In what was a very intriguing day of the UEFA Champions League, we witnessed the last two games of the first leg of the Round of 16 be played. And the results were just as unexpected as the manner in which they panned out.
While Juventus’ trip to Atletico Madrid was considered to be a tricky game for either of the sides, despite the bianconeri being the favorites because of having a better squad. Massimiliano Allegri’s men had to deal with an Atleti side that were just being themselves.
They were playing in a 4-4-2 shape and operated in a low-block, denying Juve any space to play between the midfielders and forcing them wide. And Allegri’s men struggled to get a grip on the game, being denied any space to play with in midfield.
The Old Lady hardly got any clear chances to score, as Atletico worked hard and stood firm. And Juve lacked runners from midfield, as they looked static and overpowered. When Alvaro Morata rose up above everyone else, it seemed as if he had broken his duck. But the experience of Giorgio Chiellini and the mistake on part of the referee chalked the game off.
And the two goals from Jose Maria Jimenez and Diego Godin were probably coming. Juve showed signs of struggling to deal with crosses again. And when a side that struggles with crosses plays against a side that is adept at scoring from them, there can be only one result.
It capped off a very deserved win for the Los Rojiblancos. They looked very much like themselves. And looked at their best. Juventus were given a taste of their own medicine as they hardly ever got control of the game till a point where they could break Atleti down.
In a static midfield that looked very restricted and the players snuck close to each other, Juve lacked a player like Aaron Ramsey. A midfielder who could run into advanced areas and drag opposition midfielders out of position to free everything up.
For all the hype about the fact that Juve are the favorites to win the UEFA Champions League this season, it came down to how they failed to deal with things when handed a taste of their own medicine. And Atletico probably taught them how to best execute that pragmatic style on the European stage to perfection.
The tie isn’t done and dusted at all yet. Juve might not have an away goal to boast about, but they still are a formidable team. It takes one goal to change everything. Probably one moment. The way Manchester United played in Turin could teach Atletico Madrid a lesson or two.
With Alex Sandro suspended, Juve will have to play Mattia de Sciglio again. The Italian has been a big disappointment since he joined and he is a big weak link in a side that is solid and resilient otherwise. He is one man whose presence Atleti would target, as they would go hunting for an away goal in Turin that could hand them a passage in the quarter-finals.