It is 19 years since Juventus last won the Champions League/European Cup but in his first year as manager of the team, Massimiliano Allegri has the opportunity not only to win this prestigious trophy but also the Italian domestic double. In front of approximately 41,000 spectators at the Juventus Stadium on Tuesday evening, Allegri watched his team claim a 2-1 first leg win in their Champions League Semi-Final tie against reigning champions Real Madrid and he will now hope that the slender leader can be preserved in the Bernabeu next week.
Allegri inherited a Juventus team from previous manager Antonio Conte which has won three successive Serie A titles but which had failed to mount a serious attempt at winning the Champions League. Only last season, they had finished third in their group and then failed to qualify for the final of the Europa League to be staged in their own stadium when failing to beat Benfica in a semi-final tie.
As per the previous three seasons, Juventus have dominated the current Italian domestic scene and are unbeaten on home turf in both Serie A and the Champions League. Indeed prior to Tuesday’s clash with Real Madrid, just six goals had been conceded at the Juventus Stadium this year in both competitions, but it was expected that a Madrid attack led by Cristiano Ronaldo would offer a potent threat to that defensive unit.
However, Real Madrid were weakened by the absence of Karim Benzema and a far from fully fit Gareth Bale in attack while manager Carlo Ancelotti opted to play Sergio Ramos in midfield with the influential Luka Modric unavailable due to injury. Ramos was wasteful in possession at times especially during an opening 25 minutes which the home team dominated.
Former Real player Alvaro Morata claimed an early lead for Juventus when ‘keeper Iker Cassillas turned a Carlos Tevez shot into his path, but the Spanish team showed their resilience when the unmarked Ronaldo headed a James Rodriguez lobbed cross into the unguarded net to level the scores.
A converted Carlos Tevez penalty decided the outcome during the second half in a game of generally few chances although both Rodriguez and Fernando Llorente were guilty of wasting clear headed opportunities for their respective teams.
Juventus will now visit the Bernabeu next Wednesday hoping to extend a sequence of three Champions League away matches without conceding a goal. With a fourth successive Serie A already secured, it can be expected one or two key players, especially the legendary Andrea Pirlo, may be rested for their home game with Cagliari, although their opponents do remain deeply involved in relegation issues.
Whatever happens between now and next Wednesday, a second leg contest between of one of Europe’s feared attacking units and an extremely mean and experienced defence is eagerly anticipated as Juventus aim to end a 19 year wait to clinch the Champions League trophy.