Juventus v Real Madrid: Jonathan Wilson's tactical preview


TEAM NEWS

For Real Madrid, Gareth Bale, having missed a month with a calf injury, is back in training but unlikely to start as he returns to his native Cardiff. Pepe and Dani Carvajal could also both be involved after lengthy absences. For Juventus, Sami Khedira is available again after a thigh injury and could reclaim his place from Claudio Marchisio. The big decision for Max Allegri, though, is whether to go with a back three or a back four, which essentially means a choice between Andrea Barzagli and Juan Cuadrado. Marko Pjaca misses out with his long-term knee problem.

 

RECENT FORM



Real Madrid are the top-scorers in the Champions League this season, and wrapped up the Liga title in fine style. They’ve won 17 of their last 21 games in all competitions – and one of the two defeats they’ve suffered in that run was against Atletico in the Champions League semi-final, when they went through on aggregate anyway. Juve have the best defence in the tournament this season, having conceded just three goals in 12 games. They’ve lost only two of their last 29 matches in all competitions and, while they’ve won only six of their last 10, one of their draws was the 0-0 draw against Barcelona that took them through their quarter-final. Given the league was effectively won months ago, a little stutter in Serie A as they focused on completing a third successive double by winning the Coppa Italia is perhaps forgivable.

 

PAST MEETINGS

Juventus and Real Madrid have met 18 times before, on each occasion in the European Cup or Champions League. Both sides have won eight times and thee have been two draws, with Juve shading it on goal-difference 21-18. The most recent of those games came in the semi-final in 2015.

Alvaro Morata, on loan from Madrid, put Juve ahead in Turin and Cristiano Ronaldo levelled before Carlos Tevez got the winner from the penalty spot. At the Bernabeu, a Ronaldo penalty levelled the tie on aggregate before Morata’s second-half strike to make it 3-2 on aggregate.

 

BACK FOUR OR BACK THREE FOR JUVE?

Until January, Juventus’s two major summer signings, Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic hadn’t really settled. Juve were winning games but there was no great fluency to their play. Then, after a defeat to Fiorentina, Allegri switched from a back three to 4-2-3-1, using Mario Mandzukic in an unexpected left-sided role. Juve won 10 in a row and were transformed from a decent side to potential European champions.

They returned to a back three for the semi-final against Monaco, seemingly to deal with the 4-4-2 and to get their own wingbacks high up the pitch to counter attacking full-backs at source. Whether they do the same against Madrid is debatable and may depend on how likely Bale is to play. With him, Madrid are more of a 4-3-3, in which case a back four seems more likely; if Isco, plays, though, the shape is more

4-3-1-2 against which a 3-4-2-1 may appear the better option, offering an extra man at the back, double central cover on the creator and an opportunity to engage the full-backs high up the pitch.

 

DANI ALVES AGAINST MARCELO

The two Brazilians were arguably their side’s key players in the semi-finals. Dani Alves, pushed up in a wing-back role, set up three goals and scored one for Juve against Monaco, while Marcelo’s ferocious energy led to him dominating his flank against Atletico, culminating in the slaloming run that led to Cristiano Ronaldo’s third goal in the second leg against Bayern Munich. They’re probably the best two full-backs in the world right now and what makes their meeting particularly significant is that they will be on the same flank. They’ve met 19 times before in Clasicos, Dani Alves leading 13 wins to three.

 

THE RONALDO FACTOR



Ronaldo is – obviously – a brilliant footballer and his eight goals in the last two rounds demonstrate how effective he continues to be. But he tracks back now even less than he did. That means that if Juve can cut off the supply to him (easier said than done), Ronaldo, more than ever, can be a liability as Juve counter.

 

VERDICT

Madrid are favourites and perhaps understandably given both the fact that they’ve scored in every game they’ve played this year and have won 11 of the 14 finals in which they’ve played, while Juve have won only two of eight, but they have struggled to control games at times this season. Individual brilliance has got them through, but Juve’s defensive resolve, their balance, means that might not be enough here.

A narrow Juve win is probably the way to go, so Dutching 1-0 and 2-1 wins for the Italians at 8.00 and 10.50 makes sense.