Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has warned his side that they cannot afford a repeat of the performance which left them needing a spectacular comeback in the last round of the Champions League.
The Italian champions succumbed to a 2-0 first-leg loss to Atletico Madrid in the round of 16 before Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick turned the tie on its head in Turin to secure their quarter-final spot.
However, Allegri is aware of the threat posed by the Dutch side, who reached this stage with a famous comeback of their own, beating Real Madrid 4-1 in Spain after losing the home leg 2-1.
“Ajax are a strong team who eliminated Real Madrid, who played on a par with Bayern [Munich] and have technique,” Allegri told reporters.
“We need to be sharp, precise and lively, because I expect an open game and it’s very unlikely it will end 0-0.
“They are a very physical team, strong in the air and in the tackle, so that is where the game will be decided. We must have the humility and capability to defend well, because that is when Ajax become vulnerable.
“It’s by no means easy to beat Atleti 3-0, as they defend so well, but we cannot think that we can do that again here.
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“We have to lay the foundations to qualify and score away goals. Ajax have lost just once – with Real Madrid – in their last 20-odd home games.
“If Ajax are aggressive, we need to be aggressive too. We expect spaces to open up and an open match, so we have to make the most of those situations.
“It’s essential that we run and run hard towards their goal, especially against this Ajax. They tend to have bursts of great intensity and that is when they become very dangerous.”
Regarding team selection, Allegri said that injuries would prevent him from fielding three at the back, while he was left with a choice of Sami Khedira and Rodrigo Bentancur in midfield.
“We will play either Khedira or Bentancur in midfield,” he explained.
“I did not think Khedira could play 70 minutes against Milan on Saturday and he did. He proved once again that he is a great player in his reading of the game.
“Bentancur is more dynamic, but lacks experience. As there will be many one-to-one duels tomorrow, Bentancur can certainly do well in those situations.
“Three at the back? Considering I’ve only got three available, I doubt it.”
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