The Champions League is back and with holders Liverpool crashing out to Atletico Madrid, the competition is wide open. Will Man City’s players help Guardiola finally win the European Cup without a Messi in his team? Can Real follow up their league success with another European Cup? Can outsiders Atalanta surprise everyone? The final rounds of this season’s Champions League throw up an awful lot of interesting questions. But perhaps the most interesting of all is whether or not Juventus can finally break their European curse.
The experts don’t think so
Incredibly, the latest tips from football bookmakers have Man City and Bayern Munich as favourites and Juventus as seventh favourites. Needless to say, Juve’s history of falling at the latter stages of the competition has a lot to do with those odds. And, in fairness, it’s hard to argue the point.
Since 2003, the club has played (and lost) three finals. Every other season has seen them eliminated at various stages of the contest with the last round of 16 and the quarter finals being the typical drop out point for the Old Lady.
But it’s not just history in the competition that has the odds stacked against them. Should Juve navigate what could be a banana skin of a game against Lyon, they will then face either Man City or Real Madrid in the quarter finals. Pass both those tests and they could potentially face Bayern in the semi-finals. It’s fair to say that their path to the final is not what you would call an easy route.
Could Ronaldo make the difference?
Ronaldo won four Champions Leagues in his time at Real Madrid
The Portuguese star is in the twilight of his career but has shown no signs of letting up, scoring a rather impressive 31 goals in 32 Serie A matches. At 35 years of age, this may not be his last chance to win the European Cup with a third club, but there won’t be too many other opportunities.
The thinking behind Ronaldo’s signing back in July of 2018 was that the forward would bring a winning mentality to a squad that had struggled in Europe. After all, he had just won the European Cup with Real Madrid four times in five seasons. He was the lucky charm that would break the curse. But as we all know that has yet to happen. That said, his electric form of this season gives the club more than a fighting chance no matter who they come up against.
League form could carry them through
It’s true that Juventus have had the odd stutter in recent games, but winning their ninth consecutive league title will no doubt have an incredibly positive effect of the morale of the squad. The players will be on an absolute high and will certainly want to add another title to the trophy cabinet.
More significant though is the fact that they won the league with two games to spare. This gives Sarri the perfect opportunity to rest some of his key players in preparation for the Champions League. The match against Lyon will take place on the 7th August and with nothing else to play for in the league, we’ve no doubt that Sarri will want to keep the spine of his team injury free before then.
As mentioned earlier, the Lyon game could be a banana skin but only trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Ronaldo and co. will fancy their chances. Lyon haven’t played a game since March and so match fitness and sharpness will certainly be an issue. Juventus should win easily enough.
The tournament in Portugal is another matter. With all matches single leg ties, there will be no away goals to catch a team out. This could play into the hands of Juventus with Sarri known to prefer fast-paced attacking football with maintaining possession a key tactic. It’s the kind of football that sees teams do well at international tournaments and this mini-tournament in Lisbon is perfect for Sarri-ball.
If they can see their way past Lyon and either Man City or Real, this will likely be Juventus’ year. In fact, there’s something about how this team plays that suggests nothing will get in the way of winning that coveted third European Cup.