Wednesday November 28 2018
Ronaldo meets his match

Cristiano Ronaldo looks to have found himself another perfect partner at Juventus in Mario Mandzukic after the pair linked up to beat Valencia, writes Daryl Hammond.

With Juventus’ 1-0 win against Valencia and subsequent progression to the next round of the Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to win 100 matches in the competition.

He didn’t score and, make no mistake, he wanted to, chastising Joao Cancelo when he opted to shoot instead of passing in the first half and cursing his luck when he got the better of Gabriel Paulista in the air, only to see his header comfortably saved by Neto in the second.

Instead he turned creator. Seemingly rolling back the years, with a quick stepover he outfoxed Gabriel and squared the ball to Mario Mandzukic for an easy tap-in.

Two things have become increasingly apparent during his time in Turin. One, he’s still got it. He can still perform in the Champions League to a high standard and win his side games. This spell has also highlighted a side of his game that goes unnoticed – his creativity. When you are one of the best goalscorers in history, few talk about how well you can pass.

But for all the preconceptions about his game and selfishness – which by no means are entirely baseless – he has shown a willingness and talent for laying on chances to teammates.

He sits only behind Milan’s Suso in the assist charts with five, while he continues to chase down Krzysztof Piatek for the Capocannoniere. And were it not for luck and suspect finishing, his numbers would be even better. Late in the game he hooked another cross back to Mario Mandzukic, but the Croatian striker fired it straight down the throat of the Valencia keeper.

In their previous Champions League match against Manchester United, Sami Khedira hit the post from the Portuguese's cutback and Juan Cuadrado fired wide from a similar position. In hindsight, they were important misses.

Though dwarfed by his goal figures, CR7 racked up a reasonable number of assists during his nine seasons at Real Madrid.  Most notably in the 2014-15 season, as well as winning the Pichichi award for top scorer, he added 16 assists to his 48 Liga goals.

The most common combination for goals saw Karim Benzema pass to Ronaldo or vice versa. Ronaldo and Benzema had developed a world-renowned partnership over the years, and there may be the beginnings of another. Indeed, his game looks particularly in tune when playing along Mandzukic, whom he set up against Valencia.

The two have both found the net in recent games against SPAL and Milan. A hard-working player with great attacking sense and positioning, Ronaldo can rely on Mandzukic to finish, with the World Cup finalist already bettering his League goals tally from last season in 22 fewer matches.

Top of Serie A and through the last 16 of the Champions League, Juve are flying high domestically and in Europe but still haven’t hit top form. A godly save from Wojciech Szczesny stopped a powerful Mouctar Diakhaby header at half-time, with the central defender only able to beat the keeper using his hand to score a disallowed goal in the second half.

Spurned chances cost them against United and almost versus Valencia. The quicker those two build a proper understanding, the better. But after 13 games together, things look promising.

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Have your say...
Next yrs juve could be one of the strongest ever with some key acquisitions.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 7:21pm
Tbh i think juve is still one or maybe two top midfielders away from making a very serious push for the cl.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 7:19pm
4 of all Juve matches have the team scoring once only (2 of them v United, too wasteful at home). Shots per game is up from last year. As for attackers, and personnel in general, the injury list is nothing to sneeze at.

Berna is out injured, Costa slowed down, Dybala sometimes doesn't fit, we all know Cuadrado and after CR7 the best now is Mandzukic who is more decisive than top scorer.

Can Allegri attack more? Yes. For now, Juve need wins first and CR7 goals second. Doing well so far IMO.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 4:18pm
Juve is so strong.. I can't see how they could not win CL this year... it's gotta be their year...
on the 29th November, 2018 at 3:44pm
Juve, the kings of Italy, face a trash team in man united and submit to their English masters. Just like inter. Juve will never win the CL
on the 29th November, 2018 at 2:16pm
Mandzuking is vastly underrated. He does so much for the team in all aspects. He would link up well with any striker.

Dybala looked horrible however and completely lost. At this point I'm not sure if it's his form or Allegri's tactics. But things need to improve. Otherwise just play with Ronaldo and Costa on the wings and Mario in the middle.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 9:16am
Allegri is a defensive-minded coach with hand full of attacking-minded players
on the 29th November, 2018 at 8:43am
Mandzukic has always been a top striker. I am glad the Higuain stop gap time at Juve is over, so Mario can show everyone how consistent and hard working he is for his club. Nothing made me happier in sport for years then seeing him score and knock out England in the world cup. He deserved that moment, and I hope he can lift us to a Champions League win before his time with the club is over.

I also agree with Lover boy below. Juve has too much attacking talent to conserve 1-0 leads.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 2:39am
Ronaldo would probably would have scored more goals in serie a if allegri would actually go out and attack and play a 42-3-1. juve has 7 attackers. go out and entertain and dismantle the rest of serie a teams. it is understand you have to respect the teams in cleague and play a 433. but no way juve should be showing so much respect to the rest of teams in serie a. go out and attack and score lots of goals. play the 4 attackers upfront
on the 29th November, 2018 at 1:06am

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