Real Madrid and Juventus accelerated away in the first legs of the UCL semi-finals, posting convincing victories. All eyes turn to Atletico Madrid and Monaco as they try to overturn history at this stage of the competition. Let’s have a look at this week’s return fixtures:
Juventus v Monaco – 4:45am (AEDT), Wednesday, May 10 @ Juventus Stadium, Turin (Juventus lead 2-0)
A double from Gonzalo Higuaín ensured Juventus went home from Monaco feeling very confident of booking their place in the final.
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri went with a different tactical setup away to Monaco, starting Andrea Barzagli as a right-back in a back four. This enabled Dani Alves to play as a right-winger; speedster Juan Cuadrado was benched because of this tactical switch.
Alves had a fantastic match playing in an advanced role on the right flank, providing plenty of attacking run down Monaco’s left-side. Alves was able to get in behind Monaco’s defence on a number of occasions, being able to lay off an exquisite back-heel assist for Higuaín’s first goal.
Monaco manager Leonardo Jardim will need to contemplate a few changes of his own if they are going to have any chance of causing an upset in Wednesday’s return fixture. Central midfielders Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko were both unable to control the game in the first-leg.
Joao Moutinho, who came on as substitute, must start for Monaco. Fabinho will need to slot in at right-back as he is better suited down the flank. Wingers Bernando Silva and Thomas Lemar will need to run at the Juventus defence more, especially Lemar given Barzagli is likely to start as a defensive right-back again and needs to be made accountable.
The temptation will be there for Allegri to leave his Juventus side how it is, but Sami Khedira returns from suspension, and will be more of a sound defensive option in midfield compared to Claudio Marchisio. Mario Mandzukic’s place in the side could come under question given he didn’t provide much when going forward. Cuadrado could feature to have more of an impact.
Monaco will be hopeful given how they performed in previous away games to Manchester City and Dortmund, but Juventus should have the goods to safely progress to the final.
Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid – 4:45am (AEDT), Thursday, May 11 @ Estadio Vicente Calderon, Madrid (Real Madrid lead 3-0)
Real Madrid have one foot in the final thanks to a superb hat-trick by superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese maestro stood up for Madrid when needed, burying Atletico Madrid late in the second half.
The crucial moment came at 1-0 in the first-leg in the 72th minute, when the game was still in the balance. Marcelo crossed the ball in from the left to Karim Benzema, who easily shrugged off Diego Godin to pass it to Ronaldo waiting on the right, Filipe Luis attempted to intercept but failed, getting a feather touch on the ball which enabled Ronaldo to swoop, and settle on the free space to unleash a powerful volley past Jan Oblak to make it 2-0.
The above bit of play summed up the game for both sides, with Madrid bullying Atletico all night. Madrid were able to constantly harass and control play, with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric being allowed to easily dictate the game in midfield. While Isco had a fantastic game for Madrid sitting behind Ronaldo and Benzema in the CAM position.
Atletico manager Diego Simeone will be thinking of starting striker Fernando Torres in place of Kevin Gameiro, who went missing in the first leg. Team pressure will no doubt be in Simeone’s pre-game message to his side, who desperately need to force Madrid into constant mistakes given the transition from turnovers is a big part in how Atletico operate.
Antoine Griezmann of Atletico was easily shut down by Madrid’s Casemiro and Raphael Varane. Given how important Griezmann is to Atletico’s chances, he will need to stand up in the return leg and make himself dangerous.
It is going to take a miracle for Atletico to get back in this tie, but they do have the added motivation of playing their last European game at the Vicente Calderon before moving into their new stadium, so they will be desperate to at least end the night without losing.