Champions League news

Conte: Casillas 'saved' Real Madrid

November 5, 2013
By ESPN staff

Juventus coach Antonio Conte believes Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas ‘saved’ the Spaniards in the clubs’ 2-2 draw in the Champions League.

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And despite the result leaving the reigning Serie A champions at the bottom of the group, Conte said his players had made a “step forward” in the competition.

Juventus took the lead of the match in the first half before Madrid heavyweights Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale turned the game on its head with two goals in eight minutes.

But Juventus would not be denied with Fernando Llorente scoring the equaliser.

And after the match, Conte said he was pleased with the performance from his side, but admitted the man of the match should go to Madrid’s number one.

“I’d rate our performance very highly. The team did very well and the first half was perfect in every respect, organisation, quality and intensity,” he told Sky Sport Italia.

“In the second half we suffered a little at keeping that tempo with such a packed fixture list. When the intensity drops against Real Madrid, you inevitably risk paying the price, especially when Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are running at you on the counter.

“Iker Casillas was man of the match in my view and saved Real Madrid on several occasions.

“Tonight the draw could’ve been a win, but Real Madrid are an Armada with players who can change the game at any moment.

“What satisfies me the most is the hunger these players put on to the field and the way they faced Real Madrid openly. We weren’t nervous or too respectful and that is how it should be for us to grow in the Champions League.

“We proved on the pitch that the difference in economic strength between the clubs was really not that visible.”

Conte said the performance against Madrid now put pressure on the club to beat next round’s opponent, FC Copenhagen.

But the 44-year-old Italian is confident that should the Turin giants navigate their way from the group stage, then the club can expect to make their mark on the competition.

“We have absolutely made a step forward and are obliged to beat Copenhagen,” Conte said. “In my view, we have picked up far fewer points than we deserved to in this group.

 “We reached the Champions League quarter-finals last season and are still alive now, which is what counts. We need to continue playing with this intensity against anyone, including Real Madrid.

“After last year’s valuable experience, I am convinced that if we get through the group phase then we can have our say in the Champions League. We have a gap with European powerhouses like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, particularly one of experience.

“We emerge fortified from this match. We have to realise that regardless of the financial situation, we do our talking on the pitch.”

Meanwhile, Casillas said he was ‘happy’ with a draw that all but sealed qualification to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

“I’m very happy,” he told reporters after the game in Turin. “It’s always difficult to play in these type of games.

“You have to be at your very best if the coach is to trust you. I only play once every two weeks.

“We are doing very well, 10 points out of 12 is good.

“Now we must improve in Liga and try to reduce the gap with Barça and Atleti.”

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