Juventus, Ronaldo, & Allegri Put UCL Lives On The Line vs Atletico Madrid

Juventus and Atletico Madrid square off today in the second leg of their quarterfinal Champions League clash. The Old Lady started off about as abysmally as one could've imagined, and they now trail 2-0 heading into Turin. FloFC caught up with La Liga and Serie A experts Jason Pettigrove and Adam Digby to talk through the match.

Jason Pettigrove

Juventus have to score at least twice but also not concede. What formation do you think Allegri will play on that basis, and which players miss out on a starting spot?

Adam Digby

I think he’ll stick with the 4-3-3 that they’ve been using all season because, in my opinion, it’s too late to change for anything else. It also obviously is the system that brings the best from Cristiano Ronaldo, who, when paired with Mario Mandzukic and Federico Bernardeschi in attack, looks much more dangerous. 

By the same token, how do you think Atleti will approach the return encounter from a tactical/team selection standpoint given that they have a huge advantage as they land in Turin with a two-goal cushion?

JP

Atleti are rarely given credit for their attacking excellence, something that Diego Simeone has mentioned more than once in press conferences this season. That may be something to do with how well they play defensively. Only 17 goals conceded in La Liga is, by a distance, the best in the Spanish top flight.

However, the Argentinian will be wary of Juve’s power coming forward but will also know that an away goal makes life much more difficult for them. With Alvaro Morata back in the groove, it’s a no-brainer to start him alongside Antoine Griezmann again.

Rodrigo alongside Thomas Partey gives the Rojiblancos enough of a presence in central midfield to disrupt Pjanic’s efforts to play in any one of the front three, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Thomas Lemar given the nod over Koke, purely to neutralize Cancelo’s threat if the latter plays. Playing on the counter will suit the visitors, too.

What went wrong for the Bianconeri in the first leg and how do they put it right in the return?

AD

Is it too reductive to say “everything?” To be honest, nothing went right for Juve and, while immense credit must go to Atleti for their superb performance, the Bianconeri played right into their hands in almost every way. 

Allegri's safety-first approach allowed their opponents to play on the front foot and dictate terms, which we know is exactly how Diego Simeone wants his side to play, while leaving out the likes of Cancelo robbed the Old Lady of one of her most potent attacking outlets. 

On the flip side of that, what do you think went right for Atleti and what will they do in Turin to try keep those factors in their favor?

JP

As you suggest, Juve’s own tactics benefitted their opponents on the night. Buoyed by a partisan home crowd, one sensed that if it were Atleti that scored first, they could go on and get another. The Rojiblancos were disciplined throughout and compact, closing down the passing lanes effectively, which disrupted Juve’s natural style.

You could sense as the game went on that the Italians were getting more and more frustrated, and that’s precisely what Atleti need to ensure they do again. Get in amongst them, don’t let Juve dictate the rhythm of the game and be ready to take any chances when they come.

It’s worth pointing out that Atleti have lost just once in this season’s competition, but it was a big 4-0 defeat against Dortmund. On that occasion they were troubled by incessant attacking and played in such a way as to invite that pressure. If they can see out the first 15 minutes by keeping Juve at bay, they must then get a foothold and stand toe-to-toe with them, rather than giving Allegri’s side the incentive.

There’s been a lot of talk about how far Juve can go in this season’s competition, with many tipping them for the title because of signing Cristiano. Is that still a realistic aim at this point, and do you anticipate Ronaldo being the man for the big occasion again?

AD

Ronaldo’s big-game impact, particularly against Atleti needs no explanation and he has to be firing on all cylinders if Juve are going to have any success in this tie. He has killed off the hopes of Simeone’s men so many times and the Bianconeri will obviously hope he can do so again, but must ensure it is a team effort rather than the Portuguese star being left to do it all himself. 

As for winning the Champions League, it’s a question of “if” really isn’t it? If Juve can turn this tie around and if they can qualify for the quarterfinals, they will not only have eliminated a major opponent, but they will have presumably done so by delivering the kind of performance that sends a strong statement of intent to everyone else left in the competition. So my answer is yes, Juve can still win the tournament, if they get past Atleti.

How about from an Atleti perspective? Who do you see being the key man and what are the chances of this team going on to lift the trophy if they see off the Old Lady?

