Why Juve are counting on Tevez and Morata more than ever at the Bernabeu
A 2-1 home victory is the most common score in professional football, and for the neutrals it’s also the perfect first-leg score in Champions League knockout matches. The tie remains delicately balanced, with that all-important away goal potentially playing a crucial role.
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The Old Lady’s lead from the first leg means they will play reactive, counter-attacking football in the Bernabeu.
There’s a good chance Max Allegri will change his formation, moving away from the 4-3-1-2 he started with in Turin, and towards the 5-3-2 he used to see the game out. The switch would be simple – it would involve removing midfielder Stefano Sturaro, and introducing centre-back Andrea Barzagli.
Ordinarily, the full-backs would push forward and become wing-backs to compensate, but with a one-goal advantage from the first leg meaning a clean sheet in the Spanish capital would take Juventus through, Allegri will concentrate on defence.
Juve the conquerers
The one area of the team which definitely won’t change, however, is the strike partnership. Carlos Tevez has been in sensational form this season, while Alvaro Morata will be determined to put on a show at his ‘home’ ground having been released by Real Madrid last summer. He refused to celebrate after opening the scoring last week, but don’t question his desire to notch in the return leg.
Counter-attacking football will suit those two players – particularly when considering Juve’s previous away game in the Champions League, a stunning 3-0 victory at Borussia Dortmund.
This season’s competition has witnessed some truly outstanding team performances, with Barcelona’s 3-0 destruction of Bayern up there alongside Bayern’s 7-1 destruction of Roma as memorable displays.
Juve’s display in Dortmund was different – not so commanding, not a demonstration of all-out-attacking football. But as a tactically aware, intelligent and decisive performance away from home against top opposition, it’s hard to beat. Expect something similar this week.
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One of Juve’s main strategies when playing in this manner is bypassing the midfield with their passing.
This might seem strange, considering Allegri can depend on the likes of Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo in that zone – and don't forget Paul Pogba is in line for a start at Real, too – but it’s proved extremely effective. It’s particularly handy against teams who press Juventus in midfield. Others would insist on a short passing game, putting their midfielders under pressure from the opposition, but the bianconeri are more than happy to play longer balls into the front players.
In the first leg against Real, it sometimes felt like Juve were toying with Real, inviting their midfielders forward, before long balls were played into attack. While Giorgio Chiellini kept his passing simple and finished with a 100% completion rate, Leonardo Bonucci is capable of longer balls.
What was interesting about the display in Dortmund was how Juve worked the ball into dangerman Tevez between the lines. You might expect Juve’s midfielders to be servicing him most regularly, but actually the two most frequent passers to the Argentine were the full-backs, Patrice Evra and Stephan Lichtsteiner.
This meant, quite obviously, that Juventus were eliminating the opposition midfield from the equation. They weren’t always particularly long passes, and depended upon Tevez’s ability to move deep away from the opposition centre-backs. But few attackers are as capable of receiving the ball on the half-turn and attacking quickly, and Tevez was superb at Signal Iduna Park. He repeatedly teed up Morata with good passes, and scored two fine goals from his only two shots.
Juventus will play this way in the Bernabeu, and Real might be exposed. The potential absence of Toni Kroos robs them of their regular deep-lying midfielder, and while the German might not be a natural destroyer, we’re still waiting to see whether Sergio Ramos can truly excel in the midfield role.
In the first leg, Raphael Varane pushed up too tight to Tevez and left space in behind, only partly compensating with his recovery pace. Pepe was forced to sweep behind him.
The point, though, is that Real Madrid will be defending two against two, and both Tevez and Morata have roamed the channels well, collecting possession across the width of the pitch.
Carlo Ancelotti will probably push his full-backs forward: he rested Marcelo and Dani Carvajal against Valencia, but was forced to introduce both at half-time with Real 2-0 down. Still, that indicates he wants fresh, energetic, attack-minded full-backs this week – but it could expose the centre-backs.
According to the bookmakers Juventus remain just about the outsiders – which proves the point about a 2-1 first-leg win – but Tevez and Morata could be hugely dangerous on the break. Expect them to score, which gives Juve a fantastic chance of progression to the Berlin showpiece.