When it comes to the Champions League, Juventus always fall short and that has turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more they falter at the key moments, the worse their confidence when approaching new hurdles. In a way, Juve in Europe reflect Napoli’s quest for the Scudetto.
Barring a second leg miracle at the Bernabeu, Gianluigi Buffon’s ambition to bow out with that elusive Champions League medal will go unfulfilled. It was going to take something special to beat the Italy legend on the night after conceding one measly Serie A effort in 2018 and, predictably, it was Juventus nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo who made the Bianconeri suffer again.
The Portugal captain has struck nine times against Max Allegri’s men, more than any other side in the tournament since his debut in 2002 for boyhood club Sporting CP. Ronaldo’s double on the night will quite rightly get the plaudits, particularly his astonishing overhead kick which drew a standing ovation from the Juventus tifosi, but it was the gulf in quality between the sides which really stood out.
Sami Khedira, for all his merits, was willingly sold in 2015 by Real, who upgraded their midfield with the signing of compatriot Toni Kroos. The ex-Bayern Munich playmaker has formed a telepathic partnership with Luka Modric, comparable to that of Xavi and Andres Iniesta in their pomp, and the duo toyed with Khedira and partner Rodrigo Bentancur.
The Uruguayan was visibly frustrated throughout, but with Claudio Marchisio seemingly out of favour, the options were limited and this only further magnified the need for reinforcements in defence and midfield in the summer.
Sure, Juventus had their moments, but overall were second best and looked a shadow of the side that has asserted its dominance over Serie A. In contrast, Madrid may be struggling on the home front, but they are a different animal on the continent and the hosts’ uncharacteristically slack defending was a welcome bonus for Zinedine Zidane’s history makers.
The Italian giants are quite rightly revered across Europe, but their inferiority complex when facing Los Blancos is often glaring. Buffon, a proud man himself, even alluded to this in his post-match comments and this feeling is comparable to that of Napoli domestically. The Azzurri make great strides every season, but are not quite there yet, and Juventus face similar obstacles themselves in Europe.
Of course, there are mitigating factors that led to the result and referee Cuneyt Cakır did not help Allegri’s game plan. The infamous Turk came to prominence in 2013 when he sent off Manchester United star Nani in the Last 16 encounter with Madrid. The Red Devils were dominating proceedings and held the advantage in the tie before Cakir controversially carded the winger. The spectacle was ruined once more when Paulo Dybala was given his marching orders before the hour mark and everything that could have gone wrong for Juventus, did.
Meanwhile, Madrid superstar Ronaldo continues to make a mockery of the doubters. The Portugal captain has 23 strikes this calendar year alone and is the first player in Champions League history to score in 10 consecutive matches. The 33-year-old was ruthless, so often the difference, and should go down as one of the game’s best ever goalscorers.