Juventus may have won the last six Scudetti and appeared in two of the last three UEFA Champions League finals but their first leg match tonight comes against one of a handful of teams in the big European leagues that can put their achievements under a shade.
Real Madrid have won the last two Champions League titles, won the Spanish league title last season – their 32nd overall – and arguably are favourites to at least reach the final again this season – a third successive appearance and fourth in five years if they do so.
Real could have been chasing for a five successive final appearance but for the 2014/15 season when Los Blancos fell at the semi-final stage. And the team responsible for that fall? Juventus.
While it is significant that Juve is the last team to get the better of Real in the knockout stages of the Champions League since the 2013/14 season, it is the 4-1 humbling from the last time both teams met (the final of last season’s competition) that casts a large shadow going into this latest contest between them.
Juve would be out to avoid similar capitulation this time around, even though the task at hand is as dreaded as ever, especially with the form of the first problem they need to figure out – Cristiano Ronaldo.
Maligned for most of the opening half of this season over his league form, the reigning Ballon d’Or holder has flourished in Europe and, more worryingly for Juve, in 2018, as he has scored 23 goals in his last 13 appearances for club and country this year – including both legs of the 5-1 aggregate win over a star-studded PSG side in the previous round.
The best way Juve can silence Ronaldo particularly (and Real generally) is to defend in numbers and counterattack to devastating effect, a tactic similar to their second leg performance at Tottenham Hotspur in the previous round.
While that seems hard considering PSG tried that tactic and failed in the first leg of their meeting with Real, Juve for one are a much better organised side than PSG and secondly, they have actually succeeded in doing so before (in the 2014/15 semis).
Juve coach, Massimo Allegri, has guided the team through a slow start to the season to a potential first treble thanks to a few genius tactical moves along the way, and he would need to trust his guts again against Real.
This season, the Spaniards tend to struggle against teams that can maintain their shape for all 90 minutes – from your lowly Leganes to the Barcelona force led by the god called Messi – and Juve is one team capable of being disciplined when it needs to be.
So with discipline, taking their chances and hoping Ronaldo has an off day, Juventus can build a first leg advantage tonight and use it to seal a win over Real over two legs of this heavyweight quarter-final contest.