Why Juventus are Champions League favourites

When the UEFA Champions League semi-final draw was confirmed, pitting Spanish city rivals Real Madrid-Atletico Madrid and Juventus against Monaco, my immediate thought was that Juventus had the easier route to the final as opposed to favourites Real.

Monaco might be the outsiders in the remaining quartet but the position they find themselves in is no fluke.

They have, of course, already toppled English Premier League heavyweights Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, with their biggest scalp, and perhaps surprising too, being their most recent victim, Borussia Dortmund.

Credit must be given to Leonardo Jardim and his squad.

 

But a very impressive Juve stand in their way.

The two-time winners are yet to lose a game in this season’s tournament, winning four and drawing two in the group stages.

They then went on to produce a solid, professional performance in Portugal against Porto, winning 2-0 before finishing the job with a 1-0 win in Turin in the round of 16.

Their semi-final performance was even more impressive, dismissing Barcelona 3-0 on aggregate. Details of this tie are well documented and I’m not going to bore you by repeating them. And I certainly won’t rub any more salt in the gaping wounds of the Camp Nou faithful.

Juve have sure demonstrated once again the Italian job (defending football) in this season’s Champions League, which has brought so much success to Italian football over the years. Massimiliano Allegri has also found the perfect balance between defence and attack.

He has managed to convince players to play above their job descriptions, with known forward players like Mario Mandžuki and Gonzalo Higuaín always willing to track back to help Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini protect the ever reliable Gianluigi Buffon.

This leaves the pace of Juan Cuadrado and the talent of Paulo Dybala on standby for every chance from a counterattack, and you can better on the latter to slot it away at least 8/10 times.

The final result is the old cliché – a well-oiled machine.

The Italian giants are unlikely to admit it, but they also have the wish somewhere at the back of their heads to win the trophy for Buffon, which has eluded the legendary stopper to date.

Either of Real or Atletico will, of course, have a lot to say about Juve winning a third European crown, but Atletico have been a shadow of yesteryear, and if it wasn’t for some shocking refereeing decisions, Real would not be here.

Let’s look into a little bit of history: in the last decade of the Champions League, the team that has knocked out Barcelona has gone on to win or finish as runner-ups.

Again, I’m not going to bore you with details – you’re welcome to go and look it up.

The Old Lady indeed made Catalans look ordinary in Turin before producing a trademark Italian defensive masterclass which stifled the home side.

The semi-finals will unfold on May 2 and 3. The final is in Cardiff on June 3. – @SabeloBoksburg

  AUTHOR
Sabelo Mashego
Sports Journalist

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