Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp expects a very different atmosphere at Anfield will help turn his side’s Champions League last 16 tie with Atletico Madrid around after a 1-0 first leg defeat in the Spanish capital on Tuesday.
Saul Niguez’s early strike inflicted just Liverpool’s second defeat of the season in all competitions with a senior team.
The holders were frustrated by the hosts’ playacting and Polish referee Szymon Marciniak’s performance as Atletico boss Diego Simeone whipped the Wanda Metropolitano crowd into a frenzy.
“Wow, that’s energy!” Klopp told BT Sport when asked about Simeone’s touchline antics.
“I don’t think I have to do that much to be honest (in the second leg), I hope I can be focused a little bit more on the game.
“Our people will be ready. Welcome to Anfield! It’s not over yet.”
Klopp replaced Sadio Mane at half-time with the Senegalese at risk of being sent-off as Atletico players surrounded Marciniak demanding a second yellow card for the African player of the year just before the break.
“He was targeted that was clear,” added Klopp.
“Sadio played a really good first half and they only thing they wanted is to make sure he gets a yellow card.
“For me we didn’t lose, it’s only half-time, the score is 1-0 that’s all. But you need to be really strong as a ref in this atmosphere, that was obviously not easy.”
The visitors were also riled by the celebrations of Simeone and some of his players at full-time after they secured a victory that could kickstart at faltering season.
“They’ve celebrated as if they’ve won the tie after the game, so let’s see,” said left-back Andy Robertson.
“We’ve got a couple of weeks, Premier League business to take care of, and then we’re coming back to Anfield.
“We know our fans will be there, we’ll be there, so it’s up to them to come as well.”
Zinedine Zidane’s double substitution at half-time transformed the Madrid derby on Saturday as Real Madrid edged past Atletico 1-0 to move six points clear at the top of La Liga.
Karim Benzema scored the winner at the Santiago Bernabeu after Zidane’s decisive intervention turned a contest that Atletico had dominated into another comfortable Real Madrid victory.
Vinicius Junior, one of the substitutes, was a key to the goal.
Second-place Barcelona can cut the gap back to three points by beating Levante at home on Sunday but Atletico now trail the leaders by 13 points.
While Diego Simeone’s side were excellent in the first half, they were yet again blunt in front of goal and then failed to respond when their opponents found a different gear.
This is Atletico’s fifth game without a win. The worry is that on this form, they should worry not about the title race but about missing out on Champions League qualification.
It is a far cry from pre-season when Atletico thrashed Real 7-3 and many were tipping them as serious challengers.
Zidane was under pressure then, but his team are on a relentless run, now 21 games unbeaten, the latest due in large part to his changes.
The decision to ditch a failing system and revert to 4-3-3, with Vinicuis Junior and Lucas Vazquez coming on for Isco and Toni Kroos, was both brave and effective.
Real’s form is impressive and they have Eden Hazard, out since November, on the brink of a return, perhaps on Thursday in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals against Real Sociedad.
Gareth Bale’s absence was not related to fitness. The Welshman was left out of the squad despite training for most of the week after an ankle injury.
Atletico were without the injured Kieran Trippier, meaning Sime Vrsaljko came in a right-back. January signing Yannick Carrasco was named on the bench, after rejoining from Dalian Yifang the day before.
Simeone’s side were significantly better in the first half and should have taken one of a handful of decent chances as Vitolo hit Thibaut Courtois, Saul Niguez flashed wide and Angel Correa poked past the post after going through one-on-one, even if he probably would have been called offside.
Real Madrid’s cluster of central midfielders looked unsure of their 4-3-2-1 shape. Fede Valverde looked particularly uncomfortable as he spent much of the first half as a right winger. Luka Modric was virtually anonymous in his more advanced role.
Zidane’s double change was a recognition of Atletico’s superiority as he reverted to the more familiar 4-3-3 with Modric deeper in midfield.
The balance shifted immediately. Real dominated the start of the second half.
In the 56th minute, Vinicius cut in from the left and slipped in the overlapping Ferland Mendy, whose cross to the back post gave Benzema a simple finish.
