Juventus face an almighty battle to stay in the Champions League this evening as they seek to overturn a two-goal deficit against the club which we now must recognise as the best in Madrid. Knocked out in the quarter-finals a year ago by Atletico’s city rivals Real, Juve sought to ensure a better CL run this season by signing the man who knocked them out, Cristiano Ronaldo. However, without a big turnaround here, the Portuguese megastar could find himself watching the rest of the tournament on TV.
The key point here is that Juve need to score at least twice to get past the side with arguably the best defence in the world. Diego Simeone’s men will soak up endless pressure here, and are more than decent on the break – so one slip-up and a resulting away goal could leave Juve needing four goals to progress – a tall order against this opposition.
Juventus vs Atletico Madrid Prediction: Juventus 1-1 Atletico Madrid
With Real Madrid having been blasted out of the tournament by Ajax last week, there will be a different winner for this season’s Champions League and, without the two-goal deficit they bring into tonight’s game, Juve would have fancied that they could be that winner. However, the exceptionally well-drilled Atletico backline know that they have a cushion they can sit back on, making it very hard to see how Juve can score the goals they need. While the Mandzukic-Ronaldo-Dybala front line may well be enough to get Juve a goal here, the need to press forward will create openings on the counter for Atletico, and that may well be where Juve come unstuck.
Our recommended tip: Match Drawn
One of these days, people will stop patronising Atletico as “a great back five with some other players in front of it”. Maybe it will take them going to Turin and knocking out Juve and the great Ronaldo. Maybe they’ll need to actually win the competition. Either way, the odds have Juve winning tonight across the board, which makes MansionBet’s odds of 27/10 on a draw look very alluring indeed. Atletico hold all the cards here and don’t need to over-extend themselves looking for a killer goal tonight; and even if Juve do get a goal, the presence of attackers such as Griezmann and Thomas Lemar on the other side means that Atletico could score on the break at any time.
The most relevant previous match between these sides was three weeks ago, and saw these two well-drilled sides play out 78 tense minutes of knife-edge football before Jose-Maria Gimenez touched in the rebound after Morata’s header was pushed out. Eight minutes later, Gimenez’s defensive partner Diego Godin, half-volleyed in from another set-piece to double the margin.
A stat worth bearing in mind here: This will be the fourth Champions League match to pit these sides against one another, and in the previous three Juventus haven’t scored a single goal. They need two or more to have a chance of progressing tonight.
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Players to watch: Cristiano Ronaldo & Diego Godin
Over the years, Cristiano Ronaldo has picked up five Champions League medals with Manchester United and then Real Madrid. He can, legitimately, consider this his stage, but in order to keep that run going he’ll need to pull out something special tonight. Across nine years in Madrid, he’s seen more than enough of the Atletico defence to know what he’s dealing with tonight. Ronaldo will need to put in an exceptional show tonight, but he can’t do it all on his own – the problem is that there’s every chance he’ll try to.
Godin – like his teammate Gimenez – is a classic Uruguayan central defender; solid, focused and comfortable on the ball. Indeed, his partner at the back could equally be picked here, so in-tune is their partnership. Against the excellent attacking players on the opposing side, Godin will need to bring out an outstanding performance tonight to keep Juventus at bay. It’s a testament to his consistency that nobody doubts he’ll deliver precisely that level tonight.