Juventus couldn’t go into Tuesday’s matchup against Real Madrid with any more momentum. Over the weekend, the team from Turin secured their fourth consecutive Serie A title and 31st in club history with a 1-0 victory over Sampdoria. Throughout the 2014-15 campaign, Juve have been, without a doubt, the best team in Italy and one of the best teams in Europe. In European competition, Turin has been an absolute fortress for the Italians as no challenger has yet to leave with a victory and only Atlético Madrid have managed to leave with a draw, but if any team can break the trend, it’s Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid.
The Serie A champions will be without a key cog in their midfield machine Tuesday night. Former Manchester United starlet Paul Pogba will miss yet another game since injuring his hamstring in March in Juve’s 3-0 destruction of Borussia Dortmund. In the ten games that Pogba has watched from the sidelines, Juve have won seven, but lost two shockers to teams like Parma (currently bottom of the table and on the brink of bankruptcy) and Torino. Even with Pogba missing, the Italians have two world class players manning the middle of the park. Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal (the man that scored the goal sealing the title) will have to be a catalyst for the attack while also stifling Madrid’s buildup play from Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez.
In the attack, the emergence of Carlos Tevez and Álvaro Morata’s dynamic partnership will cause concerns for Carlo Ancelloti’s backline. Combined, the two have 27 tallies this season, but Morata has stalled since his vital goal against Dortmund in March. Tevez has picked up the slack, however, scoring six goals in nine games. In the Champions League campaign, Tevez currently leads the team with six tallies and it seems as if the Argentine is the sole provider of offense when Morata is off of his game. If Sergio Ramos and the rest of the Madrid backline can contain the enigmatic striker, Juve will have a difficult time finding the back of the net.
Now for the Spanish side of the story, Madrid currently sit two points off of Barcelona for the Spanish title and haven’t lost since falling to their Catalan rivals in March. Almost more impressive than this winning streak is the fact that Los Blancos have only lost once in Europe this season. In these ten Champions League matchups, the Madrid backline has kept an astonishing seven clean sheets and have only allowed one goal during their travels. On the offensive side of the ball, Cristiano Ronaldo and co. have only been kept out of the net once. The trip to Turin will pose another tough test for Madrid but it will not be anything they haven’t seen before.
Cristiano Ronaldo has already scored a whopping 53 goals this season and will be a thorn in the side of whatever side he lines up against. In the Champions League, Ronaldo leads Madrid with eight goals. Juventus will have to mimic the play of Atlético in these two fixtures if they have any hope of containing the Portuguese star. In Ronaldo’s eight games against his Spanish rival this season, he’s managed to score only twice. If Juve can somehow replicate this level of containment, they may be able to pull the upset and continue their Champions League dream.
As powerful and potent as Real Madrid is, I can’t see Juventus dropping a match of this magnitude at home. I don’t think that Juve will leave unscathed, however. When the final whistle blows, the score will read 1-1 with Madrid securing an all-important away goal.