Juventus are one step closer to returning to the top of the European hierarchy.
The Old Lady travel to France to play Monaco in the first leg of the semifinals on Wednesday in what will be an intriguing encounter.
Juventus have had a good few weeks since their impressive defeat of Barcelona at the quarterfinal stage. Their lead in the Serie A currently stands at nine points with four games remaining, thanks to Roma’s loss to Lazio on Sunday. Massimiliona Allegri’s men would also have been pleased to learn that Monaco, and not Atletico Madrid or Real Madrid, were their semifinal opponents. The French side are impressive and potent in the attack, as Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund will attest, but they are the least experienced of the Champions League semifinalists.
Juventus know they will still face a tough test but will be confident after nullifying the trio of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez over two legs. That’s not to say the thought of facing either Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid would’ve had hearts skipping a beat. The Old Lady would have faced any of the semifinalists confident of reaching the final.
This Juventus side has to be considered the favorite to win the Champions League from this point on.
If the attacking prowess Il Bianconeri showed in the first leg against Barcelona wasn’t enough then the defensive masterclass at the Nou Camp should’ve vanquished any doubts. Of the four finalists, only Juventus has no questions marks over their path to the semifinals. Whether it be dubious defending, poor refereeing, weaker opponents or otherwise, Monaco and both Madrid sides haven’t been fully tested.
Juventus have gone about their Champions League campaign effectively, having topped their group while only conceding two goals in 10 games thus far. They made little fuss in dealing with Porto in the Round of 16 and upped their game against Barcelona. The confidence they showcased in those two legs are indicative of a side convinced they have what it takes to win the competition.
Juventus need not focus on the perceived luck of others though.
Allegri continues to enhance his reputation as a tactician and did so again earlier this season. The switch from the usual 3-5-2 system to a well-balanced 4-2-3-1 setup has put Il Bianconeri on the path to a treble. In each third of the pitch Juventus can match, or surpass, the main strengths of their fellow semifinalists.
With Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci as organizers and leaders at the back Juventus are a fortress defensively. The varied talents of Sami Khedira, Claudio Marchisio and Miralem Pjanic in the two midfield roles mean Allegri’s side can control a game and withstand a physical battle. The front four of Juan Cuadrado, Mario Mandzuki, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain has a solid mix of speed, creativity, work-rate and clinical finishing. Juventus’ odds of a treble look very good with this group provided there are no serious injuries between now and the season’s end.
With the Serie A title virtually wrapped up, Juventus can focus fully on their two-legged encounter with Monaco even with the derby against Torino this weekend and the trip to Roma after the second leg. Monaco have a three point lead and a game in hand in Ligue 1 but the young side will be tested mentally in such an important time in the season. Interestingly enough, Juventus has a recent history with all three sides.
The Old Lady played these teams at various stages of the 2014/15 Champions League season on the way to final against Barcelona. Juventus lost and tied against Atletico in the group stages and finished behind the Spanish side in their group. A tightly contested tie against Monaco ended with 1-0 aggregate win while Real Madrid were beaten 3-2 on aggregate without a loss. Allegri’s side can take solace in the fact that only Monaco has undergone similarly significant changes in terms of playing style and personnel and the Italians will have two legs to overcome them.
Juventus have all the tools at their disposal to conquer their remaining rivals who all have flaws despite their strengths. Monaco’s potent attack leaves them wide open defensively. Atletico have the defensive resilience and tenacity to match the Old Lady but they don’t have the firepower of Juventus. Real Madrid have shown an ability to win all sorts of games while playing poorly but their defense is suspect and if Cristiano Ronaldo is marshaled properly, as you expect with the likes of Chiellini and Bonucci, then they will struggle. One wouldn’t bet against Allegri finding a solution to any problems these opponents will pose.
Juventus aren’t clear favorites but are certainly the strongest side remaining in the Champions League. Barring a freak accident or poor decisions from referees they should be in the final. Their experience two seasons ago will serve as motivation to hoist silverware the club hasn’t seen for over two decades. The Italian side has an air of destiny about them and Buffon’s quest for the one major club trophy to elude him can galvanize the legendary goalkeeper and his teammates.
Juventus’ resurgence from the days of the Calciopoli scandal will finally be complete with a European title in hand.
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Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Juventus: Three talking points from Wembley
Tottenham bowed out of Europe against an experienced Juventus side.
Tottenham Hotspur crashed out of the Champions League after Juventus produced an inspired fightback to progress to the quarter-finals. The in-form Son Heung-min had put Spurs 3-2 ahead on aggregate shortly before the interval, but two goals in three second-half minutes changed the complexion of the tie.
First, Gonzalo Higuain stabbed home the equaliser before Paulo Dybala completed the comeback with a delicate finish. Harry Kane hit the post in the dying moments, but Spurs’ exit at the hands of last season’s runners-up was confirmed as they failed to score a second goal. Here are three talking points from Wembley Stadium..
Max Allegri outfoxes his Tottenham counterpart
So poor were Juventus in the first half that they were fortunate to be only one goal behind on the night and still in the tie. There was no indication of what was to come, as Max Allegri’s side transformed the match in the second period. At the final whistle, the Juve boss headed straight down the tunnel instead of venturing on to the pitch to celebrate with his players. But it was his tactical switch that paved the way for their victory.
