News, Culture & Society

All you need to know ahead of the Atletico Madrid vs Juventus Champions League last-16 clash 

Atletico Madrid host Juventus on Wednesday night in one of the most intriguing of the Champions League last-16 ties.

The Spanish club, who finished second to Borussia Dortmund in their group, have the enormous incentive that this year’s final will be played in their Wanda Metropolitano stadium on June 1.

But they face formidable opposition in the form of the Italian champions and runaway league leaders, who are hoping to win the trophy for the first time since 1996.

Sportsmail tells you everything you need to know about the match.

Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring in their win over Frosinone last Friday

Antoine Griezmann (left) and Cristiano Ronaldo (right) are set to go head-to-head as Atletico Madrid play Juventus in the last-16 of the Champions League

CURRENT FORM

Atletico’s season is going about as well as might be expected. In addition to their Champions League progress, they sit second in the La Liga standings, ahead of their neighbours Real Madrid but still some seven points behind Barcelona.

It would take a Herculean effort from here to claim the title – or a monumental and highly unlikely Barcelona collapse – so attention can be turned to this last-16 tie safe in the knowledge they’ll be in the Champions League again next season.

Their form of late has been mainly positive but a little patchy. They lost 3-1 at home to Real the weekend before last, which was a disappointment, but bounced back to win 1-0 at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring Atletico's winner at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday

Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring Atletico’s winner at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday

Their weekend win lifted Atletico back to second in the La Liga table after Real Madrid lost

Their weekend win lifted Atletico back to second in the La Liga table after Real Madrid lost

That result, coupled with Real’s surprise loss to Girona, lifted them back above their rivals into second.

As they have a habit of doing, Juventus have established such a commanding lead at the top of Serie A they can completely focus on furthering their European aspirations without worrying about losing ground.

A 35th Scudetto and an eighth title in succession is an odds-on prospect – Juve remain unbeaten in league competition this season and lead Napoli by some 13 points.

Hopes of a Treble ended when Atalanta beat them 3-0 in the Coppa Italia late last month but aspirations of ending their long wait for Champions League glory are very much alive.

Leonardo Bonucci celebrates scoring for Juventus during their win over Frosinone on Friday

Leonardo Bonucci celebrates scoring for Juventus during their win over Frosinone on Friday

Juventus are 13 points clear of Napoli in Serie A and well on course for an eighth straight title

Juventus are 13 points clear of Napoli in Serie A and well on course for an eighth straight title

Atletico last six 

La Liga unless stated

January 16 Girona (H) 3-3

Copa del Rey fifth round, second leg

January 19 Huesca (A) 3-0

January 26 Getafe (H) 2-0

February 3 Real Betis (A) 0-1

February 9 Real Madrid (H) 1-3

February 16 Rayo Vallecano (A) 1-0 

Juventus last six

Serie A unless stated

January 21 Chievo (H) 3-0

January 27 Lazio (A) 2-1

January 30 Atalanta (A) 0-3

Coppa Italia quarter-final

February 2 Parma (H) 3-3

February 10 Sassuolo (A) 3-0

February 15 Frosinone (H) 3-0

EUROPEAN PEDIGREE

Diego Simeone has performed miracles in European competition as Atletico manager, leading them to two Champions League finals – both lost to Real Madrid – and two UEFA Europa League successes during just over seven years in charge.

They regressed by their own standards last season, finishing third in a tricky group containing Roma and Chelsea, but made amends by going on to win the Europa League, beating Marseille 3-0 in the final.

In this season’s group stage they tied on 13 points with Dortmund but finished second by virtue of their 4-0 loss in Germany on matchday three and that handed them this tricky draw with Juve.

Atletico won last season's Europa League having been knocked out the Champions League

Atletico won last season’s Europa League having been knocked out the Champions League

Though they are rightly considered among Europe’s elite clubs, it is now 23 years since Juventus last lifted the Champions League trophy.

The Turin club have been runners-up five times since then, the latest their 4-1 loss to Real Madrid in 2017.

And Real proved their nemesis again last season in the quarter-finals, though it was closer run. Having lost 3-0 in Turin, Juventus led by the same scoreline in the Bernabeu before an extraordinary finish that saw Cristiano Ronaldo score a 98th minute penalty to guide Real through.

This season, they still edged out Manchester United in the group despite losing to Jose Mourinho’s side at home and also to Young Boys on matchday six.

Juventus were left raging when Real Madrid were awarded a late penalty in last season's quarter-final at the Bernabeu

Juventus were left raging when Real Madrid were awarded a late penalty in last season’s quarter-final at the Bernabeu

THE MANAGERS

Simeone insisted in his press conference on the eve of this first leg that Atletico were not fixated on Cristiano Ronaldo but privately he must be annoyed to come up against him yet again.

Ronaldo has wrecked Atletico’s dreams in two Champions League finals and has scored 22 goals against them in his career – only Sevilla and Getafe have suffered more at the hands of the Portuguese star.

He has scored three hat-tricks against Atletico, most notably in the 2017 semi-final, first leg.

The Argentine boss has worked wonders these last seven years to elevate Atletico into Europe’s elite, or at least into a position where they can cling onto their coat-tails.

Atletico manager Diego Simeone has performed wonders to put them among Europe's elite

Atletico manager Diego Simeone has performed wonders to put them among Europe’s elite

Watching brief 

ATLETICO MADRID vs JUVENTUS

Last-16, first leg; Wednesday 8pm GMT

Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid

Live on BT Sport 3

Possible line-ups

ATLETICO MADRID (4-4-2): Oblak; Juanfran, Gimenez, Godin, Filipe Luis; Koke, Partey, Rodrigo, Saul; Griezmann, Morata.

