Juventus gained a one goal advantage in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid.
Real Madrid might still be favourites to advance from this fixture according to the online sportsbooks in the EU, however Juve demonstrated on Tuesday night that the outsider role journalist tried to cast them just doesn’t fit. And that is right actually, as they are not just a team with rich European history, but a team belonging to the European elite at the moment through their strong squad and impressive teamwork.
• Juve controlled the game
• Real still favourites to advance
• Away goal is important
Italian football is far from its peak and thus the Old Lady owning the Serie A since four years means nothing in itself, however they revealed that the title holders will have to work extremely hard in the second leg of the semis to reach the final again. And online betting punters should also think about that before checking the odds and placing a wager on that match.
Different types of pressing
At the start of the match the two teams used two different types of the pressing game naturally. Real Madrid pressed high up the pitch trying to squeeze Juventus into their box, while the hosts only pressed players in insecure positions with the ball, mostly those who were facing their own goal. The visitors’ method is a kind virtually impossible to maintain throughout the whole game, while the one Juventus applied is a more economical approach.
Real started with a 4-4-2/4-2-4 hybrid and Carlo Ancelotti balanced his team with deploying Sergio Ramos to midfield. By that he cut back the creativity of his side, while his four attackers were able to press up to twenty meters from Gianluigi Buffon’s goal. Massimiliano Allegri set up his team in a 4-4-2 with a diamond shaped midfield making it impossible to penetrate in the middle.
Andrea Pirlo played his trademark deep-lying role just in front of Juve’s defence and Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal and the young Stefano Sturaro, whose appearance in the starting line-up came as a surprise, occupied the middle of the field. With Ramos playing alongside Toni Kroos, Juve practically won the midfield battle before the game has even started.
Goals changed the plan
It is no wonder that Real’s chances came through gaining possession deep in the opposition’s half or from the wings, while Juve was dangerous on the break from the start. The early goal, that was a tap-in from Alavaro Morata against his former club – no celebration, of course –, enabled Juve to sit back, guard their own half and stay in a reactive mode, which was anything but shocking for those who bet on sports in the EU.
However, the Blancos had chances from balls sent in from the wings, and after a cross by James Rodriguez Cristiano Ronaldo left unmarked by the Juve defenders and he equalized before the half an hour mark was passed. The goals slightly rearranged the play and the hosts started to come up and hold the ball more often, but the remarkable change arrived after half time.
Allegri asked his team to press high up the field at the start of the second half, just like Real did in the first, and to be more aggressive. A few crunching tackles were laid on Real’s star players including Ronaldo and James Rodriguez and Juve also kept the ball for longer periods, occupying the visitors’ territory. All this unsettled Madrid, while Juventus were playing with confidence just like they do in regular Serie A games.
Juve were in control
To say that Juve were dominating the game would be an excessive statement but they were clearly controlling it and their most dangerous weapon remained the counterattacking game. It was no surprise at all when Tevez won a foul against Daniel Carvajal in Real’s box in the 56th minute. The Argentine forward converted the penalty himself and Juve were up again.
Ancelotti switched to a 4-3-3 sending in Javier Hernandez almost immediately. That triggered a change to a three-man defence from Juve, which in effect became a five-man backline with wing-backs Stephane Lichtsteiner and Patrice Evra defending deep. Real had the ball in the closing minutes and they were in attack, however the hard-working Italians did not make another mistake like the one before Ronaldo’s goal.
Juventus guarded their box well and finished the game with a one goal lead. Real Madrid might have stepped closer to the final with the away goal, but they have to force the Zebras into another mistake in the reverse leg to book their tickets to Berlin. After watching this display from the Italians, who might be boosted by the return of Paul Pogba, gambling news reported, it is not hard to assert that this won’t be easy even at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.