It's time for Real Madrid

Posted by Mina Rzouki

Gabriele Maltinti/Getty ImagesJuventus manager Antonio Conte isn't getting along with the Italian press, leading to speculation he could be looking to move out of the country.

The two greatest Spanish sides are set to face the two greatest Italian teams this week in the Champions League: Barcelona-Milan, and of course Real Madrid-Juventus.

Real Madrid against Juventus is not only a clash that represents prestige and strength, but one filled with mutual respect and admiration.

- Report: Ancelotti opting for experience vs. Juve

For Juventus, there are many happy memories to recall. They were the first Italian side to impose a defeat on Los Blancos at the Bernabeu on the 21st of February 1962 thanks to Omar Sivori. However, the Spaniards extracted revenge a week later when they struck three past a hapless Bianconeri side in the Parc des Princes in Paris.

Since then the rivalry has been heated. In 1998 Marcello Lippi boasted the best side in Europe and were brimming with confidence. They were the side that always seemed to win 1-0, and after reaching three consecutive European finals, they were sure of glory against a Real Madrid team perceived to be inferior. That is until their arrogance provoked the competitive nature within their rivals.

Angelo Di Livio's '1-0' tattoo on the back of his hand riled up the opposition and in the end it was Los Blancos who won by that scoreline to stab a dagger in the hearts of the Italians.

The defeats were difficult to overcome but it made the wins that much sweeter.

Perhaps few games inspired the kind of joy that 3-1 away win in the 2002-03 Champions League semifinal managed. There was the Luis Figo penalty miss, the many Spanish defensive errors and the three beautiful goals struck by Juve's finest attacking force in recent history. One each from Pavel Nedved, Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet defeated the almighty Galacticos.

Yet despite the glory and the losses, the two clubs have always admired and respected one another. When a wounded Juventus side still recovering from Calciopoli came to the Bernabeu in 2008, Del Piero received a standing ovation from the home crowd for his outstanding performance in that Champions League game.

It's fixtures like the one against Real Madrid that the Bianconeri missed the most when poor finishes in the league ensured their absence from Europe's premier competition. This particular clash is a special one, a celebrated one and perhaps the most important one so far this season.

Sadly, Juve were hoping to be in better shape. A demoralising defeat against Fiorentina on Sunday coupled with important injuries to key players such as Stephan Lichtsteiner and Mirko Vucinic means we may not see the Old Lady play to the best of her ability.

The manner in which Juve's wing-backs have defended recently strikes fear in the heart of the fans well versed in the beauty of Cristiano Ronaldo's game. While Carlo Ancelotti's side is narrower than usual, they have individuals capable of scoring quickly, despite the overall low-level performance of the side this season in their domestic league.

We were initially meant to see Fernando Llorente up top but Conte looks to have changed his mind. The player spoke in an interview with sections of the Italian and Spanish press on his early experiences at Juve, the hard workouts, the tactical schemes and his integration. "Sessions with Marcelo Bielsa at Athletic that were supposed to be so hard were child's play compared to Conte," wrote El Pais.

Bielsa worked his team incredibly hard, yet Llorente is shocked at the severity of the workouts at Juventus, even if he's pleased with his level of fitness. However, despite the interest shown by Real Madrid in the Spaniard, the forward is happy with his choice of club. Appreciated by the Madrid fans, a winner in that stadium and a man capable of scoring against the prestigious opponent, Llorente is likely to play if Conte opts for his usual tactical system, but it seems the tactician has decided on a 3-5-1-1 shape according to reports in Italy.

Simone Padoin may well start on the right lane with Claudio Marchisio playing just behind Carlos Tevez in a variant to the system this blog thought could well happen last week. The idea is to pad the midfield, complicate the rhythm of Madrid's play and close down the channels to avoid the Spaniards' fast and penetrative runs forward.

With Arturo Vidal likely to start, Conte can rely on this shape to relieve the pressure on the defence as well as enhance his side's attacking play. We have already witnessed the defensive errors from wing-backs and the squad's inability to handle pace. These problems must be addressed before Madrid's superior individuals doom Juve to their second defeat in a week.


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