After drawing Atletico Madrid for the Champions League Round of 16, the consensus among those in the football world was clear, this will be Juve’s toughest test to date.
In addition to being one of Europe’s top clubs, Atletico’s tactical similarity to Juve will pit La Vecchia Signora against essentially a carbon-copy of themselves. Like Juventus, Atleti are their league’s best defensive side, boasting an even better defensive record at 13 goals conceded compared to Juve’s 15.
Furthermore, Diego Simeone’s side is a force to be reckoned with at home. When playing at the Wanda Metropolitano, Atletico have only lost once across both La Liga and the Champions League. The same goes for the Bianconeri, who’s only loss at the Allianz Juventus Stadium came in the group stages of the competition.
Despite all the similarities, Juve’s attacking threat is what separates them from the Spanish side. Unlike Atletico, Juve have a plethora of goal-scoring options waiting to be utilised by Max Allegri. In their last two matches, they managed to hit the back of the net six times.
While many may expect Cristiano Ronaldo to be the main contributor of these six goals, the Portuguese forward only lays claim to a third of them. Emre Can, Paulo Dybala and even Leonardo Bonucci are among those who have found themselves on the scoresheet. This distribution showcases the danger Juve poses when firing on all cylinders.
When in the midst of their two-game winless run, Allegri’s side often lacked cohesion and ideas on the ball. Their play was static and it was for that reason that Atalanta and Parma were able to break them down.
Much of this was due to uncertainty regarding the best role for Dybala, but with the depth Allegri has at his disposal, it’s hardly an excuse for the ponderous football his side was playing.
Now when we watch the Italian giants it is as if they are a different team. Allegri has seemingly started to piece together the best use for Dybala, and luckily for him, this initial discovery comes just in time for Juve’s biggest game of the season so far.
If they want to succeed in breaking down Atletico, then it will require creativity from the entire starting XI. There is no room for wasting chances, but the Rojiblancos lack of an outright goal-scorer apart from Antoine Griezmann bodes well for Juve.
On the other hand, the difficulties Allegri’s men have had lately in dealing with counter-attack specialists like Parma and the fact Giorgio Chiellini and Bonucci have just returned from injury means balance is absolutely crucial.
Stopping Atletico from scoring shouldn’t be the biggest problem for Juventus, but being able to go and break them down in their own backyard is. This will require patience and guile in a tactical chess match.