Atletico had been weakened shortly before when Alvaro Morata, perhaps the best player on the pitch in the first 45 minutes, went off with an injury. He was replaced by Thomas Lemar, whom Simeone expected to be sold in the January transfer window.
Real retreated a little, perhaps waiting for an Atletico push that never came.
Valverde enjoyed a spontaneous standing ovation for a burst forward, an appreciation too perhaps for his brilliant breakthrough season. Another roar of approval greeted the final whistle.
Cristiano Ronaldo remains in doubt for Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid in Turin, Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said on Monday.
The 34-year-old Portuguese international was rested for Saturday’s Serie A game against Atalanta which Juventus won 3-1 thanks to a Gonzalo Higuain double to stay top of the Italian league.
“Cristiano trained with his teammates yesterday (Sunday),” said Sarri.
“It seems that his condition is improving but we still have to evaluate between today and tomorrow.
“The positive thing he was able to play throughout the training session with his teammates.”
Defender Matthijs de Ligt, who suffered a dislocated shoulder, and forward Federico Bernardeschi, who bruised his chest, also need to be evaluated, Sarri said.
Ronaldo was substituted in Juventus’s previous two games including their Champions League game at Lokomotiv Moscow with a slight knee problem.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner and hit back with four goals to help Portugal qualify for Euro 2020.
“My relationship with Cristiano is good,” said Sarri, “if a player who has won so much is angry about being substituted, it means he still has a lot of motivation, and this is something positive.”
Juventus are already through to the last 16 and want to finish top of Group D with second-placed Atletico needing a win to guarantee their place.
“Atletico are a difficult side to play against, we have to think we want to qualify being the leader of the group that is our target for tomorrow,” said Sarri.
Sarri conceded he was spoilt for choice up front between Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Higuain.
“We have three very strong strikers for just two roles, I think it is an ideal situation, nobody will be able to play 65 matches, including with the national team,” continued the Juventus coach.
“Playing Dybala, Higuain and Cristiano all together is difficult because of their characteristics, but all three know how to play really well and are comfortable with each other.”
Higuain, who has scored five goals this season, sat alongside Sarri in the press conference, and praise his coach, who he also played under at Napoli and Chelsea.
“Obviously I spent some of the best season’s of my career with Mr Sarri, I know exactly what he wants,” said the 31-year-old Argentine who joined the veteran coach at Chelsea last season after an unhappy five-month loan spell at AC Milan.
“Compared to last year I had to change something in my head and he (Sarri) helped me a lot.
“Mentally and physically I’m in great shape and the manager has been helping me a lot.”
Alvaro Morata scored his third goal in as many games but it was not enough for Atletico Madrid as they were hit by a stunning late equaliser on Tuesday in a 1-1 draw against Alaves.
Morata came off the bench at Mendizorrotza and his smart finish looked like it would prove the winner in a tight contest between two of La Liga’s most stubborn defences.
But Atletico missed chances to add a second and were punished in the 83rd minute as Lucas Perez beat Jan Oblak with a superb long-range strike to earn Alaves a hard-earned point.
Diego Simeone had hailed Oblak as the best goalkeeper in the world after Atleti beat Athletic Bilbao on Saturday but there was little the Slovenian could do about one of the goals of the season so far.
Yet Atletico will still lament two points dropped and a result that leaves them fourth in the table, a point behind surprise leaders Granada.
Diego Costa had been dropped against Bilbao but was restored to the starting line-up at the expense of Morata, despite the Spaniard scoring last weekend and hitting the winner against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League last week.
With a difficult trip to Sevilla to come on Saturday, Simeone rested other key players too, like Thomas Partey and Koke, both of whom came on in the second half, as well as Kieran Trippier.
Alaves had conceded only one goal in their five previous homes games this season and chances were almost non-existent in the first half.
Both teams showed more ambition in the second 45 minutes though as Joselu headed wide for Alaves and Atletico’s Renan Lodi saw a shot whistle past the far post.
Morata came on in the 60th minute and was welcomed with a crunching challenge by Victor Laguardia but the striker was not deterred and struck the opener 10 minutes later.
