Despite grabbing the top spot in the group, the Nyon draw was not kind to Juventus and it paired Juve with the fiery Atletico Madrid for the round of 16 of the Champions League. The first leg will be played in the Spanish Capital on February 20th, the second one in Turin on March 12th. The two teams played together just twice in their history, but the matches are recent and date back to the group stage of the 2014 edition: the Colchoneros won one-nothing at home and then the two sides shared the spoils in a nil-nil draw at the Juventus Stadium. Both teams advanced.
The Rojiblancos finished second in their group this year, garnering as many points as Borussia Dortmund but losing out due to the goal difference in the head-to-head matches, as they conceded four at the Signal Iduna Park and could not make it up at the Wanda Metropolitano despite a 2-0 victory. They also dropped two points in the final fixture, tying versus Club Brugge, while they defeated Monaco twice. They are currently second in La Liga, tied with Sevilla and three points behind Barcelona and have lost just once in the league so far.
The band led by Diego Simeone is undefeated in the last nine games against Italian teams, prevailing in seven of them. Two Juventus players have connections with the Spanish side: Mario Mandzukic spent a year with them before the move to Piedmont, while Cristiano Ronaldo is no stranger to the Madrid derby, facing Atleti many times in La Liga. The famous no.7 scored 22 goals in 31 matches against his former cross-town rivals, including in the two finals in Lisbon and in Milan and a hat-trick in the 2017 semi-finals.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri reacted quickly on Twitter: “Who has ambition does not have fear,” while Pavel Nedved commented to Sky and to the club’s TV. “This is further proof that it is nice to finish in first place in the group, but then it does not make a big difference. We drew the second-best opponent. The final is far away, in the round of 16 you also need some luck and we did not have it today. We have a strong team and we will try to advance.”
“They are well-balanced and there are tough to deal with. They have a stout defense, they sit back and know how to bother you with Antoine Griezmann. They are like an Italian club. I think the two games will be tight, without many goals. We will be ready, we have shown our worth so far.”
“Serie A is reaping some benefits in the Champions League, which is evidence of the competitiveness of the league. Cristiano Ronaldo is the Champions League guy, he always proved it, he scored a ton, but he will not be our only weapon.”
On the two defeats in the group stage: “We do not like to lose regardless. We wanted the top spot and we achieved it, so we can not criticize the group and the coach. We have reached our goal, then you can be defeated by quality teams.”
On the season: “We have demonstrated to be solid, we have played some great games even when rotating the squad. The numbers in Serie A are telling and impressive. I congratulate the guys and I hope they can continue on this path.”
The vice-president doubled down on his recent claim that Giuseppe Marotta was never really a Juventus fan: “It was not a quip, but a statement. Juventus was there before Marotta and Nedved and will be there after them. It is a confirmation. There are two types of executives and professionals: some can join any team, others would not move to some because they do not think it would be right.”
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