JUVENTUS (4-3-1-2): Szczesny; De Sciglio, Bonucci, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Bentancur, Pjanic, Matuidi; Dybala; Mandzukic, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Second leg is on March 12

Never tempted by a move away, Simeone has always deployed an impressive realism and resolve amid the regular sale of star assets, building a great Atletico team on fresh talent.

They might not be quite as strong as they were a few years ago but the characteristics that make them so difficult to beat remain.

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri resembles a puzzler who has breezed through a crossword only to come unstuck on the final couple of clues.

Domestic dominance is pretty much taken for granted but European glory – the club’s avowed goal for so long – has remained just out of their reach.

Allegri has guided them to two Champions League finals – they lost to Barcelona in 2015, and Real in 2017 – but they’ve fallen agonisingly short.

With Cristiano now in their ranks, Juventus should have everything they need to reach their final frontier but it also leaves Allegri without any excuses should they fail. It feels like it’s now or never for them.

The manager does exude the Juventus DNA though and this was apparent pre-match when he said: ‘I wouldn’t take a draw now, in fact I said to the lads that it’s important to score a goal, although two would be better.’

Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri inspects the pitch ahead of Wednesday's match

Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri inspects the pitch ahead of Wednesday’s match

THE KEY PLAYERS

You only need to glance at Atletico’s stats this season to see where their primary threat will come from. Antoine Griezmann has scored 18 times in all competitions, some 13 goals more than the next highest, Koke.

The Frenchman is having a fine season and creates a vast number of chances for team-mates as well as putting them away. He’ll stretch Juve’s famously resolute defence but he can’t do it all alone.

Griezmann will likely be partnered up front by the on-loan Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata though he has so far failed to find the net in three matches since moving.

Of course, Juventus know all about Morata – he played for them between 2014 and 2016, scoring 27 goals – and Allegri said ‘he is a very dangerous player in one-off games.’

Alvaro Morata will be hoping for a fresh lease of life at Atletico following his failure at Chelsea 

Alvaro Morata will be hoping for a fresh lease of life at Atletico following his failure at Chelsea 

Atletico’s real strengths lie in defence, where Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez will try and marshal Ronaldo, and in the abundant midfield creativity of Saul and Koke.

Cristiano is chasing a sixth Champions League crown and knows full well that Juventus paid £100m for him to accommplish that very aim.

But the 34-year-old Portuguese has taken personal command of some many of these big games it has become pretty much expected.

Aside from him, Allegri has promised we will see Paulo Dybala as well on Wednesday night (and also probably Mario Mandzukic) in what will certainly be an adventurous line-up.

‘Dybala is playing. Are you happy? Can I go?’ Allegri joked in his press conference, addressing criticism that Dybala and Ronaldo can’t work well together.

Paulo Dybala will play alongside Cristiano Ronaldo - proving the pair can work together

Paulo Dybala will play alongside Cristiano Ronaldo – proving the pair can work together

On the nine occasions both have been available for selection in the Champions League and Serie A this season, Dybala has started on the bench eight times and Ronaldo once.

Naturally, Juve’s gnarled and uncompromising back line will lay the foundations for them to snatch an away goal or two. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini have 122 Champions League appearance between them.

STATS

  • Atletico Madrid have met Juventus seven times previously in European competition, although five of those matches were played in the Fairs Cup in the 1960s. In fact, Juventus’ last victory against Atletico Madrid dates back to June 1965 in a Fairs Cup semi-final second-leg replay (3-1)
  • Atletico Madrid and Juventus’ only previous Champions League encounter was in the 2014/15 group stages. Only one goal was scored in the two matches, an Arda Turan winner for Atletico at their home stadium of Vicente Calderon
  • Atletico Madrid are unbeaten in the Champions League against Italian opposition under manager Diego Simeone (W4 D2). In those six games, they have only conceded one goal, by Kaka in a 4-1 win against AC Milan in March 2014
  • Atletico Madrid have reached the Champions League knockout stages in five of their six campaigns under manager Diego Simeone. The only exception was last season when they finished third in their Champions League group and went on to win the Europa League
  • Atletico Madrid are unbeaten in their last 12 home games in the Champions League knockout stages (W7 D5). In fact, they’ve only conceded one goal in their last 10 matches at home in the knockout phase, an Isco strike for Real Madrid in May 2017
  • Only Atletico Madrid (6) have conceded fewer shots on target from inside their own box than Juventus (9) in this season’s Champions League
  • Juventus have won four of their last five away games in the knockout stages of the Champions League (D1). Their last defeat dates back to March 2016 in the last-16 second leg against Bayern Munich
  • Antoine Griezmann has scored or assisted a goal in each of his six Champions League games at the Wanda Metropolitano (6 goals, 3 assists). This season, he’s been directly involved in six of Atletico Madrid’s nine Champions League goals (67%), with four goals and two assists – that’s the highest ratio among the 16 teams left in the competition
  • Paulo Dybala has scored six goals in his last seven Champions League appearances, that’s more than in his previous 24 appearances in the competition with Juventus (5 goals). All 11 of his goals in the competition have come with his left foot
  • Juventus’s Cristiano Ronaldo has scored only one goal in his last eight Champions League games; he’d found the net 11 times in his eight previous games. He has failed to score in four of his last five UCL games against Atletico Madrid.
  • Massimiliano Allegri has reached the knockout stages in each of his nine campaigns as manager in the Champions League. He was a beaten finalist in two of the last four seasons with Juventus.
Leonardo Bonucci will be a key figure at the heart of the Juventus defence as always 

Leonardo Bonucci will be a key figure at the heart of the Juventus defence as always 

WHO WILL WIN?

You have to fancy Juventus to prevail over the course of the two legs, though they may draw or even narrowly lose the first leg.

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


Comments are closed.