It was a brilliant passage of forward play as he chested down Oblak’s punt up-field, played a slick one-two with Angel Correa before sliding in a cool finish.
He should have made it two soon after but a poor backpass went unpunished and Correa was then denied by the foot of Fernando Pacheco after some excellent work by Thomas.
The slender advantage left Atletico vulnerable and Lucas delivered the game’s stand-out moment seven minutes from the end. Saul Niguez and Lodi might have made it more difficult for the 31-year-old to cut in from the right but Lucas made the most of the space.
His stinging shot from 25 yards beat the right hand of Oblak and soared into the top corner.
Summer arrival Joao Felix scored twice as Atletico Madrid beat Serie A winners Juventus 2-1 in a pre-season friendly on Saturday.
Forward Felix, 19, who cost the Spanish club 126 million euros ($142 million) in July and was bought to fill the void left by the departure of World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann, netted either side of Sami Khedira’s equaliser on 29 minutes.
Brazilian right-back Danilo, who joined Juve on Wednesday, came off the bench to make his debut.
Two of Maurizio Sarri’s other summer signings in Adrien Rabiot and Matthijs de Ligt started the fixture in Stockholm as did Cristiano Ronaldo but former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey remains sidelined with a thigh issue.
Juve begin their Scudetto title defence at Parma on August 24 and Atleti start their La Liga campaign next Sunday at home to Getafe.
Diego Costa scored four goals as Atletico Madrid embarrassed La Liga rivals Real Madrid 7-3 Friday in a pre-season friendly at MetLife Stadium.
Costa had a hat-trick by halftime and added one more goal before he was sent off in the 63rd, when both teams were reduced to 10 men after a testy shoving match.
“We started the game very poorly. In a top-level match such as this, we had a very bad start, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “The players are well aware and they’re disappointed.
“We don’t need to dwell on it, this is a pre-season game. They were better in every respect and that’s all there is to it.”
The first meeting outside of Europe between the Madrid rivals proved a dismal night for Zidane’s Real Madrid, who saw Serbian starlet Luka Jovic hobble off after an awkward collision with Atletico keeper Jan Oblak in the 24th minute.
Zidane can only hope the news on his injury will be better than that on Marco Asensio, who could miss most if not all of the La Liga season after rupturing a knee ligament against Arsenal on Tuesday.
Portuguese 19-year-old Joao Felix, signed from Benfica this month for 126 million euros ($142 million), scored his first goal for Atletico, and helped set up two more.
Angel Correa also scored for Atletico, who had run the score to 5-0 at halftime and 6-0 before Real Madrid got one on the scoreboard before a packed house at the East Rutherford, New Jersey, home of the NFL’s New York Jets and New York Giants.
Costa set the tone in the first minute. Put through in the area by Felix he fired across his body to make it 1-0.
Felix struck in the eighth, slotting home a ball that was cut back to him by Saul Niguez.
Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois could only watch Correa’s 19th-minute blast into the bottom left corner.
Costa bagged his second to make it 4-0 in the 28th, Saul winning the ball after a poor pass from Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos and sending a pass for Costa.
Costa made it 5-0 on the stroke of halftime, converting from the penalty spot after he was brought down in the area by Isco.
Atletico’s lead swelled to 6-0 in the 51st minute when Costa teamed with Felix for his fourth of the night, Felix slotting a pass through Real Madrid’s defence for Costa to arc over Keylor Navas.
Eden Hazard helped Real Madrid pull back a goal in the 59th with a cross that Nacho bundled over the line.
Minutes later Daniel Carvajal’s late challenge on Thomas Lemar saw tempers flare, with both Costa and Carvajal sent off.
Undeterred, Atletico grabbed their seventh goal in the 70th thanks’ to a superb solo run by Vitolo, who seized the ball from two defenders and beat two more to score.
Karim Benzema converted an 85th-minute penalty and Javi Hernandez scored in the 89th to trim the deficit, but there was little for Real Madrid to be proud of.
