On Wednesday evening, Juventus have a chance to earn a place in the Champions League final for the first time since 2003. It is a remarkable achievement to have made it this far, but Italian football’s grand Old Lady—and her supporters—dream of going on to even greater glory in Berlin.
Standing between La Madama and that hope are none other than the reigning European champions, with Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid seeking to repeat last-season’s accomplishment. Massimiliano Allegri is fully aware of how difficult this trip the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu will be, telling reporters this week, per the club’s official website:
It’s important for me and particularly for Juventus to be back in a Champions League semi-final. We hadn't got this far for a long time. Our objective this year was just to get out of the group.
Nobody could have imagined that we’d be 95 minutes away from Berlin right now. We were 180 minutes away from the final and now there are just 95 to go. It’s not easy and I think it would be an extraordinary achievement for us to reach the final.
The Bianconeri expect to be boosted by the return of Paul Pogba, although Allegri was cautious when discussing the midfielder’s fitness with reporters. At his press conference ahead of the Cagliari encounter (h/t Football Italia), the coach said it was “hard to say” how much help the 22-year-old would be against the Spanish giants.
Date: Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Time: 8:45 p.m. CET (7:45 p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. EDT)
Venue: Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
TV Info: Sky Sports 1 (UK), Fox Sports 1 (U.S.)
Live Stream: Sky Go (UK)
Last five domestic results:
|Real Madrid 3-1 Malaga||Juventus 2-0 Lazio|
|Celta Vigo 2-4 Real Madrid||Torino 2-1 Juventus|
|Real Madrid 3-0 Almeria||Juventus 3-2 Fiorentina|
|Sevilla 2-3 Real Madrid||Sampdoria 0-1 Juventus|
|Real Madrid 2-2 Valencia||Juventus 1-1 Cagliari|
Real Madrid: (4-3-3): Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Isco, Kroos, Rodriguez; Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale
Juventus: (4-3-2-1): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio; Vidal, Tevez; Morata
Player to Watch
Carlos Tevez is perhaps the key figure to watch during this encounter, the striker having continually lifted Juventus in important moments over the last two seasons. He was undoubtedly the most influential Bianconeri player in the first leg, earning and then netting the penalty which ultimately proved to be the difference between the two sides.
It was his seventh goal in 11 Champions League outings this term, and as always Tevez did far more than simply find the back of the net. Indeed, it was his shot—subsequently spilled by Iker Casillas—that created the opening for Alvaro Morata to net the first goal of the tie.
Juventus will once again rely upon the 31-year-old to deliver if they are to emerge victorious, and Tevez has consistently delivered in 2014-15.
If Tevez is key to Juve’s hopes, Real Madrid’s search for a hero might land on Javier Hernandez. A goal for Cristiano Ronaldo seems almost inevitable at this point, but it may fall to the Mexican striker to net a crucial second.
He has struggled on the fringes of the side, but notched four goals and three assists in his last eight outings following Karim Benzema's injury, that tally including a vital strike against neighbours Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final.
The task of stopping him will fall to Giorgio Chiellini, Juve’s bruising central defender who is something of a throw-back to a bygone era. He will relish the physical challenge presented by Hernandez, and will enjoy it much more than chasing the likes of Ronaldo and Gareth Bale as he was forced to do in the first leg.
Odds (via Odds Shark)
Away win: 3/1
Home win: 100/189