UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Italian champions, Juventus hopes to banish the memories of last season’s UEFA Champions League final when they clash with cup holders Real Madrid in the first leg quarter-finals match in Turin tonight.
Juventus were beaten 4-1 by Los Blancos at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff 10 months ago and will be hoping for a better outcome this year in the quest for a semi final berth for the third consecutive season of the competition.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side are flying high in Serie A, where they hold a four-point lead over Napoli at the top of the table with eight games left to play.
Indeed Juventus have not lost in any competition since November 11 when Sampdoria claimed a 3-2 win in the league. The Italian giants beat Tottenham 4-2 on aggregate in the last 16 to set up a rematch with the back-to-back European champions.
Allegri has prepared his players meticulously for the two-legged tie against the defending champions and believes they have improved this term, but knows they have to be at their best to keep Ronaldo at bay.
“We are aware of facing the strongest team in the UEFA Champions League,” the Italian told the assembled media. “I have watched the Cardiff final several times. I think we have improved to handle the difficult moments of the game compared to last season.
“We have to always try to remain in the game, especially because this game is lasting 180 minutes.
“This is a gala night for us, and our fans must be proud of a team who reached the final twice in the last three years. We need their support tomorrow.”
Real Madrid appears to be hitting form at the right time after a disappointing domestic campaign by their own high standards. After being dumped out of the Copa del Rey by Leganes in January, they have only lost once in their next 13 outings across all competitions.
The champions of Spain have won their last four La Liga matches to move up to third in the standings, four points behind Atletico Madrid but13 adrift of leaders FC Barcelona.
Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane is refusing to dwell on their success over his former club last year and believes that Juventus will provide a sterner test over two legs.
“We are here to play a good game, but certainly the final in Cardiff has nothing to do with tomorrow’s match and we will not think about that. It’s a completely different story,” the Frenchman said in his pre-match press conference last night.
“This Juventus side have always been very strong and they are confirming it this season as well. They are a complete side and we will have to be very careful with their strong defence but also their dangerous attackers. As I said, they are strong everywhere.
“The team has not changed much compared to the final in Cardiff but it will be a completely different game as 10 months have passed now. The season did not go as well as we expected but I’m happy because now we are in good form.
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