Just as they did in last year’s Champions League final, Real Madrid crushed Juventus in the first leg, showcasing not only their own ability but also the gulf that remains between the Bianconeri and the handful of elite teams in this competition.
Their 3-0 triumph in Turin – with the added security of those being away goals – puts Zinedine Zidane’s men in a comfortable position, even if their opponents have a habit of making things difficult for those who stand in their way.
Max Allegri has likened his team to a “wounded lion” in the build-up to this clash, while various players have spoken about their belief that the result can be overturned. Yet the damage from last week’s match continues to linger, with Paulo Dybala’s hat-trick at the weekend only serving to underline just how much he will be missed in the return encounter.
His red card essentially ended that match as a contest, and if Federico Bernardeschi remains sidelined, there is a danger that Juve simply lack the firepower to contend here. They will, of course, see Medhi Benatia and Miralem Pjanic return from suspensions of their own, the latter in particularly – thanks to his incisive passing and set-piece prowess – set to make a huge difference.
Allegri has been widely tipped to use a 3-4-3 formation at the Bernabeu, but a 4-3-3 system will be the most likely option, particularly given how they were overrun with just two central midfielders last time out. That should see Mario Mandzukic or Juan Cuadrado start the match alongside Douglas Costa and Gonzalo Higuain, with Alex Sandro returning to his more natural role at left-back rather than in a more advanced position.
Real Madrid will match that system, with Zidane’s only major issue coming in how to replace the suspended Sergio Ramos in central defence. Back up options Nacho Fernandez and Jesus Vallejo are both injured, and it is therefore expected that Casemiro will partner Raphaël Varane in a backline that can expect to be truly tested by their Torinese visitors.
"We go to Madrid with the desire to play a good game, because in football and in life you never know," Giorgio Chiellini told Juventus TV earlier this week. "Then it would also be important to give a good signal in view of next year. The game is long and we’ll need balance, but it will also take a pinch of healthy madness from everyone."
The big defender will once again pit himself against Cristiano Ronaldo, who has now netted four times in his last two meetings with the Bianconeri and is comfortably the leading scorer in the Champions League this term. The Portuguese superstar has netted 14 times in the competition already – six goals more than any other player – and few would bet against him finding the net once again here, which will only serve to make Juve’s task even more difficult.
Juventus (4-3-3): Buffon; De Sciglio, Benatia, Chiellini, Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic, Matuidi; Costa, Higuain, Cuadrado.
Real Madrid (4-3-3): Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Casemiro, Marcelo; Kovacic, Kroos, Modric; Isco, Ronaldo, Benzema.