TURIN: Cristiano Ronaldo has scored so many goals he gives Juventus “a great advantage” insisted coach Massimiliano Allegri as the Italian side look to overturn a two-goal Champions League deficit against Atletico Madrid in their last 16, second leg tie in Turin on Tuesday.
“Cristiano has a lot of goals in his legs, he’s a player that has scored so many goals in the Champions League and in matches of this kind he gets really excited and enthusiastic, having him gives us a great advantage,” Allegri told a pre-match press conference on Monday.
Ronaldo has scored a record 121 goals of which 57 have proved decisive in the competition and has been the top scorer in the Champions League for the last six seasons.
This year the 34-year-old Portuguese forward has scored just once having being suspended for one match after receiving a red card against Valencia during the group stages.
“I’m convinced at 200 per cent that Cristiano will play as Cristiano,” said captain Giorgio Chiellini, who will play his 500th match for the club.
“None of us are madmen, none of us believes it’s impossible,” added the veteran defender.
The challenge for Ronaldo and the Italians will be to get goals past the tight defence of the reigning Europa League champions.
“Atletico haven’t conceded in five games, so that bodes well, it makes us very confident,” joked Allegri.
“In the last ten years (Atletico) have been one of the strongest teams in Europe.
“They have won three Europa Leagues. We have to be up to that level.”
“We believe we have what it takes to reverse this result. We have to understand what needs to be done and to adapt to the evolution of the match.”
“We have to be very calm and composed to reserve the result. It would be an incredible feat.”
Martin Caceres and Leonardo Spinazzola could be drafted into the Juventus defence with both Mattia De Sciglio and Andrea Barzagli injury doubts and Alex Sandro suspended.
“Caceres is an extraordinary player, whose career has been stalled by various injuries, but has quality. Spinazzola has improved a great deal and could well start. I’ll decide in the morning,” said Allegri.
“Spinazzola hasn’t played yet in the Champions League, but in these situations, it can help to have someone who brings freshness.
“If we manage to overturn the first leg result, it will be extraordinary. After that, we either think about the quarter-finals or ending the season on the right note.”
Atletico coach Diego Simeone warned they were ready to “seize their opportunity” to maintain their push for a first Champions League title.
“You can’t just talk about Ronaldo, Juventus are a great team with top players who are used to fighting important battles and are very strong in defence,” said Simeone, who insisted there were no favourites despite his team’s clear advantage.
“These are two different matches, the first leg and second leg. We’ll have to seize all the opportunities and do our best, we’ll have less space than in the first leg.
“These are two strong teams, one will go through and the other won’t. It’s hard to talk about there being favourites.”
“They have great quality, Bernardeschi, Dybala, Douglas, who can accompany Mandzukic and Ronaldo, they all deserve our attention.”
Without the suspended Diego Costa, Atletico’s attack will be carried by Antoine Griezmann and possibly former Juve forward Alvaro Morata.
“The role of the strikers will be fundamental to exploit the spaces that a team that presses strongly can leave near the goal,” said Simeone.
Atletico midfielder Koke added: “It will be essential to start playing with intensity from the first minute, the crowd will help them, but we will be 11 against 11.
“We know it will be a war and they will besiege us. But our locker room is united, we are all convinced we can reproduce the beautiful result of the first leg.”