Five key points about Juventus's Monaco success
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Arturo Vidal is brave, Gianluigi Buffon is sharp and after watching Juventus's win, UEFA.com's Paolo Menicucci reckons AS Monaco FC may need a change of approach.
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Vidal has guts
It is never easy to take a penalty in a match as important as a UEFA Champions League quarter-final at the best of times. Given that he has missed two penalties already this season – including one in the group stage against Olympiacos FC – and spurned a great chance to give his side the lead earlier in the game, Juventus's Arturo Vidal should have been a quivering wreck as he put the ball on the spot against AS Monaco FC.
However, that opportunity just before the interval, when Vidal shot high and wide with only Danijel Subašić to beat, only made him more determined to make amends from the spot. "I asked Carlito [Carlos Tévez] to give me the ball – I needed to score," the midfielder said after the game. "When it comes to penalties, it's me or him – whichever one of us feels most confident at that precise moment takes it, and I was very confident that I would score." Vidal sent Subašić the wrong way as he placed the ball in the top corner for his first goal in the competition this season. A perfect penalty; how important might it be?
More Berbatov required?
Monaco showed their well-documented defensive strength in Turin, but Leonardo Jardim's side also proved to be dangerous in attack, young forwards Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco and Anthony Martial troubling the Juventus defence with their pace and technique. However, the two failed to rustle up a potentially crucial away goal.
Dimitar Berbatov, meanwhile, went close with his first touch after coming on as a 71st-minute substitute, heading just over from a Ferreira-Carrasco corner. With just seven goals in nine games in this season's competition, the pressure is on Monaco to get more tangible reward for their attacking efforts back in France. Might that mean a more prominent role for the former Bulgarian international?
Buffon sharp as ever
Monaco's failure to score in Turin owed something to Juventus's veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who made a couple of crucial saves. "I knew that tonight I had to be really focused because Monaco are a dangerous side," the 37-year-old said. "It was important not to concede, and the fact that we also won the game puts us in a stronger position ahead of the return leg."
Buffon denied that he has already set a retirement date. "I will be the first to know when I'm not good enough to continue, but it would be a waste if I retired while I am still going strong," he joked.
Raggi's Monaco pride
Andrea Raggi said several times – before and after the game – that he has no score to settle with Italian football after leaving his native country to join Monaco in 2012. However, the 30-year-old right-back played like a man with something to prove after his surprising inclusion in the starting lineup in Turin, with fine tackles on Álvaro Morata and Carlos Tévez the highlights of his performance.
"We are happy with our performance and we can certainly overturn a 1-0 defeat at home," said Raggi after wearing the captain's armband in Jérémy Toulalan's absence. "I'm one of the oldest players in the squad. Toulalan is our captain, but I'm proud to be the vice-captain of a side that is achieving great results."
Can Juve 'do a Monaco'?
If the game in Turin was special for Raggi, the return leg will certainly be emotional for Juventus left-back Patrice Evra, who played at the Stade Louis II from 2002 and 2006, reaching the UEFA Champions League final with Monaco in 2004. Can Juventus emulate that side and make it to the decider despite not being among the pre-tournament favourites?
"Nobody expected anything from Monaco that year because we did not have a good tradition in Europe," the 34-year-old Evra said after Tuesday's game. "Juve have a great history; many great footballers have worn this shirt in the past. Everything is still to play for. Monaco deserve respect; 1-0 is not a great result, and we still have plenty of work to do to qualify, but if we reach the last four we can certainly say that we are a great team."