With Juventus gearing up for their quarterfinals tie, Breaking The Lines co-founder Zach Lowy talked to Rav, the owner of juvefc.com (@juvefcdotcom) about his expectations going into the tie.
ZL: Do you have any major concerns going into the tie with Ajax?
Rav: No major concerns per se, as we’re shown that we can be a well organised and disciplined team, my only doubts are over the teams concentration levels at times. I think the tactics and game plans haven’t been great this season in the league, but they’ve been enough to get us over the line. In Europe, we’ve taken a similar approach at times and i think that loss to United in Turin really knocked the confidence levels.
We needed the result against Atleti to instill a sense of belief again while reminding the players that the slightest mistake in the Champions League will be enough to end our dreams for another season. The only other major concern is over Cristiano’s injury but I hope he gets a good rest and makes it back in time.
The only other concerns are about Ajax themselves. They’ve shown that reputations don’t mean a lot and they’ll play their way, regardless of who’s in front of them. The Juve back line needs to be at it’s absolute best and we need another strong performance from the likes of Can, Matuidi and Pjanić in midfield. I don’t have concerns over the attack as we have lots of depth and can use the wide areas as well – it’s all about us being able to contain them and keep pace.
ZL: Given the way Ajax ripped apart Madrid, do you have confidence in Juve’s defense to get the job done?
Rav: I can’t help but feel there was an element of arrogance to the way Real tackled Ajax – they looked under-prepared and Ramos skipping the second leg was such poor decision making on his part. I would hope that we can look at that and the games between Bayern and Ajax and learn important lessons.
My confidence in the defence is pretty resolute, despite Bonucci’s errors this season, its the midfield that i worry about more. Whoever sits alongside Pjanic and Matuidi needs to be prepared to do a lot of dirty work and generally operate at a high level through both legs. If we can work better and smarter at the back and midfield, we should be able to score against them.
The biggest mistake we can make is to underestimate them or pay them too much respect – somewhere in between, akin to how we played that very good Monaco side a few years back.
ZL: If there’s been one weakness on Juve this season, what has it been?
Rav: Overall, they’ve grounded out results but barely broken sweat in the league – I think we might have become a little complacent in Europe as a result. The biggest weakness seems to stem from the midfield and Max’s approach in some games. Not to be overly critical, but he’s made some poor decisions on occasions, such as the starting XI’s on a couple of occasions and the substitution vs. United in the second game.
I’d also say the midfield has been really average – I don’t think they’ve been poor, rather, they haven’t stepped up in a meaningful way. Matuidi started well but faded, Pjanić hasn’t really had a big impact in the way we play while Emre Can and Khedira have alternated and only shown glimpses.
Bentancur started the season full of promise but seems to have lost a little confidence. Juve management really needed to address the drop off in quality since the departures of Pogba, Pirlo and Vidal – instead they’ve spent elsewhere, to the detriment of our overall play.
ZL: Why do you think Pjanić’s levels have dropped? He’s had his worst season since joining Juve.
Rav: I think it could be linked to a number of things: Khedira also dropping off in a big way following a spate of injuries – The German has lost a few yards and looks past his best and that’s had a knock on impact on Pjanić who’s not had much cover. Pjanić himself looks a little tired and that could be down to playing a number of games as he’s essentially the first midfielder that would make the starting XI.
On top of that, I don’t know if the change in the way the front 3 play has had a direct impact as well. Looking at the Juve team overall, i think only Chiellini, Ronaldo and Szczesny have been consistent while many of the other have looked slow and laboured at times, so it’s not only down to Pjanić – that said, when he’s not at his best, we can suffer overall as a team.
ZL: If Ronaldo is out for the tie, how do you expect Juve to cope?
Rav: It’ll be a big loss as he’s been decisive at crucial moments in the season, but we’d have to adapt. My hope would be that we switch the formation to see more of Dybala, if Ronaldo isn’t available. Perhaps use Moise and Paulo up top and work from there. It makes more sense to rest Cristiano until he’s fit, rather than risk him and potentially lose him for the remainder of the season.