. That's been exceptional. The way we're playing this year, I believe we could go all the way.
We are facing a very strong side [but] we have hunger and the right level of calm to approach this game and the awareness we’ll play very differently to the first leg,” opened Conte in his Press conference. The first leg confirmed what we already knew, which was that Bayern are a very strong side who play a very physical game. We confirmed they are among the favourites for the trophy.
Clearly there is a gap between us, as we are still building this project and only a third of the way through, so we want to follow Bayern’s example. For many reasons, we had to reconstruct what had been destroyed. Bayern are a skyscraper, whereas we are still a building site.
I heard people saying that was Juve’s worst performance for years. How many years?! We’ve only been working on this side for 18 months and people forget too quickly what we’ve done. People think everything is easy, but success is never easy. Only two years ago we weren’t even in Europe.
We have to put in the kind of performance that Bayern did in the first leg, showing concentration and sporting aggression. We mustn’t step on to the field with the handbrake on the way we did in Munich. We have to go on to the pitch playing like Juventus.
Which Juventus shows up is still anyone's guess. As regular observers of the Bianconeri will tell you, the first-leg performance in Munich was far below the exacting standards that Conte's men have set for themselves over the past two seasons.
Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo—two of the Turin outfit's senior and most influential players—both had poor games, something they're not prone to do too often. Coupled with that, Mirko Vucinic was missing from the attacking line—as he proved at the weekend against Pescara, the Montenegrin can make all the difference.
Though the Old Lady have all but secured their second Scudetto in a row, they've had a harder time of it this season. 2011-12 saw them go undefeated—an incredible run that ended against Inter back in November.
Since that game, Conte's side have been hot and cold, occasionally seeming to switch off and struggling against inferior opposition. There's no doubt about it though: On their day, they're a match for anyone. Just ask Chelsea.
Conte has many qualities as a coach, but it is his strength as a leader of men that Juve need most right now. If the former midfielder can galvanise his squad and inspire them to a performance of the highest level, then they're still in with a chance.
Arsenal proved in the last round that, although mighty, Bayern are far from infallible. Juventus have been hard at work trying to pinpoint what few weaknesses the German side has, and if they can successfully exploit what they've learned, then they can work their way back into the tie.
Speaking before the game, Juve defender Giorgio Chiellini said as much:
It would be crazy to surge forward and give Bayern the opportunity to counter-attack. There’s no danger we will leave ourselves open. Bayern did very well when pressing us in the first leg, not just on the defenders but also the midfield passes. There was a big difference between the teams in terms of intensity. We watched the game back and studied it carefully together. We all know that we have to counter-act their pressing game. It will require a different attitude.
The Italian international is right: Juve will need more intensity and a different attitude to overcome this potent Bayern side. They'll also need five-star performances across the pitch, and all of the support that the packed Juventus Stadium can muster. If they get all that, then maybe, just maybe, they can make it.
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