“I’m not concerned, but I’m hurt. You don’t play to lose. But we can’t be looking backwards, it was a bad game and now we have to focus on what went wrong so we can try and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Zidane.
Welsh star Gareth Bale — reportedly on the verge of a lucrative move to Chinese Super League outfit Jiangsu Suning — was sent on with less than half an hour remaining but couldn’t provide a spark.
Antoine Griezmann was jeered during his last game for Atletico Madrid and Rodrigo might have scored his final goal for the club as they came from behind to draw 2-2 against Levante in La Liga on Saturday.
Griezmann received whistles at the City of Valencia Stadium from the visiting fans, who were also heard chanting “out, out, out” before goals from Sergio Camello and Rodrigo ensured Atletico at least ended the season with a draw.
“We had to highlight the work of the gladiators who are leaving,” Simeone said afterwards.
“Their greatest legacy is not the titles won, it is their commitment and respect. I love them very much.”
Simeone has dismissed fears of a mass exodus, despite both Diego Godin and Griezmann already announcing their departures, with the likes of Rodrigo, Juanfran and Filipe Luis all expected to follow.
If this was to be their farewell outing for Atletico, it was an underwhelming finale as Levante, who only secured safety from relegation last weekend, claimed a deserved point.
They might have been disappointed not to take all three after leading 2-0 at half-time thanks to goals from Erick Cabaco and Roger Marti before then playing against 10 men for the best part of 40 minutes after Angel Correa was sent off.
“We could have won 3-0, but we relaxed.” said Levante coach Paco Lopez.
Atletico fought back, Rodrigo firing into the top corner before 18-year-old substitute Camello scored his first goal for the club, finishing at the back post.
Simeone’s side finish second again with 76 points, three fewer than last season. They come in above Real Madrid for a second consecutive year but will end up 13 points behind Barcelona, if the Catalans win away at Eibar on Sunday.
Griezmann was unable to add to his tally of 133 goals in 257 games across all competitions in what became a bitter end to his five successful seasons for the club.
Godin was given a rousing goodbye ceremony at the Wanda Metropolitano last weekend but the timing of Griezmann’s announcement, perhaps deliberately, meant he avoided a last meeting with the Atleti fans.
But those that made the trip to Valencia were determined to make their displeasure known and it was noticeable that Griezmann made a swift exit after the final whistle.
Camello, born in Madrid and a product of Atletico’s academy, delivered a more positive message for the future and a timely reminder of Atletico’s ability to endure in recent years, despite the departures of their biggest stars.
“Football has no age limits,” Simeone added. “We will never stop making use of everything we can to ensure the club keeps growing.”
Levante took the lead through a brilliant opener from Cabaco, who flicked in with the back of his heel after a header back from Ruben Vezo.
Roger doubled the advantage shortly before half-time, intercepting a loose pass from Thomas Partey before skipping over Rodrigo and firing past Antonio Adan, who was standing in for the injured Jan Oblak.
Atletico’s task became more difficult when Correa was sent off for a petulant kick on Chema but Rodrigo gave them hope with a stunning strike into the top corner, before Koke’s shot fell kindly for Camello at the back post.
Atletico Madrid delayed Barcelona winning La Liga by a few days at least after Alvaro Morata and Antoine Griezmann each scored in a 3-2 victory over Valencia on Wednesday.
Defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano would have crowned Barca kings of Spain for a 26th time in their history, with the Catalans now set to celebrate at their own Camp Nou on Saturday instead.
A Barcelona win there over Levante will wrap up their fourth league triumph in five years and they could even be home and dry before kick-off, if Atletico fail to take a point at home to struggling Real Valladolid earlier in the day.
Regardless, success for Ernesto Valverde’s side is surely now only a matter of timing given Atletico remain nine points behind the leaders with four games left to play. Real Madrid, who visit Getafe on Thursday, are 16 adrift.
If Getafe win, they will also move five points ahead of Valencia, whose chances of snatching fourth place and Champions League qualification would now appear remote.
But there will be some satisfaction at least for Atletico in making Barcelona win it on their own terms while also avoiding the embarrassment of conceding the title with a loss in front of their home fans.
