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. Continue reading
Lionel Messi issued a clarion call at the very beginning of the season where the Champions League was concerned.
That was the priority for Barcelona. No messing about, a stated aim to take home the trophy once again.
Drawn in the ‘group of death,’ the Blaugrana sailed through it, but now the real business begins.
Barcelona have six possible opponents they could draw in the Round of 16… Continue reading
With Cristiano Ronaldo joining Juventus this past summer after back to back Champions League triumphs in Madrid, many thought the bianconeri were about to turn a corner in Europe and finally put their past woes behind them. After all, they just signed Mr. Champions League himself in the form of Ronaldo. After failing at the final hurdle against both Barcelona and Real Madrid in recent years, it was clear Juventus were lacking something, and it was evident it wasn’t a player but more so, a winning mentality in Europe.
While it’s strange in itself to criticize Juventus’ winning mentality, seeing as they’ve won the domestic title seven years running and winning is quite literally in the club’s mantra, the Serie A giants are a completely different team in Europe and approach games with more pragmatism.
Rather than setting out to dominate the opposition from the get like they do in Italy, Juventus are patient and tend to rely on their rearguard to provide the backbone for their success. In the past, this is a strategy that has largely worked but when it comes time to make the final leap, they typically fall painfully short. Just yesterday, it costed the side and they squandered a 1-0 lead to Manchester United and ended up losing in the dying embers of the game. After the game, Ronaldo spoke about this issue.
“We dominated the game and had so many chances. We relaxed and we were punished, in this case we just gifted it to them,” said the Portuguese superstar.
Considering the landscape of the modern game, it cames as no surprise that high-flying offences have been the recipe for success in Europe while defences, on the other hand, are but a bonus. Last season, Liverpool made it all the way to the final with a back four of Andy Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold. While there are some good pieces in that backline – namely the first two – it is hardly world class and just goes to show you that Juventus may be overvaluing caution.
By all accounts Manchester United were going to leave Italy with a loss which would have put their Champions League qualification hopes on ice. There was just two minutes left in Turin against the mighty Juventus, unbeaten this season and 1-0 up through a Cristiano Ronaldo goal. And then it happened, shades of that infamous 1999 Champions League final.
First it was Juan Mata’s superb freekick that levelled the match up. That was enough on the 88th minute to say let’s go back with a point and no defeat. But United were not done yet and in injury time got the winner through a Leonardo Bonucci own goal. The Juventus fans went silent and at the final whistle Jose Mourinho could not help but to cup his ears and try to silence the fans after the boos he had endured during the match.
But what a turnaround for United and for Mourinho who has been under tremendous pressure since the beginning of the season. Surely that will be eased with victory in the own back yard of one of the tournament favourites. It was a massive win.
One must question if it was United’s best win since Sir Alex Ferguson retired from the club in 2013? Yes we can look at the Europa League final win against Ajax in 2017, but this match felt different. United were playing a superb team away from home they were not expected to win here given that they had just lost at home to Juventus in the reverse match a couple of weeks ago. This was supposed to be a formality, and let’s not forget Juventus hit the woodwork two times, so it really could have been.
But United hung in there and created chances of their own, this seemed like watching a team that had turned a corner, that had learned how to fight and Mourinho may well privately be thinking that this was his greatest win as a United manager, he should be.
United look certain to qualify from their group now and a win over Young Boys would confirm that if Juventus who now have to beat Valencia. Just how far have Mourinho’s team come? Well we won’t have to wait long as this weekend they will take on Manchester City in what should be another classic game of cat and mouse. The last time the teams played United came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in a stunning comeback. One has already been achieved this week, could another?
Manchester City may have won the Premier League title in 2013/14, pipping Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool to the crown on the final day of the season, but their recruitment the previous summer was a mixed bag.