Juventus v Atletico Madrid
Champions League – Tuesday, 12th March – 20:00 GMT – Juventus Stadium
And so it comes down to this. With the league all but won and an almost unassailable 18 point lead separating us and Napoli in second, all attention turns to a game that may come to define our season and in turn, have ramifications for the months ahead.
The first leg in Madrid was pretty abject and while Juve had the lions share of the ball, they did very little with it. It’s the same accusation that’s been leveled at the team, and in particular, Max Allegri, for much of the season. Whether that’s a fair assessment or not remains to be seen as Juve have barely broken sweat against the domestic rivals and ground out victories in mostly ugly fashion all season long, but in Europe, they haven’t looked the same since that calamitous 10 minutes against Manchester United.
Attention in Italy has already focused on who will replace Max, despite protestations from the management and Allegri himself that he will remain in charge and has no reason to leave just yet. Rumours of Antonio Conte and Dider Deschamps continue to circulate, all while Juve prepare for their biggest game of the season to date. A strange atmosphere, made all the stranger by the ongoing war between the club and the ultras, a story in itself that looks set to run and run with no clear resolution having been reached.
In terms of the game, Juve were forced to experiment with a back three for the easy win over Udinese on Friday, prompting reports that Max may in fact go against the 4-3-3/4-3-1-2 hybrid that’s been the staple since September last year. Granted, it was largely a ‘B’ team that took to the pitch in Udine, but Juve looked far more in control than they have in recent months and made easy work of I Zebrette who offered precious little by way of resistance.
Moise Kean looked electric while Leonardo Spinazzola played out of position and still turned in a sharp performance. Both may yet have a part to play here as the latest indications are that Juve will use a 4-3-3 with Tek in goal, Joao Cancelo at right back, Leo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in the centre of defence and young Spinazzola over on the left. The three man midfield will be composed of Blaise Matuidi, Miralem Pjanic and Emre Can while Federico Bernardeschi is expected to get the nod in attack, partnered by Mario Mandzukic and Cristiano Ronaldo.
4-3-3: Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Spinazzola; Can, Pjanic, Matuidi; Bernardeschi, Mandzukic, Ronaldo.
Costa (quad), Khedira (heart), Cuadrado (knee).
4-4-2: Obak, Arias, Gimenez, Godin, Juanfran,; Correa, Rodrigo, Niguez, Koke; Morata, Griezmann