It is time for Champions League quarterfinals and surely the game at this stage of the tournament will be Juventus versus Real Madrid.
Both teams surprised the world when they threw two of the most exciting teams, Tottenham and Paris Saint Germain, out of the contention. Now, they will face each other, two old wolves, who know each other's strengths and weaknesses better than any other team in the world.
This time, however, both will have to tread very carefully, since it is not like facing reckless teams of Mauricio Pochettino and Unai Emery anymore. But I would say, Juventus has the more stable defensive backline, putting itself a step ahead of Real Madrid in this challenge.
First of all, unlike Real Madrid's unstable form, Juventus performed quite consistently throughout the season. It is still top in Serie A and showed its defensive strength in conceding just 25 goals in 38 matches this season.
In addition, its lethal counterattacking game makes Juventus the second highest scoring team in Italy, only three goals behind Lazio with 70 goals.
The Old Lady of Turin is a well-established side, with her strengths and weaknesses laid out in the open. But the real problem arises when another team wants to repel the side and utilize its weaknesses.
At this point, Real Madrid does not offer a reliable solution, since it has not shone either defensively or offensively this season. It managed to beat Paris Saint Germain but it is a long way (13 points) behind league leader Barcelona and is also trailing Atletico Madrid, a solely defensive outfit, by three points.
Zinedine Zidane's team uses a hybrid strategy, which can be a mix of dominance and counterattack, but is over-reliant on individual talents. Given Cristiano Ronaldo is clearly out of form this season, Madrid has struggled to open up well-drilled defenses.
However, the Real problem lies in its defense, which has been very unreliable this season. Real has conceded 44 goals in 30 games so far and unlike Juventus, who conceded three goals only against Barcelona, the Los Blanco recently let minnows Girona hit the net three times in Santiago Bernabeu. Unsurprisingly, Real will be closely watching Cristiano Ronaldo's form and the individual efforts of their defenders.
On the other hand, Juventus's defensive strength comes from its tactical depth, its experience of defending as a team. Its game may seem simpler and duller than Real Madrid's chaos, but the most important point is it has a defensive game it can rely on every time. The only weakness it has is whenever it is supposed to dominate and attack, the counterattacking game may not offer enough time and space. But, that is something Real Madrid also has trouble with, so the edge will clearly be with Juventus.
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