With an hour on the clock, on came Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner, who injected much-needed pace and guile. The visitors changed formation and suddenly they were getting in between the lines, with Dybala becoming much more effective. Within minutes, Juve were 2-1 ahead and in their element. Once in front, they managed the game brilliantly and didn’t look like conceding. Mauricio Pochettino, who could only stand and watch it all unfold, had been outwitted by the master.
Future looks bright despite heartbreaking exit
Disappointment may be the overriding emotion for all involved at Tottenham right now, but once the dust has settled they should look back at their Champions League adventure with pride. For this was the season they arrived as a major force on the European stage. Victories over Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in a group they topped were huge fillips and evidence of their continued progress under Pochettino.
Spurs were unlucky to be drawn against a club of Juventus’ pedigree in the last 16 and it was the Italians’ knowhow that paid dividends in the heat of the battle. The hosts looked a little naive, but the experience will benefit them in the future. Tottenham are odds-on to finish in the top four and thereby qualify for the Champions League again next season. Should Pochettino be given the funds to invest in his squad this summer, the club’s fans can look forward to more nights under the spotlight.
In-form Son strikes again for Spurs
The South Korean, who was given the nod ahead of Erik Lamela in the starting line-up, vindicated his selection with the opening goal at Wembley. Son had already gone close to breaking the deadlock and was causing Andrea Barzagli all sorts of problems with his marauding runs. There was more than a touch of fortune about the goal, which rebounded off his left leg and wrong-footed veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon, but it was no less than the Spurs forward deserved.
Son came close to levelling the tie in the latter stages but, ultimately, it was to be neither his nor Tottenham’s night. With 16 goals in all competitions this season, the 25-year-old is making a big impression. He was the home side’s most potent attacking force, upstaging both Kane and Dele Alli at Wembley. Son has finally established himself in the starting XI and Spurs fans will hope he can continue to ease the goalscoring burden on Kane.
Juventus eye up Chelsea’s Gary Cahill as a replacement for Leonardo Bonucci – Should they let him go?
In a surprising news item, The Sun claim that Juventus could look to Chelsea to replace Leonardo Bonucci after the Italian’s move to AC Milan and may target Gary Cahill as a replacement.
The Chelsea captain is currently serving a three game suspension after his red card on the opening day, but the Italian club may be hoping that he has played his last game for the Blues. They are reportedly prepared to spend as much as £16.5 million to bring him to the Juventus Stadium.
That could be tempting for Chelsea given that Cahill is 31-years-old and undoubtedly past his best. With a number of young defenders coming through, including the likes of Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen, it could be tempting to cash in on Cahill and give more opportunities for them to develop.
His rash challenge against Burnley also left his team in the lurch and critics have claimed that it was symbolic of how out of depth the former Bolton man is as captain of the Premier League champions. With mounting pressure, he will need to be up to scratch when under scrutiny more than anyone.
However, Cahill was only recently appointed captain and it would send out entirely the wrong message if he was to be sold now. After a disastrous transfer window so far, it would not only be a psychological blow to lose the club captain, but would also leave Antonio Conte with less than a week to replace him.
His experience is also invaluable. Whilst the likes of Christensen may be knocking on the door of the starting line-up, he will need experienced heads like Cahill’s in and around him to help his development to reach his full potential as a Chelsea player in the years to come.
It could be tempting for Chelsea to allow Cahill to move on, and had this move have happened in June, it may well stand a chance of happening. Now with the season under way and only a matter of days away from the transfer window closing, it would be an incomprehensible decision if Chelsea do sell their captain.
Claudio Marchisio linked to Chelsea – what would he bring?
Chelsea are likely to be active until the final days of the transfer window as they look to add quality and depth to their squad. Antonio Conte currently lacks options outside of his starting eleven and competition is needed if they are to successfully defend their title. Gazzetta dello Sport report that the Italian is interested in signing Claudio Marchisio, who he has worked closely with before.
The midfielder is understood to be unhappy at Juventus due to being a bit-part player under the current regime. Ahead of the World Cup, he wants to play regular first team football and could be prepared to force a move before the transfer window closes. The Serie A champions already have a lot of players in the position and have recently bought Blaise Matuidi, which further limit the minutes that Marchisio is likely to be given.
What would he bring to Stamford Bridge?
The Blues have been criticised for their lack of ambition and poor squad planning this summer, but those will quickly be brushed to one side if they can land Marchisio. Despite having an underwhelming 2016/17 campaign, the midfielder is still regarded as a great player and it would send a statement to the rest of the division if Chelsea manage to bring him to the Premier League.
There is already a working relationship between Marchisio and Conte, which would mean that he would be able to adapt quickly to the style at Chelsea. He understands what it requires to be successful in a team managed by his fellow Italian, while the Blues’ manager trusts the midfielder. That can’t be said about certain other players currently at Stamford Bridge.
It has already been evident that Chelsea are short in central midfield as they resorted to playing David Luiz there at the weekend. The Brazilian played well, but it underlined the squad problems that the club have. Marchisio is disciplined and capable of carrying out a specific role in the team, which appeals to Conte. He can be a creative presence from deep and offers more than Cesc Fabregas does in terms of defensive work. It would be a smart signing if the Blues can pull it off.
How likely is a deal?
Juventus have already lost two important players this summer in Dani Alves and Leonardo Bonucci. It would be a surprise if they also let Marchisio leave the club. The midfielder could force the issue, but unless Chelsea submit a huge offer, a transfer looks unlikely at this late stage of the window. Conte will want to add another central midfielder, but there are other positions that are viewed as a bigger priority.
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