Angel Correa’s stunning strike in the 81st minute proved the winner after Valencia had fought back, Kevin Gameiro and a Dani Parejo penalty twice pulling them level after goals from Morata and Griezmann.
Morata’s early strike continued his excellent form since his move to Atletico in January, his finish at the back post taking his tally to six goals in 13 games for the club.
Griezmann, meanwhile, back from suspension, now has 25 goals in all competitions this season, an impressive return, particularly in a side not renowned for its creativity.
Atletico were ahead inside 10 minutes as Juanfran’s cross met the outstretched foot of Morata at the back post.
It was no less than they deserved for an aggressive opening but Valencia grew into the half and equalised shortly before half-time.
Francis Coquelin’s crossfield pass picked out Carlos Soler, who cushioned inside to Santi Mina. Mina flicked the ball brilliantly between Diego Godin and Stefan Savic before squaring to Gameiro, who had time to pick his spot.
Atletico regrouped during the interval and were back in front four minutes after, Griezmann jumping ahead of Jose Gaya to nod in Thomas Lemar’s cross.
But Valencia came again and a chaotic contest took another twist when Gameiro’s shot was shown by VAR to have been blocked by the arm of Saul Niguez. Parejo powered into the corner.
The game was in the balance as Griezmann glanced a header wide before Correa, on as a substitute, provided the winning touch. Thomas Partey played into his feet but Correa did the rest, turning, twisting and then bending the ball inside Neto’s left-hand post. Barca will have to wait.
Atletico Madrid needed Thomas Lemar to come off the bench and score an 85th-minute winner against Eibar on Saturday as they stretched their lead over Real Madrid to seven points in La Liga.
Real play at home to in-form Athletic Bilbao on Sunday but Atletico took another step towards finishing above their city rivals for a second consecutive year by squeezing past Eibar 1-0 at Ipurua.
Without Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa, who were both suspended, Diego Simeone’s side looked set for a stalemate that would have given Real at least a sniff of second place.
Instead, Lemar, on as a substitute, tucked home at the back post to end Eibar’s resistance and reduce the gap behind run-away leaders Barcelona to six points.
Eibar have now won only once in their last eight games and stay 13th.
Barca host Real Sociedad later on Saturday and it would take an incredible collapse for the Catalans to be caught. If they beat Real Sociedad, Alaves on Tuesday and Levante next weekend, an eighth league title in 11 years will be confirmed.
But, in the same week that goalkeeper Jan Oblak signed a new contract, this victory comes as another boost to morale for Atletico, who have now won four out of their last five matches.
Lemar’s goal will have done his confidence no harm either, after a difficult debut season with Atleti, who paid 60 million euros to sign the Frenchman from Monaco last summer. Simeone will hope for more from the 23-year-old next term.
Atletico created the only real chance of the first half and Angel Correa missed it, slid through by the busy Alvaro Morata only to see his finish saved by the feet of Marko Dmitrovic.
Morata should have scored himself shortly after half-time but dragged his shot wide of the far post while Koke’s long-range effort had to be palmed over.
Sergi Enrich might have nicked it for Eibar had Diego Godin not intercepted at the front post and when Godin drew another excellent save from Dmitrovic after heading Koke’s free-kick towards the corner, it seemed the hosts would hang on for a point.
But Eibar’s defence was caught too high with five minutes left as Morata threaded Koke through and he crossed to the back post, where Lemar was free to score the winner.
Atletico Madrid have indicated they will appeal an eight-match suspension handed to Diego Costa by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) on Thursday.
Costa was sent off in the first half of Atletico’s 2-0 defeat to Barcelona on Saturday for directing a crude insult towards referee Gil Manzano. Manzano also reported that Costa had “grabbed” him by the arms during the incident.
The lengthy ban means Costa will not play again this season as Atletico have seven games left in La Liga, having been knocked out of the Champions League and Copa del Rey.
Atletico president Enrique Cerezo suggested on Thursday the club will appeal against the decision.
“It’s bad news,” Cerezo said on Thursday. “The natural thing is for us to appeal, to ask for leniency and see what happens.
