Europe’s most Lethal Attack vs its most Meanest Defence
The road to Cardiff is now finally in sight as in 9 days’ time we will know which 2 teams will go head to head for the European crown at the Millennium Stadium. Leonardo Jardim’s AS Monaco welcome Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus at the Stade Louis II for the first leg of this mouth-watering semi-final. It is a matchup of 2 sides with contrasting styles and has rightly been labelled as Attack vs Defence.
Monaco have scored exactly three goals in each of their four Champions League knockout games this season. In fact, they are the first team in the competition’s history to find the net at least three times in four consecutive knockout games but they have also conceded 16 goals in the Champions League this season; more than any other team among the remaining semi-finalists. On the other hand, Juventus are yet to concede a goal in four knockout matches in this season’s competition.
This is the second time these sides have met in a Champions League semi-final: Juventus securing their passage to the final with a 6-4 aggregate victory 19 years ago before losing to Real Madrid in the final (1997/98).
Monaco looking to make it 14 in a row at home
The youthful French side are on a 13-match winning streak at the Stade Louis II as they aim to reach the final for only the second time. Monaco are in their fourth European Cup semi-final, and their first since 2004 when they beat Chelsea FC 5-3 on aggregate. Jardim’s team have won six of their seven home matches in this 2016/17 UEFA Champions League, the exception a 1-1 draw with Bayer Leverkusen in the group stage. They have managed 16 goals in those seven fixtures.
Monaco play with the policy of outscoring their opponents at all costs without caring too much about the deficiencies in the backline. This worked extremely well against the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City, but now they come up against a different challenge entirely. Juventus are rock solid defensively and Monaco can forget about any thoughts of scoring 6 goals against Buffon and co.
Monaco, with the lethality of the in-form Kylian Mbappe Lottin and Radamel Falcao, will still feel confident at home though. They beat Toulouse 3-1 on Saturday to make it seven wins from their last eight games in all competitions. They did lose 5-0 at PSG in the Coupe de France, but that was a hugely rotated side as they focus on Ligue 1 and the Champions League.
Monaco Team News
Carrillo, Boschilia, Sidibe are all out with injury while Almamy Toure is also doubtful.
Expected Lineup (4-4-2): Subasic; Dirar, Glik, Jemerson, Mendy; Bernardo Silva, Moutinho, Bakayoko, Lemar; Falcao, Mbappe.
Juventus aiming for 2nd final in 3 years
This is only Juve’s second UEFA Champions League semi-final appearance since 2003, although it is their second in three years – in 2014/15 they beat Real Madrid 3-2 on aggregate. Allegri’s team have already won in France this term, beating Olympique Lyonnais 1-0 thanks to a Juan Cuadrado goal.
Buffon and his reliable backline managed to escape unscathed from the MSN by keeping clean sheets both at home and at the Nou Camp last month when they held Barcelona to a goalless draw there. Paulo Dybala was the hero of the first leg as his brace helped Juventus to take a 3-0 lead in the first leg. He alongside Higuain will surely give a stern test to the Monaco backline and Allegri will surely want his team to get the all-important away goal.
Juventus Team News
Marko Pjaca and Daniele Rugani are injured for the Bianconeri while Sami Khedira is suspended after he picked up a booking against Barcelona.
Expected Lineup (4-2-3-1): Buffon; Dani Alves, Bonucci, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Pjanic, Khedira; Cuadrado, Dybala, Mandzukic; Higuaín.
Players to watch out for
Teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe has scored 24 goals in 39 appearances this season, only 24 of which were starts. Five of these goals have come in the Champions League and 15 have been scored at home. Despite his tender years, the Frenchman has showcased tremendous temperament on the big stage. With his blistering pace and inch perfect finishing, he is sure to cause a lot of problems to the ageing Juventus centre-backs.
The Champions League is the only trophy that has evaded Buffon in his illustrious and long career and he and his team-mates are desperate to win it this time for him. Buffon was pivotal in keeping MSN at bay in the Quarter Finals and led his team from the front with some great saves. He will surely be tested with a flurry of attacks by the relentless Monaco side but there is no one more reliable than Buffon.
Monaco 2-1 Juventus
Juventus have suffered a bit of a dip in form in recent weeks and away from home the record gets even worse, with just two of their last seven ending in victory and a 3-2 defeat at Napoli showing that they have definite defensive vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Monaco have scored in every one of their home games this season and haven’t failed to find the net since November 2015 and goals could flow especially if Juventus try to be a bit adventurous in search of the away goal.
- Juve’s away record in European Cup semi-finals is W1 D4 L6 – the sole victory came at Ajax in 1996/97 (2-1).
- Juve are unbeaten in six meetings with French sides, home and away, since a 2-0 loss at Bordeaux in the 2009/10 group stage. Their record since is W4 L2.
- Monaco have reached the Champions League semis for the fourth time after 1993/94, 1997/98 and 2003/04. No other French team has made the last four more than once.
- After failing to reach the last four of the Champions League from 2003/04 to 2013/14, Juventus have now made the semis for the second time in three seasons (after 2014/15).
- In fact, the Turin club has systematically reached the final in five of its six previous Champions League semis.
- Juventus, alongside Real Madrid, are the only unbeaten team in this season’s Champions League (W7 D3) and haven’t conceded a goal for 531 minutes, the current longest run in the competition.
- Monaco have won 71% of their home games in the Champions League (22 out of 31). Among clubs to have hosted at least 30 games, only Real Madrid (76.5%), Barcelona (72.1%) & Bayern Munich (71.3%) have a better win ratio.
- The Italian team have won all 11 of their two-legged contests against Ligue 1 opposition.
The match will be aired from 12:15 A.M. on Thursday, 4th May on the Ten network.