Real Madrid vs Juventus | Wednesday 13 May | Santiago Bernabeu | 20:45
Real Madrid host Juventus in a delicately poised second leg semi-final, one that could go a long way in determining the composition of the Galacticos next year. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have been in a state of relative freefall recently, crashing out of the Copa del Rey to city rivals Atletico whilst surrendering the La Liga initiative to their eternal nemesis Barcelona. Juventus’ progression towards the Serie A title has been nothing short of serene, punctuated by that critical victory in Turin last week. That away goal, courtesy of an ever aware CR7, could yet prove decisive in Wednesday’s epic semi-final fixture.
To Win (90mins)
Real Madrid 13/20
Real Madrid 8/10
The injury to Luka Modric really came at the worst possible time for Real Madrid. The midfield playmaker brought balance to Ancelotti’s side, both with his incredible range of passing and unerring calmness in possession. Kroos lacks his vision while Isco’s dynamic qualities are best reserved for further up the pitch. Karim Benzema looks likely to return for this encounter while I would think they will persist with Varane and Ramos as the centre-half combination. Kroos should also be in contention to start despite a slight injury scare in their disappointing 2-2 draw against Valencia.
There are some rumblings of a possible departure for both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. Knowing the character of CR7, one could imagine that failure to win a single trophy this year may well necessitate movement. He has already helped capture La Decima, fulfilling the most enduring ambition of their die-hard fans. Madrid are going to have to be more combative in midfield, not allowing Vidal and Marchisio to dominate the 50/50 challenges. As the game progresses, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pepe come on to facilitate the progression of Ramos up the pitch, to give them some extra physicality in advanced positions. But they are going to have to overcome a side built on tactical efficiency.
Allegri’s side were ruthlessly efficient in Turin, nullifying the pace of Ronaldo and playing perfect counter attacking football. Morata’s goal was an especially cruel twist of fate for Real, one that could likely consign them to a barren season. Paul Pogba is now available, amidst swirling rumours of a ridiculous Manchester City offer. Pogba may still start on the bench despite a strong showing against Cagliari. Pirlo should relish the chance to play a Real side chasing the fixture. This should afford him some more space and the opportunity for Lichtsteiner and Evra to bomb down the flanks more regularly.
Carlos Tevez has been the standout player for Juventus this season. He has brought that added dimension of class that allows for more thrust up front and has also nurtured the development of young Morata. Vidal’s engine will have to be on full blast again if Ronaldo and Bale are to be contained while the timeless Buffon will have to be on full alert for what could be a barrage of frustrated long range shots. Juventus will know that this is a golden opportunity to dethrone a Real side who conceded four goals at the Bernabeu against Schalke this season.
VERDICT: Juventus To Qualify 1/1
I feel that the weight of disappointment and expectation heaped on the current European champions will play right into the hands of the tactically disciplined Juventus. I expect Juve to quell an early flurry and settle into a comfortable counter attacking rhythm. I see this one ending a draw and Juventus progressing.