Real Madrid vs. Juventus: Prediction, Preview and How the Game Will Be Won
Round 3 of the Champions League concludes on Wednesday night, with Real Madrid's clash against Juventus a clear marquee fixture.
These two European giants have contested 19 of the 58 European Cup finals between them and, despite being in the early stages of this year's tournament, this match is already a crunch tie for the visitors.
The Italian champions have stuttered against both Copenhagen and Galatasaray, collecting a pair of disappointing draws, and defeat in Madrid could already leave Antonio Conte's side cut adrift in Group B.
Juventus have actually won four of their past five games against Madrid but are coming off a painful 4-2 defeat against Fiorentina, in which they were enjoying a 2-0 lead up until the 66th minute.
The game vs Real Madrid will tell us a lot about the true character of this side. Conte Juve have usually responded well to losses.— l'architetto (@juventus_fc_fan) October 22, 2013
Real have been inconsistent this season but produced a dominant 2-0 win against Malaga on Saturday, registering 22 shots to their visitors' three, according to WhoScored.
They are now up to third in La Liga, just three points off the top.
How the Game Will Be Won
Cristiano Ronaldo is the obvious key man for Real, and Juventus' familiar 3-5-2 formation will provide him extra space out wide.
On the ball he will either be able to pin back Simone Padoin or Mauricio Isla on the right—freeing up midfield for Real to dominate—or attract the likes of Andrea Barzagli to the flank, creating extra space in the middle.
How Juve negotiate this balance will likely determine their fate and may even prompt a change of system from Conte, although that would also create familiarity issues.
Juventus boss Antonio Conte is considering the use of a 4-3-1-2 system at Real Madrid. http://t.co/uYEixFjCRY— footballitalia (@footballitalia) October 23, 2013
Ronaldo will be keen to add to his five goals scored in his first two Champions League games—although he will hope to find Gianluigi Buffon in far worse form than Willy Caballero was on Saturday.
For the visitors, they must capitalise on the ongoing absence of Xabi Alonso and look to press Asier Illarramendi whenever possible.
The 23-year-old will be tasked with supplying Real's attackers. If his production can be slowed, Juve have a better chance of maintaining their shape.
Additionally, Real are yet to look convincing at the back, conceding nine goals in as many La Liga games.
Carlos Tevez will provide them with one of their sternest tests this season and will be desperate to score his first Champions League goal for Juventus.
Prediction: Real Madrid 3-1 Juventus
Real Madrid are yet to find consistent cohesion this season, but Juventus' recent collapse against Fiorentina has highlighted key areas for Carlo Ancelotti's side to expose.
How do you see this game?
Two advanced wingers proved difficult for the Italians to contain on Sunday, and Ronaldo along with either Gareth Bale or Angel di Maria are substantial upgrades on Joaquin and Juan Cuadrado.
As mentioned, Real will either be able to pin their opponents' wide players back, or drag across a central defender, creating more room in the middle for the Spaniards to exploit.
What will concern Juve further is how easily Fiorentina exposed them on the counterattack on Sunday. Should Juventus fall behind again, there are few sides more suited to a quick break than Real, who will look to pick them off as the Viola did.
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