Roberto Jarni tells uefa.com why he will be an interested observer when Real Madrid CF take on Juventus FC.
By Greg Demetriou
When Real Madrid CF go head to head with Juventus FC in the UEFA Champions League tonight, former Croatia defender Robert Jarni will be an interested observer.
The 36-year-old spent time with both clubs during an illustrious career that peaked with the 1998 FIFA World Cup when he helped his country to third place. A highly regarded left-back, Jarni often made his mark going forward - most notably a superb long-range goal in the 3-0 quarter-final defeat of Germany in France.
However, Jarni never compromised his defensive responsibilities, and it is therefore no surprise to hear him tipping Juventus. Fabio Capello's men have the best rearguard record in Serie A with just 15 goals shipped in 25 matches while Madrid have conceded four more from their 24 outings and, perhaps more tellingly, lost six Primera División fixtures, compared to Juve's three league defeats.
I think Juventus have a slight advantage," Jarni told uefa.com. "At this moment, they are playing better than Madrid. Although Madrid do tend to do well in the Champions League, Juventus are playing better. There is a big difference between the defence and attack at Real Madrid. I know they decided to buy [Thomas] Gravesen to help give the defence more protection, but I think Juventus have the edge."
One player he admires is Juve's Italian international Gianluca Zambrotta, who has impressed since being switched to left-back although he has moved forward recently in the absence of the injured Pavel Nedved. "I like Zambrotta very much but it all depends on which type of system the club is using. The tactics and the system are very important."
However, for all his appreciation of both clubs, Jarni is tipping neither to go all the way to May's final, while conceding that "it is very difficult to make a prediction". Yet he added: "I think the winners of [FC] Barcelona v Chelsea [FC] and [AC] Milan v Manchester United [FC] could get to the final and then win the trophy.
"Juventus are spending a lot of energy to try and win the Italian championship and they haven't got the squad to compete with the other big Champions League teams. Madrid are not in great form. They lost at the weekend against [Athletic Club] Bilbao and they have some problems, it will be very difficult for them to proceed."
Jarni, who since 2002 has been playing Futsal - football's increasingly popular indoor 'brother' - has just completed his coaching licence. He now has a watching brief, and pays close attention to the Champions League. He said: "Every year there are new great players to watch. At the moment, I particularly like Deco, [Andriy] Shevchenko and [Samuel] Eto'o."
Demonstrating his new perspective on the game, Jarni suggested there was far more to appreciating the merits of top players. "Watching matches on television you only see if a player is playing well or badly, but you must also recognise what the system is and how well the player is adapting," he said.
He is also impressed by the "excellent" Werder Bremen striker Ivan Klasnic, although Jarni, who played in three World Cups, was keen not to apply too much pressure on his compatriot. "It is very difficult to compare the different generations," he said. "Our generation was very strong because we worked together for ten years before we achieved a great result in France. I hope the young players can use that as an example of how to proceed."