Champions League draw did Juventus no favours

Italy's Juventus must be privately disappointed they did not draw holders Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.


Juventus line up for their return match against Barcelona Source: Getty Images Europe

Juve were handed arguably the least formidable opponents and will face relatively inexperienced Monaco of France.

In theory the Bianconeri should not be complaining too much. They have never lost to the team from the principality.

Los Merengues, meanwhile, must deal with crosstown rivals Atletico Madrid in a repeat of last season's final that went to penalties.

Juve and Real are the only unbeaten teams left in the competition and it would come as a surprise if these two giants of the world game did not contest the final showdown at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on June 4 (AEST).

Juve have made no secret of their intention to become champions of Europe for the third time and they showed their full potential by outplaying Barcelona over two legs in the quarter-finals.

They gave the Blaugrana a lesson in lethal finishing in winning the first leg in Turin 3-0 and provided a demonstration of first-class defence in the return at the Camp Nou that ended 0-0.

Madrid, on the other hand, were given a considerable helping hand by Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai when they accounted for unlucky Bayern Munich.

The German champions lost the home leg 2-1 but were on the way to a sensational comeback when they led 2-1 late in the second leg at the Bernabeu before midfielder Arturo Vidal was unjustly sent off for a foul he did not commit six minutes from time.

Madrid played the whole period of extra time with an extra man but still needed a Cristiano Ronaldo goal from a clear offside position to turn the match and win 4-2 to remain on track for their 12th title.

Juve must believe that their best chance of beating Madrid would have been over two legs.

Despite Calcio's current technical problems, the best Italian teams are still masters of home and away football.

Juve can obtain results at home and defend their leads away, as was seen in the recent clash with Barca, when defensive stalwarts Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini excelled. 

Keeping Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar scoreless over two legs speaks volumes of Juve's ability to handle top class forwards with consummate ease.

Madrid don't usually lose finals and in a one-off against Juve, their chances of completing their 'deadly dozen' and becoming the first team to retain the Champions League since AC Milan in 1990 would increase substantially. Provided they beat Atleti, of course.
Diego Simeone's team were also the recipients of a favourable refereeing decision in the first leg of the quarter-final against Leicester City.

Antoine Griezmann was awarded a highly contentious spot kick which he converted for a 1-0 win at the Calderon before Atleti 'earned' their qualification with an accomplished performance for a 1-1 draw at Filbert Street.

Atleti's chances of reaching their third final in four years will depend on whether they can muzzle that incredible goal machine Ronaldo, who continues to break goalscoring records almost at will.

Madrid's explosive game seems to be off the cuff at times but there is nothing impromptu about their finishing, particularly when the Portuguese predator is involved: give him a decent ball and more often than not he'll find the back of the net.

Monaco surprised many people with their dogged resistance and refusal to be beaten by Manchester City in the round of 16 and they impressed more pundits with the way they dealt with Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals, winning both legs.

French striker Kylian Mbappe has emerged as the newest star on the European circuit after tearing City and Dortmund apart.

Another dazzling display against Juventus would raise the teenage prodigy's stocks sky high.

Mbappe clearly is destined for bigger things.

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4 min read
Published 24 April 2017 at 10:00am
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS