Juventus v. Atletico Madrid (Champions League Game)
Atletico Madrid took great risks with some second-half substitutions that were very attack-minded. They undoubtedly reaped the benefits as they managed to walk out of Wanda Metropolitano with a 2-0 victory over Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo. Juventus will have to come out with Ronaldo and company firing on all cylinders at home as a result. There’s no possibility of going home to Turin and not trying to salvage this result, and Massimiliano Allegri will have high expectations placed upon him. Juventus will be looking back at the Ajax victory the week before their game with great envy (and hope).
Juventus lost 0-2 away at Wanda Metropolitano, and even though Atletico made several attacking substitutions, both goals were scored by Atletico defenders. The only real attack from Juventus came from former Real Madrid man, Cristiano Ronaldo, who had one shot on target, one shot blocked, and five shots of target. He had one of the two total shots on frame (the other came from a substitute that entered the match in the 80′). Juventus seemed to be vastly outplayed, but unlike a final, this round is played over two legs. Juventus scoring two goals at home is not out of the question, and they have control of their destiny. Any additional goals that would need to be scored will come from Juventus lapses, and surely Juventus will step up their performances for this match.
Domestically, it hasn’t even really been a contest for Juventus. In the last leg’s preview, we discussed their nine-point lead which has since ballooned to 16 points, and their lead over the fourth-placed side (Inter) for the final Champions League spot is up to 25. Their goal scoring/concession statistics are almost unchanged from the last time I talked about them (2 goals scored/0.5 allowed per match), and they still remain consistent regardless of venue. While leading the Serie A in goals, this side is second in terms of shots per goal — but it’s still a blistering 17.5 total shots per game on average. In addition to the six shots on target they generate per game, the opposition blocks nearly five more each game. This Juventus side is particularly dangerous from setpieces where they lead the league in goals scored (13) and are currently tied for 2nd-place in goals opponent own-goals (goals for Juventus) with 3.
In the Champions League, the story has been a little different. Juventus hasn’t been nearly as prolific scoring only nine goals placing them right in the middle of the standings. In the group stages, Juventus was very consistent regardless of where they play, but they also gave up four times as many goals compared to their average in the Serie A. Juventus is right up with the league leaders in terms of shots taken, but it’s not panned out well for them in terms of converting them into goals. In Champions League play, Juventus are averaging only 5.3 shots on target per game, and they were held to substantially less than that for the first leg away to Atletico, they managed only 2. Perhaps a positive for Juventus is that Atletico Madrid is markedly weaker defensively away from home, despite actually allowing about 1.5 fewer shots. However, they also win 3.5 fewer interceptions, 3.3 fewer tackles, and commit more fouls. If there’s a way for Juventus to stay in this match, they’ll need to improve a lot and start getting shots on target, and ultimately, goals. They’ll have to lean on their attacking abilities entering this game two goals down and will need Cristiano Ronaldo to step up his game from his one goal and two assists so far.
Players to Watch:
–Cristiano Ronaldo: I’m sure this is a shock to most people, but we’re going to start our discussion with the world-famous, CR7. Cristiano Ronaldo is the leading goalscorer and assists man for this Juventus side that is dominating the Serie A. He’s provided 19 goals, and eight assists across 26 appearances while averaging more than six shots per game. More telling than just those numbers for his importance to this side is perhaps the number of Man of the Match awards, of which he has nine to his name. If there’s a knock on Ronaldo’s performances throughout this year, it has to be in the Champions League where he’s provided a more-pedestrian one goal along with two assists (and a red card). He’s received a solitary Man of the Match award in the Champions League, but now is going to have to be Ronaldo-time, they need him to come through in the direst of ways to propel this side over their two-goal deficit into an advancing position.
–Paulo Dybala: Dybala has taken a bit of a backseat to the infamous CR7 in Serie A, but in the Champions League he has been the scoring. In the domestic league, he’s managed to provide four goals and four assists which looks pitiful compared to Ronaldo’s 19 and 8. Although, he gives more than just goals to the team (partly indicated by the 3 Man of the Match awards he’s received). In the Champions League, Dybala’s key passes per game have dropped one per game from 2.1 (in Serie A) to 1, but the opposite is true for his shots which have increased from 2 in Serie A to 3.3. With the modest increase in shots per game, it seems like a stretch, but he’s raised his shots on target nearly three-fold, and he’s hit the post twice.
–Miralem Pjanic: Pjanic has been a lean, mean, key-passing machine! He’s averaging over two key passes per game in both the Champions League and Serie A. He’s also got a pair of assists in each competition as well as averaging at least five accurate long balls (Champions League, 6.2 in Serie A) per game in route to over 60 passes per game, with a 90% or higher accuracy rate. He’s been a boss in the midfield and has been an effective part of their attacks from the midfield.
Atletico Madrid had no hesitations about charging forward at the start of the second half. They began making attacking changes after the scoreless first half, and it was definitely Atletico that prospered. Atletico did a fantastic job of taking Ronaldo out of the game and getting some goal production from rather unusual sources, their defenders. They’ve built a 2-0 lead heading into the away leg, which should prove to be a bit of a stumbling block for a Juventus side that’s struggled to score goals in the Champions League. Atletico will win any draw (away goals) due to Juventus impotence at the Wanda Metropolitano. I also would not be at all surprised for the Atletico attackers to get involved in the goalscoring in this leg with Juventus being forced to attack without regard for defense. This Atletico side should be able to get some brilliant opportunities from counterattacks when Juventus gets too attacking.
Atletico have managed to not just keep pace with an absolutely loaded FC Barcelona team, but they are still within striking distance. Atlético would really need a catastrophic failure to not at least make the Champions League positions for next year. In La Liga Atlético has the best record at home of any team, though it does fall off a little bit (seriously, first-place to third-place) on the road. Their goal scoring numbers also decrease from just under two goals per home game, to just over one goal on the road. Their concessions increase slightly from marginally above 0.5 goals allowed at home to just under one on the road. I have no illusions that we’re splitting hairs here, but there’s a reason Atletico is second only to Barcelona. In thirteen games at home they have two draws and a solitary loss for 32 points. In the same thirteen games on the road they have six draws and a pair of losses for 21 points.
I think the scoreline is probably a fair evaluation of the game, specifically Juventus’ complete inability to get a shot on target. Although in La Liga, they’ve been a little more vulnerable; this two goal cushion puts Atletico in a good spot. Especially when you take into consideration that the difference in goals scored and goals allowed are in tenths to one half of a goal. So far, Atlético have only scored a pair of goals in the Champions League, but they also haven’t been under particular pressure to score either. The gamble at home paid dividends, allowing them a substantial cushion when they travel to Turin. However, the same is also true for Juventus who have only managed five home goals and it’s clear that Juventus will really need to change that, which I think will play to Atletico’s strengths even more. Atlético has allowed five goals on the road in the Champions League and they haven’t been able to keep up with what they’ve conceded on the offensive side of things.
Players to watch:
–Antoine Griezmann: Griezmann was about to become a Manchester United player right up until Atletico’s transfer ban surfaced. His choice to stay has paid off in buckets for Atletico who seemingly would be devoid of a goalscoring front man without him. In La Liga Griezmann has scored four times as many goals as the next most prolific scorer in the side, and still twice as many in the Champions League. He’s also the team leader in assists with 7 in La Liga and two in the Champions League, the next closest assistman is our next player to watch.
–Thomas Partey: Partey is second-place in assists in La Liga for Atletico and tied for second (with five other players) in the Champions League. Although he hasn’t played in quite as many La Liga games hr has been quite involved in the Champions League campaign. Oh, and that’s only the beginning of his contributions to the team. He’s averaging more than 1.3 successful tackles per game, 1.7 interceptions per game, and has 0.6 clearances per game.
– Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion: Koke is another Champions League goals contributor with 2 scored and 1 assisted. This actually matches his totals from substantially more games in La Liga. He also appears to be on a bit shorter leash from a disciplinary perspective as he’s gotten nothing in the Champions League. In La Liga he’s received six yellow cards and one of the immediate send off/early bath variety. In Champions League games he’s averaging almost one more completed long ball and almost 10 more passes (with a higher completion percentage).
What to expect:
Juventus have no choice but to throw everything into the attack. They definitely have enough quality to get back into this tie, but they need to vastly improve their performances. Two shots on goal will not be enough to beat this side (even if they both end up in the back of the net). Atlético will be hoping to exploit the counter attack as Juventus is forced to be dramatically more attack-minded with little regard for the consequences.
Last Updated: March 10, 2019