“There are players who are very temperamental. Insults should never happen on the football field but there are times when they do happen.”
According to the match report submitted by Manzano, Costa insulted his mother in a foul-mouthed outburst before “grabbing me by the arms to prevent me showing cards to numbers 24 and 2 respectively”.
The RFEF ruled Costa should, therefore, be suspended for four matches for “clear insults and offensive expressions made by the player towards the referee” and another four, after “meeting the referee with mild violence, without aggressive spirit, but in a manner that is reflected in the act of grabbing”.
The statement added: “Consequently, it is appropriate to sanction the player with a four-game suspension referring to article 94 (insults, verbal offences and insulting attitudes) and four more referring to article 96 (light violence towards the officials), both from the Federation’s Disciplinary Code.”
Costa’s dismissal in the 28th minute at Camp Nou meant Atletico had to play for more than an hour with 10 men in a match coach Diego Simeone had said they had to win to keep their title hopes alive.
Instead, defeat leaves them 11 points adrift of Barca at the top of the table.
Costa has endured a difficult season, having scored only five goals in all competitions and missed almost two months at the start of the year due to a foot injury.
Atletico signed Alvaro Morata on loan from Chelsea in January and the 26-year-old is now likely to be given an extended run in the starting line-up.
Costa is no stranger to controversy. He moved to Atletico after falling out with Chelsea coach Antonio Conte in 2017, a dispute that saw the forward relocate to Brazil and refuse to play for his club.
He was also twice handed three-match suspensions by the Football Association in England, for stamping on Liverpool’s Emre Can in January 2015 and kicking Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista nine months later.
After Atletico’s loss to Barca, Simeone said: “I asked the referee and he told me Costa said something to him. Other players have said things and not been sent off but that does not justify what Costa did.”
Cristiano Ronaldo shot Juventus into the Champions League last eight on Tuesday with a hat-trick that saw his side overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit against Atletico Madrid with a thrilling 3-0 win in Turin.
The Portuguese struck either side of half-time to level the aggregate scores before crashing home the decisive penalty kick four minutes from the end.
After scoring the decisive penalty four minutes from time, Ronaldo turned towards the Atletico fans and replicated Simeone’s gesture after the Spaniards’ 2-0 first leg win by grasping his genitals and thrusting out his groin.
“He will have seen how I did it at the Wanda Metropolitano and, like me, was trying to show his character,” said Simeone, who was fined 20,000 euros ($22,000) by UEFA for his gesture.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is the best in the world, he can put in these performances on big nights,” added the Argentinian coach.
Former Real Madrid player Ronaldo has now scored 25 goals against Atletico in 33 appearances, including four hat-tricks.
Two of his five Champions League titles, in 2014 and 2016, have also been won by beating Atletico in the finals.
He scored the title-winning penalty against Atletico in 2016 and a hat-trick against them in the last four a year later.
“In the history of Juve there was never a comeback like this,” said Ronaldo.
“That’s why Juventus bought me, to help them in games like this. I do my job and I’m very happy, it was a magical evening.”
Juventus signed Ronaldo last summer from Real Madrid for 100 million euros ($117 million) hoping he would make the difference on the continent. The Italian title-holders have not won the Champions League since 1996, and have finished runners-up twice in the past four seasons.
“It had to be a special night and it was, not just for the goals, but for the team and their incredible attitude,” continued the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
“This is the mentality you need in the Champions League and we are on the right track.
“It’s too early to talk about the final, let’s take it one step at a time.
“Atletico was a complicated team to face, but we are also strong and we deserved to go through.”
Ronaldo have now joined Barcelona’s Lionel Messi with the most Champions League hat-tricks, on eight.
The Portuguese has been directly involved in 77 goals in 77 Champions League knockout appearances — 63 goals and 14 assists.
He has scored 124 goals in the Champions League, more than Atletico in the competition (118).
The top scorer in the Champions League for the last six seasons, he has now scored four in this year’s competition.
“It would have been strange for Ronaldo to finish the Champions League with just one goal,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.
“It was a superb match tonight, with a wonderful public. The players gave a great night of football to the Italian public.”
