Monaco caused cracks in Juventus' armour

James Piercy 10/05/2017
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It was a rare off night for the Juve rearguard.

In the end, it was a lapse in concentration as 679 minutes of Champions League football without conceding finished.

A most basic of errors for which, when the celebrations die down Massimiliano Allegri will no doubt pore over in video analysis. Joao Moutinho’s quick corner allowed the Portuguese to amble down the byline and drill a simple cross for Kylian Mbappe to score.

It was as un-Juventus a goal to concede as we could have witnessed; the established trio of Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci supplemented over the course of competition by Mehdi Bentia, Daniele Rugani and, against Monaco, the timeless quality of Andrea Barzagli.

Before Mbappe’s intervention, Juve had successfully kept a pair of clean sheets against the highest-scoring teams in Portugual (Porto) and Spain (Barcelona) and for 159 minutes the same was true for France, and Europe’s, most potent.

It forms the bedrock for everything they do, as with such velocity on the flanks in Alex Sandro and Dani Alves and speed of thought in the minds and feet of Miralem Pjanic and Paulo Dybal, it allows them to be clinical in transition.

A Buffon save, Chiellini block or Bonucci interception and three passes later a chance has fallen to Gonzalo Higuain or Mario Mandzukic in the opposing area.

Assuming it is Real Madrid they face in Cardiff, it is a system that should suit against a side who tend to play on the front foot and don’t always leave the back door locked.

However, for all their defensive excellence in terms of numbers – fewest goals conceded, most clean sheets, joint second-fewest shots conceded – there were moments in the 180 minutes against Monaco, outside of Moutinho catching them cold, that should present a degree of concern before June 3.
Mbappe troubled them, not just with his physical attributes but his relentless desire to try and take defenders on the outside, even though all of his previous attempts had resulted in failure.

The saying when analysing two of the Italian greats of the past, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, was they never had to make a tackle; their reading of the game ensuring anyone taking them on would invariably lose possession.

But Mbappe compelled Juve to tackle, and in doing so drew them out of position opening up space. More often than not there was a team-mate to cover, it’s part of the reason why they are so good but the gaps were there, on occasion.

Small details change games and while dominant, Juve were also a Buffon save and wondrous far-post Chiellini clearance away from
allowing Monaco into this tie.

Madrid don’t possess the same kind of out-and-out raw pace and power in an attacking player to take any of Juve’s defensive titans on man-to-man. Cristiano Ronaldo was once that but is now a penalty box predator who’s surging dribbling days are behind him, while Gareth Bale has always had the capacity but fitness is a concern.

They do, however, have their own Alves on the left-hand side in Marcelo, who’s been one of the best footballers on the planet of late, plus finishers who tend to take their chance in the biggest games.

Juve will have counter-measures ready, but Monaco have helped shine a flicker of light on a small chink in their awesome armour.

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Atletico vs Real: Five talking points

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Atletico Madrid host city rivals Real on Wednesday night aiming to overturn a 3-0 deficit from the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.

Here, we takes a look at some talking points ahead of the tie.

REAL FANS THINK IT IS ALL OVER

After the events of last Tuesday night at the Santiago Bernabeu, and another hat-trick for Cristiano Ronaldo, Real fans could be forgiven if they had already started planning a trip to European club football’s showpiece event in Cardiff on June 3.

No team has overturned more than a one-goal deficit after the first leg of a Champions League semi-final. And don’t forget Real are still gloating from a penalty shoot-out victory over Atletico in last season’s final as well as a 4-1 win in Lisbon three years ago.

A GLIMMER OF HOPE FOR THE HOSTS

Diego Simeone’s men did record a 4-0 triumph in their February 2015 LaLiga clash. On that occasion goals from Tiago, Saul Niguez, Antoine Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic sealed Real’s worst loss since they were humbled 5-0 by rivals Barcelona in 2010.

While a repeat looks highly unlikely, in any given 90 minutes of football, pretty much anything can happen – as Paris Saint-Germain found out when they strolled into Barcelona 4-0 up from the first leg of their last 16 encounter.

THE CASE FOR THE DEFENCE

Real’s LaLiga thrashing two years ago came during a defensive injury crisis. Centre-backs Raphael Varane and Pepe have both shaken off niggles, but the latter has not played for a month and Zinedine Zidane may well err on the side of caution.

However, with the likes of Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Alvaro Morata all at his disposal, even if Wales forward Gareth Bale remains sidelined, don’t expect anything else than a formidable frontline ready to kill off the tie at the earliest opportunity.

ATLETICO’S VICENTE CALDERON SWANSONG

Traditionally, the Vicente Calderon has proved one of the most intimidating venues of European football. From next season, though, Atletico’s 51-year residency will come to an end when the club moves to the new 67,000-capacity Wanda Metropolitano in the north of the Spanish capital, which is in the running to host the 2019 Champions League final.

