Juventus Top Performers – UCL Round of 16 Return Leg


Juventus painted a masterpiece on Tuesday night, thanks to an amazing collective effort, a rarely seen fierceness and an out-of-the-blue tactical solution and got the ‘magical night’ they have been looking for.

Joao Cancelo: he was arguably one of the least effective players on the pitch, relatively speaking and considering his skills, as he could have done more with all the space he had at his disposal. However, bonus points are part of the equation and he sent in a pinpoint cross to set up Cristiano Ronaldo’s second goal. An almost perfect defensive performance by the Bianconeri, who conceded just one clear chance to Alvaro Morata and went at it with the Spaniard all night on long balls, but often out outjumped and forestalled him and more importantly they never let him slip behind the back-line. Giorgio Chiellini wanted his 500th to be special and he made sure of it with immense tenacity and leadership.

Emre Can: he was the picklock in the 3-5-2 Massimiliano Allegri opted to field, acting as third centre-back for most of the game, but in a very proactive way, as he basically man marked Antoine Griezmann but also served as an outlet to start the actions that Atleti did not see coming. He had the freedom to move out of the defense to confront the ball carrier and stripped him multiple times. Miralem Pjanic had his most active performance in months, always making himself available to get the ball from his teammate and distributing it with great cleverness and velocity, always keeping a high tempo. Blaise Matuidi once again displayed his ten lungs chasing after adversaries and recuperating ball after ball. Leonardo Spinazzola could not have had a better Champions League debut, as, despite the stage, he looked like his best Atalanta version in the role he is most accustomed to.

Cristiano Ronaldo: if Juventus had some chances to come back going into the fixture, that was only because they have him in the roster. He set the tone with his intensity and charisma right from the warm-ups, and then proceeded to bag a hat-trick, reaffirming his legendary stature in big games. The first header was almost routine for him, while few would have buried the second as he was sandwiched between two defenders, but still came out on top. He was never going to miss that penalty. Ronaldo did the scoring, but Federico Bernardeschi did everything else with the best performance of his career, teeing up the first goal with a gorgeous delivery, never settling for the easy play and always providing that extra zing that was necessary to crack the Colchoneros. He topped it off with a muscular run for the ages to draw the deciding penalty.

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