Ronaldo was signed from Real Madrid in order to help Juve turn domestic dominance into European success and he pulled off his most important display for the Serie A club since arriving in pre-season with his team with their backs to the wall following their 2-0 defeat in Madrid last month.
The 34-year-old rose to head home Federico Bernardeschi’s 27th-minute cross to get the ball rolling before repeating the trick with Joao Cancelo’s swinging ball two minutes after the break to get the Allianz Stadium roaring with belief.
With the tie delicately poised he stepped up to score the winning goal of a pulsating tie from the spot after Bernardeschi was brought down by Angel Correa, keeping alive Juve’s hopes of a first Champions League title since 1996.
UEFA Champions League leading scorers after Tuesday’s matches:
Juventus’s Champions League hopes are hanging on Cristiano Ronaldo pulling off another sensational comeback as the Italians trail 2-0 to defensive specialists Atletico Madrid going into the last 16, second-leg tie in Turin on Tuesday.
“We didn’t expect to lose the first leg 2-0, but anything can happen, and we want to give a great response in our home, in front of our fans,” Ronaldo told Juventus TV ahead of the game in the Allianz Stadium.
“These are the great nights, the fantastic ones: the Champions League nights,” he continued.
“The team is confident of playing a great game and I am too. To the fans, I say: think positive, let’s believe.
The seven-time reigning Italian champions bought Ronaldo last summer from Real Madrid for 100 million euros ($117 million) to end their Champions League heartbreak going back 23 years.
The 34-year-old’s stunning overhead kick for Real in the quarter-finals in Turin last April had dumped Juventus out of the tournament once again.
Expectations are high that he can reproduce his improbable hat-trick which lifted Real Madrid past Wolfsburg in April 2016 with the Spaniards 2-0 down to the Germans after the first leg.
Juventus have come from behind in the elite European competition eight times — including in the 1996 quarter-finals against Real Madrid on their way to winning the title.
They also lifted the European trophy in 1985, but have finished runners-up five times since their last success, including twice in the past four years.
Years of disappointments
“CR7 is here for that,” wrote Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport, of “a game Cristiano cannot get wrong.”
“He wasn’t signed to win the Scudetto or to boost merchandising, Juve are waiting to end years of disappointments.”
Ronaldo won five Champions League titles with Manchester United and Real Madrid and has scored a record 121 goals of which 57 have proved decisive.
The top scorer in the Champions League for the last six seasons, he has however scored just once in this year’s competition, delivering a performance far below expectations in Madrid.
Since the Madrid game he has not scored in the league and has been overtaken as the top Serie A scorer by Sampdoria’s Fabio Quagliarella, who has 20 goals to Ronaldo’s 19.
The problem for Juventus is they need to score at least twice against a team that specialises in defence.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico — second in La Liga — have not conceded a goal for five games.
“Everyone knows that they are a strong team, they defend very well, they don’t take a lot of risks and they play on the counter-attack, but we are ready, and we will do everything we can to beat them,” said Ronaldo, who has scored 22 goals against Atletico.
“The fine details will make the difference, and we want to win and qualify for the quarter-finals.”
Former-Wolfsburg manager Dieter Hecking believes Ronaldo can make a difference.
“Ronaldo is capable of everything, he can also score three goals again as he did against my Wolfsburg. Of course, he can,” Hecking told Gazzetta Dello Sport.
“Atletico have the best defence in Europe and an excellent attack: without Ronaldo, who can invent goals in any way, it would be impossible.
“If I said that Ronaldo is not the strongest player I have ever met, I would lie.
“I remember that night I told the team that we should not be afraid neither of him nor the Bernabeu, but at 17 minutes we were already 2-0 with a double by CR7, it was monstrous.”
Allegri’s future at the club he has won 10 trophies with since 2014 will likely hinge on this game. The Juventus coach knows the stakes are high.
“I think expectations have been raised far too much and it has become an obsession,” said the 51 year-old.
“Since I arrived, the Champions League has always been an objective, but if people say that it’s a failure if Juventus go out, that is not right.”