Composure the key to Real overturning 2-1 deficit
Real's three key men hold the key in overturning first-leg deficit against Juventus
SEMI-FINAL, 2ND LEG
REAL MADRID v JUVENTUS
(Tomorrow, 2.40am, Singtel TV Ch 111)
- Juventus lead 2-1 from first leg
Real Madrid are walking on thin ice.
The defending champions took an uppercut on the chin in Turin last week, downed 2-1 by an impressive Juventus in the first leg of their semi-final tie.
At the Santiago Bernabeu tomorrow morning (Singapore time), there's no more room for error.
Real must land the knockout punch, or exit the Champions League in the last four.
But Carlo Ancelotti's camp exudes calm. They have been there, done that, and have nothing to fear.
Composure will be key. They must not panic. As long as they stay focused, they will book their tickets to the final.
Everything points in that direction.
Europe is Real's territory, their pride and joy. It is where illustrious names wrote the club's most famous chapters. It is where their fairy tales turned into reality.
They have tradition on their side.
Last season, they claimed their 10th European top-tier trophy.
They have Cristiano Ronaldo, a force of nature who lives for the big occasions.
They said that injuries had finally taken a toll on the 30-year-old Portuguese after his slow start to the year. But he definitely isn't done yet.
Twelve goals since the start of last month were his reply.
Real also have Karim Benzema back from injury.
He is the least heralded of Real's "BBC" strikeforce, which sees Ronaldo and Gareth Bale operate either side of him.
The 27-year-old Frenchman is the perfect foil for Ronaldo and Bale, the man who gives the team the delicate balance in the final third of the pitch.
He doesn't hog the limelight as Ronaldo or Bale, but he has the ability to make those around him shine brighter.
But Real's biggest ace won't be on the pitch. He will holler instructions from the dugout.
Ancelotti's preparations for this crucial return leg started the moment the final whistle in Turin sounded a week ago.
It is precisely his expertise in continental competition that Real acquired his services.
Other than the Italian, only Liverpool's Bob Paisley has won the Champions League, or European Cup, thrice.
He is gunning to be the first man to retain the crown since Arrigo Sacchi achieved the feat with AC Milan in 1990.
This won't be lost on Ancelotti - he was a key player of that legendary side.
But, if Real go all the way, they will be the first to win back-to-back titles in the Champions League era.
Ancelotti knows his way around in Europe. And he knows Italian football like the back of his hand.
The 55-year-old played in his home country all his career. He coached in Italy for 14 years before venturing overseas.
Crucially, he knows his enemy.
He understands the Juventus way, having coached the team from 1999 to 2001.
The Italian club killed Real with their superb counter-attacking game in the first leg.
Ancelotti won't let that happen again. He seldom makes a same mistake twice.
Real will do well to simply play their own game.
And let everything else fall into place.
"To win the Champions League with Juventus would be a dream, and to do it in Berlin where I have won the World Cup would be so special."
- Juventus veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo
It’ll be Real
"Juve had a great opportunity to achieve an even better result (in the first leg) - they had Real Madrid on the ropes but lacked the courage to knock them out. So Real still have a 55 per cent chance of progressing."
- Former Juventus and Real Madrid defender Robert Jarni
It’ll be Juve
"It will be difficult to mark (Cristiano) Ronaldo and the others, but Juventus have the quality to contain them before launching counter-attacks of their own that will inflict damage on Real."
- Former Juventus goalkeeper Dino Zoff
"I think Real Madrid will go out of the competition unless they score first. If they do so, they could win 2-0 or 3-0, but I think Tevez will score first for Juventus and it might be enough for them."
- Former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson
BY THE NUMBERS
Real Madrid and Barcelona have hit the woodwork a joint-high six times in this season’s Champions League.
Ancelotti to Bale's agent: Shut up
HIS HEART IS STILL HERE: Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti (above) claims that Gareth Bale has no problems with his teammates and vice versa. - PHOTO: AFP
HIS HEART IS STILL HERE: Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti claims that Gareth Bale (above) has no problems with his teammates and vice versa. - PHOTO: AFP
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti insists Gareth Bale has no intention of leaving the club, amid suggestions the Wales international is frustrated by how things are going for him at the Spanish giants.
Bale has come under fire from sections of the media and also the Real fans for some of his performances this season, including last week's Champions League semi-final, first-leg 2-1 defeat by Juventus.
That has led to Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett coming out in defence of his client, telling the Telegraph that the former Spurs star has yet to show his full potential this term because he has not been given enough of the ball.
As more and more speculation links Bale with a summer move - especially those involving Manchester United - Barnett's comments again bring into question the world-record signing's desire to continue in Spain.
However, Ancelotti, who oversaw Bale's first season at Real culminating in a 10th Champions League crown for the club, feels Barnett would be better off keeping his mouth shut.
At his pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow morning's second leg against Juve, Ancelotti said: "I spoke with him (Bale) a lot of times. He is really happy to stay here.
"I don't understand what his agent said. It could be better to not speak. But we are used to it, in this world (where) a lot of people speak and sometimes, speak too much.
"Bale has no problem with his colleagues. His colleagues have no problem with him. They like Gareth Bale and he likes his colleagues. There is one word too many perhaps from outside."
As if to prove Ancelotti's point, Bale's teammate James Rodriguez added at the same press conference: "I didn't see what was said, it's the first time I've heard it.
"We all want to play with him. Cristiano, Chicharito... we're all a team and we have to be united. You can't speculate on what is said outside. We all have to be focused."
Real's only realistic hope of a major title this season rests with becoming the first side to retain the Champions League after Barcelona opened up a four-point lead at the top of La Liga with just two games remaining last Saturday.
"The team are concentrated and desperate to play a great semi-final to have the chance to return to the final of this competition," said Ancelotti, who could become the first coach to win the European Cup four times.
"It is the most important moment of the season because we are very close to playing another final and entering into the history of this competition."
Ancelotti confirmed that striker Karim Benzema would be fit to feature after a month out with a knee problem, but didn't say whether he or Javier Hernandez would start up front.
Meanwhile, Benzema's French international teammate Paul Pogba is certain to play a part after making a goalscoring return from a near two-month injury lay-off in a 1-1 draw at home to Cagliari last Saturday.
Juventus have waited 12 years to return to the Champions League semi-finals, where they also beat Real in 2003, and defender Giorgio Chiellini described the game as the biggest in his 10 years with the club.
"We can't wait for Wednesday evening to come. This is the most prestigious and important game I'll be playing in since I joined the club," he said.
"I've been here for 10 years and 12 have gone past since we last reached a semi-final.
"We've got better and matured as the competition has worn on and getting past the last 16 and then the quarter-finals gave us added awareness in our own abilities.
"We've never been as close as we are now, but we've still got 95 really tough minutes to get through.
"The final is still a long way away and we'll need a super performance to get there." - Wire Services.