After the convincing victory against Barcelona, Juventus will be looking to reach their second Champions League final in three years against Ligue 1 leaders, Monaco. The French have been the revelation of the competition topping their group and defeating Borussia Dortmund and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City en route to the semifinals. They are also in great form in France, where they are two victories away from ending PSG’s reign and becoming champions.
Since arriving to Torino, Allegri has dominated at a domestic level, winning the double in his first two seasons and with a strong possibility of repeating this year (will face Lazio in the Coppa Italia final and has a nine point lead over Roma in the league) but is still lacking a European trophy to consolidate himself as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the club. In his first season he reached the final (which was Juventus’ first in 12 years) and lost against Barcelona while last year he was eliminated in a very close tie by Bayern Munich after being 2-0 up in the Allianz Arena in the return game. Since there are rumors circulating that this might be his last season coaching the bianconeri, this could be his final chance to win European silverware. His results in Europe were a massive improvement considering Juventus had failed to reach the semifinals in the Champions League since 2003 (although the Old Lady hadn’t participated in the competition several years during that period) and had been eliminated in the group stage the year prior to his arrival.
Like he did during his previous two seasons, Allegri started playing with a 3-5-2 formation (used by Antonio Conte previously) and slowly changed to a four-man defense to add an extra player upfront as the season went on. What is surprising is that he opted for a 2-man midfield this season, given it was a norm during his career using three men in midfield. The fact that Claudio Marchisio was still recovering from an ACL injury at the beginning of the season, and the consistent high level performances from the four attacking players in the starting XI were the main contributing factors to this new 4-2-3-1. Mario Mandzukic had started the season as an alternative to Gonzalo Higuaín, but his immense work-rate and defensive contribution found him a new position as left winger and he became a crucial factor for the new formation to work.
Juventus managed to maintain a clean sheet in both games against the formidable trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez, the greatest attack in Europe and one of the best ever. Now they’ll face an attack that is less dangerous on paper, but only slightly. Monaco have been the revelation of Europe this season with their fast free-flowing football, thanks to some of the most promising players in the continent in the likes of Bernardo Silva, Kylian Mbappe and to a lesser extent Thomas Lemar. The ligue 1 leaders have scored a staggering amount of 95 goals in 34 games (almost 3 per game) in the league and 21 goals in the Champions League, with the curiosity that they scored thrice in every game in the knockout stages. The Italian champions on the other hand, have conceded only twice so far in Europe, and have kept a clean sheet in the past five games while in the league they have conceded only 22 goals in 34 games.
For the first leg the bianconeri will be missing Sami Khedira in midfield as he was booked in the return game against Barcelona. His replacement will be Claudio Marchisio, who has slowly being returning to form in the past few weeks and is looking closer to his pre-injury self with each passing day.
Leg 1: Monaco 1 Juventus 1
Leg 2: Juventus 1 Monaco 0
Player to watch: Paulo Dybala. The Argentinean striker proved himself for the first time in the biggest stage with a brace against Barcelona in the quarter finals and can become a Ballon d’or contender if he is to keep that form in the decisive stages of the competition.
Photo Credit: Emilio Andreoli