JP

Purely because he’s coming into form at the right time, and he’s up against an old employer, too, I’d say that Morata will be key for the visitors. He’s been nothing short of sensational since his arrival from Chelsea, and the carrot of being two ties away from another final should they qualify from this round will see the very best from him.

Like you, it’s an “if” scenario with Atleti at this point, but let’s not forget that the final is at their own Wanda Metropolitano stadium. IF Juve are dispatched, then I’d hate to be the team drawn against Simeone’s side from there on. Over two legs they’re capable of beating anyone left in the competition, and confidence is sky high because of their league position, too. I’d definitely make them one of the favorites.

May the best team win!


Jason Pettigrove is an experienced freelance football journalist, editor, and published author who specializes in La Liga and the major European leagues. Find him on Twitter @jasonpettigrove.

Adam Digby is an Italian football writer for FourFourTwo, The Independent, and elsewhere. Author of "Juventus: A History In Black & White." Follow Adam on Twitter.

Three Thoughts From D.C. United's Loss To The Houston Dynamo

Wayne Rooney's early second half goal seemed to put D.C. United on track for a seven-point week on Saturday against the Houston Dynamo, but two goals in two minutes later in the half gave the hosts all three points. 

Alejandro Bedoya On What Went Wrong With USA & More

The Philadelphia Union have enjoyed a strong start to the 2019 Major League Soccer season, with the Chester outfit (at the time of writing) sitting second in the Eastern Conference. Captain Alejandro Bedoya has been crucial to their early success and so FloFC figured this would be a good time to catch up with the former Nantes and Rangers midfielder.

Houston Dynamo Fight Back To Defeat D.C. United 2-1

Despite taking a lead early in the second half, D.C. United's troubles in Houston continued on Saturday night, as the Houston Dynamo fought back for a 2-1 win at BBVA Compass Stadium. Wayne Rooney's goal 25 seconds into the second half was negated by two goals in two minutes from substitutes Memo Rodriguez and Tommy McNamara. Paul Arriola then got a red card late on, harming United's chances of grabbing a late equalizer.

D.C. United Out For Another Result On The Road Against Houston Dynamo

D.C. United are back at it on Saturday in part two of a three-game road trip following their midweek draw against Toronto FC. They face a stiff test against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium in a matchup of two of the league’s best teams this year. The action is set to kick off at 8:30 PM ET, and coverage starts on FloFC at 8 PM ET for DMV viewers.

Graham Smith Answers Sporting KC's Call

After spending most of the 2018 campaign with Sporting KC’s USL affiliate, the Swope Park Rangers, center back Graham Smith has started the last two games for Sporting KC as the club fights through a number of injuries. 

DCU Face Another Talented Attack After Defensive Masterclass In Toronto

Fresh off a scoreless draw in which D.C. United were able to fend off the third most shots in MLS history (35), Ben Olsen’s men head to the Lone Star State in search of another positive result against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night. The Black-and-Red will face another stiff test at the back when they line up opposite of one of the league’s most electrifying attacks

Yoann Damet Brings A New Attitude To FC Cincinnati

A change of coaches brought about a much needed change in attitude for FC Cincinnati. 

Breaking Down D.C. United's Scoreless Draw Against Toronto FC

D.C. United probably weren't awarded any style points by the judges last night against Toronto FC, but nonetheless, the Black-and-Red left BMO Field with a point in a 0-0 draw. United, with a heavily rotated squad, surrendered 35 shots throughout the game, the third most in a single game in MLS history. But few of those shots resulted in good scoring opportunities for the Reds, which allowed D.C. to keep their seventh clean sheet of the season.

10 Things In Italy: Lazio Wins Coppa & Belotti Stuns Sassuolo

Another seven interesting days have passed in the world of Italian football, so it’s time for this week’s edition of 10 Things to help you catch up with what has been happening in and around Serie A.

Alianza de Futbol Partners With FloSports To Reach National Audience

AUSTIN, Texas – May 16, 2019 —Today, FloSports, the innovator in live digital sports and original content, and Alianza de Futbol, the leading organization in the United States dedicated to the development of amateur Hispanic soccer, announced a multi-year agreement to provide live and on-demand English language coverage of select matches airing now through November of 2021 on FloFC.com.