A final European tie is sure to be an emotional occasion – but one which both Los Colchoneros’ players and fans alike must not let get to them if they are to all pull together and produce a comeback fitting for the Vincente Calderon’s Champions League send-off before the area is converted into flats.

ZIDANE VOWS NOT TO SIT BACK

“We are not going to change the way we play,” declared Real Madrid coach Zidane as he faced the media ahead of Wednesday night’s showdown. Given the displays of his team in recent weeks, with a much-changed line-up sweeping past relegated Granada in their last outing, you would not expect anything else.

Real have scored 24 goals in their last seven outings in all competitions, and Los Blancos are currently on a run of having scored in each of their last 60 games in all competitions.


Provide by AFP

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Juventus v Monaco: 7 Deadly Stats

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Juventus welcomed Monaco to Turin in complete command of their Champions League semi-final tie, holding a 2-0 lead from the first leg in Monaco. It always seemed too big a mountain for Monaco to climb, and so it proved to be.

Like in the first leg, Monaco made the brighter start, only to be pegged back by a classic Juventus counter, Mario Mandzukic finishing off a move that began with Gianluigi Buffon collecting a Monaco corner. It was 2-0 soon after, Dani Alves crashing home an unstoppable shot from outside the box.

Kylian Mbappe scored for Monaco in the second half, but it was scant consolation as Juventus closed out the game to move onto next month’s final in Cardiff.

Here are seven deadly stats from the game.

MONACO’S BRIGHT START

Knowing that scoring early was their best chance of mounting an unlikely comeback, Monaco began the night on the front foot, with Juventus penned in for the first ten minutes of the game.

Mbappe was a constant threat, taking on Andrea Barzagli time and again down Juventus’ right-hand side.

Despite the pressure, however, there were no clear-cut scoring opportunities. Mbappe’s crosses for Falcao were handled with ease by the Juventus defence, and the young Frenchman was unable to forge any chances for himself.

JUVENTUS SET NEW DEFENSIVE RECORD

This back three of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, and Leonardo Bonucci, along with Gianluigi Buffon in goal, may end up going down in history as one of the best defences ever, and they’ve certainly burnished those credentials during this Champions League campaign.

Record after record has been broken during Juventus’ run to the final, with this latest one setting them apart among Italian sides.

Although they were finally breached later in the night, this group is on the verge of becoming legendary.

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED, TRY AND TRY AGAIN…

After Monaco’s bright started faded, their back line started coming under pressure from Mario Mandzukic and the rest of the Juventus attack.

It was the Croat who posed the biggest threat, firing wide before drawing an excellent save from compatriot Danijel Subasic.

He drew an even better save from a point-black header just minutes later, but the rebound fell kindly for him, and he duly fired Juventus into the lead.

DANI ALVES, JUVE’S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE MVP

This Juventus side has become known for its excellent defence, so it’s only fitting that its most influential attacking player is a defender.

Right-back Dani Alves has excelled going forward for the Italian side, and he capped a virtuoso display across the two legs of the semi-final with a stunning goal to put Juventus up 2-0 on the night and 4-0 on aggregate.

He was the creator of Juventus’ first goal as well, although it won’t go down as an assist as Mandzukic’s initial header from his cross was saved. Shame.

MONACO’S FREE-FLOWING ATTACK TAMED

Monaco manager Leonardo Jardim made it a point to mention that his side had the same number of shots on target as Juventus in the first leg, and the Italian side had simply done better at converting their chances. It was a way of saying that despite the seeming gulf between the two sides and the two-goal deficit, Monaco still had a chance.

Juventus debunked that theory in the first half on Tuesday. Monaco’s attack, the highest-scoring in Europe, didn’t have a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.

Despite having heaps of possession, Monaco never truly threatened the Juventus goal, and they watched their unlikely comeback become impossible.

MBAPPE GETS HIS GOAL

Kylian Mbappe has been the feel-good story of the Champions League knockout stages, and it would have been a shame if he exited this year’s edition without one last goal.

While he would have began the night dreaming of leading his side to a historic comeback, his goal ended up being a consolation one, but it made history nonetheless.

He may never come up against Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon again, but he’ll always have a goal against the legendary Italian in his resume.

JUVENTUS’ BBC IMPERIOUS

With Real Madrid holding a 3-0 lead going into the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, there is every chance that Juventus will come up against the famed Los Blancos ‘BBC’ front line – Bale, Benzema, and Cristiano.

If they do, they’ll counter with a BBC of their own.

Bonucci, Barzagli, and Chiellini have been a wall at the back for Juventus, and they showed it again on Tuesday.

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