Three teams, three options. Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus are the sides Real Madrid could face in the semi-finals of the Champions League. All three will pose a serious threat to Carlo Ancelotti’s hopes of becoming the first coach to successfully defend the title in its current format and all three will have genuine hopes of getting their hands on club football’s biggest prize.
The draw for the last four takes place at 12:00 CET and all eyes from the Santiago Bernabeu will be on who Madrid will face. Will it be a Clasico contest? A repeat of last season’s semi-final? A clash with the Italian champions, who Madrid faced twice in the group stages last season?
Ancelotti and the Madrid representatives who travel to Nyon, in Switzerland, for the draw will undoubtedly say that any tie at this stage will be a tricky one, and although there is plenty of truth in that, there is one draw that will be more favourable for Madrid if they want to make it to Berlin on June 6 – Juventus.
Massimiliano Allegri’s men undoubtedly possess plenty of quality within their ranks, with players like the experienced Gianluigi Buffon and Carlos Tevez blending nicely with top young talent such as Paul Pogba. Not only are the Turin club the reigning Serie A champions but they are also 15 points clear at the top of this season’s competition. That means they can afford to take their foot off the gas around the Champions League double header while Madrid would have to continue fighting on both fronts.
Juve also have the advantage of actually being the underdogs. The pressure will be off slightly given their relatively poor performances in the competition of late and the state of play in Serie A compared to Europe’s other major leagues. The Italian giants have won the competition twice before, and reached the final countless other times, but that pales into insignificance compared to the elite of Madrid, Barca and Bayern. The pressure on Massimiliano Allegri’s side will certainly not be as great as it will be on Madrid and Carlo Ancelotti.
Juve are also the outsiders for a reason, however. Their squad is strong but it is not as strong as that of Barca and Bayern. They also lack the experience at this stage of the competition compared to the other remaining teams, as players and as a coach, and that could be telling, especially over two legs. Madrid, Barca and Bayern have all been accustomed to reaching the latter stages, the final and winning the competition over recent seasons while Juventus have taken a step back.
The fact that Juve are coasting through their domestic league could also count against them, as impressive as that feat is. They will need to reach another level if they are to face Madrid, who are involved in a more competitive league and a more competitive title race. The same could be said of Bayern, however.
Madrid also know Juve well from last season. The manager has changed but many of the players are still the same as those who faced Madrid last season and fell to a 2-1 defeat at the Bernabeu in the group stages, while only being able to pick up a point in a 2-2 draw on home soil. Madrid held the upper hand in the group with four points from a possible six against their Italian rivals.