A world class goal from Mario Mandzukic aside, Juventus were thoroughly beaten by Real Madrid come the full-time whistle in last year’s Champions League Final.
Almost a year on, the one constant is that both sides have reached the quarter-finals again, but have otherwise had contrasting fortunes in their respective leagues. Real Madrid will likely face a very different Juventus side to the one they beat 4-1 in Cardiff.
For a start, one of the biggest factors of Juve’s league success thus far has been in their seemingly imperious defence. While the likes of Giorgio Chiellini, Medhi Benatia and Andrea Barzagli are renowned for their defensive prowess across the back line, regardless of substitutions and alterations, they look impenetrable.
Until yesterday’s 3-1 win over Milan, they had kept a clean sheet in 13 consecutive domestic games, and were only 15 minutes from breaking their own record for minutes without conceding. You don’t concede, you don’t lose, it is as simple as that. A Bet365 bonus code can help punters get that winning feeling too.
All this despite the departure of Leonardo Bonucci. Though it was his ability with ball at his feet that earned many plaudits, he is a more than capable defender and seemingly a lynchpin in their system. His conduct at half time in that final is what allegedly sealed his fate at the club. Though a thorn in their side yesterday with his equaliser for Milan, he seems a prickle well plucked.
Also playing and subsequently leaving in that Champions League Final was full-back Dani Alves. The Brazilian played on the right of midfield in Cardiff with Mario Mandzukic on the other flank to make a pair of effective but unconventional wingers.
The option to go long and put the ball on the head of 6’3 Mandzukic was a refreshing one, and Mattia De Sciglio is nowhere near the offensive juggernaut Alves was. But with the additions of Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi, Max Allegri has modern wingers at his disposal who beat full-backs with skill, can cut inside and cause problems in the ways most others in the side cannot.
It allows Juve to be more flexible tactically, and both Plan A and B can be effective. We saw as much in that four-minute spell at Wembley when Allegri brought on wing-backs and changed the whole complexion of the tie.
The new faces are a bonus, but their established stars put them where they are. Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic are for the most part doing the business going forward. Dybala more than most has increased his goal output and seems to be coming into form at the right time after an injury lay-off with five goals in six games.
The fact that all their stars are in relatively good form this season will only add to a sense of confidence they may not have had when they last faced Real.
True, the Spaniards are defending champions and played as such when they dispatched Paris Saint-Germain over two legs in the last round, but their league form leaves much to be desired and exposes vulnerabilities many didn’t think existed.
Allegri’s side will approach the tie with trepidation, but optimistic they can find a way past Zinedine Zidane’s team over two legs.