Best odds: 41/20
The knockout stages of last season’s Champions League saw a few quite remarkable comebacks, which perfectly illustrated the competition as the most attractive in club football. One of them was certainly the way Juventus overturned a 2-0 deficit from the first leg against Atletico Madrid with a 3-0 triumph in Turin.
The clash will likely serve as a huge source of motivation for both sides as they prepare to lock horns at the very start of this season’s campaign in a game played on Wednesday evening at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. It will likely have some impact on the final standings in Group D, also featuring Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow.
Having been at the helm since December 2011, Diego Simeone has led Atleti to a La Liga triumph in 2014, and the Copa Del Rey trophy the previous year. They also won the Europa League twice under the command of the Argentinian (2012, 2018) and went on to win the UEFA Super Cup on both occasions. He is, however, yet to add the Champions League to such an impressive record. The Rojiblancos came really close twice recently, reaching the finals in 2014 and 2016, but were both times denied by city rivals Real Madrid.
Atletico have had several notable transfers this summer. Forward Antoine Griezmann left to join Barcelona, midifielder Rodri made his way to Manchester City, while defender Lucas Hernandez went to Bayern Munich. These deals alone saw them cash in around €270 million. On the other hand, they signed Joao Felix from Benfica to replace Griezmann for €126 million, midfielder Marcos Alonso from Real for €30 million, centre-back Mario Hermoso from Espanyol for €25 million, and fullback Kieran Trippier from Tottenham Hotspur for €22 million.
They sit second to Sevilla in the La Liga table at the moment, having started the season with three straight wins (ocer Getafe, Leganes and Eibar), before suffering defeat away to Real Sociedad on Saturday.
Simeone will probably have to make do without their star goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who recently suffered a head injury and wasn’t there when they lost to Sociedad at the weekend. The Slovenian will face a late fitness test. Midfielder Thomas Partey and former Juventus striker Alvaro Morata are also likely to miss out.
One can’t help but notice a few similarities between these clubs when it comes to their respective European campaigns in recent years. Like Atletico, Juventus are still chasing that elusive Champions League trophy, and the two they won back in 1985 and 1996 do little to ease the pain of not replicating that success since. Having pushed Atletico aside in that remarkable comeback last season, they were stunned in the quarterfinals by Ajax. Despite the fact that the Dutch side had already knocked out Real Madrid and eventually missed out on the final by a hair’s width, it will not have gone down too well with the board and the supporters who had believed that the acquisition of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo would suffice to get them the trophy. And like Atletico, Juventus were defeated in two finals recently – in 2015 against Barcelona and in 2017 against Real Madrid.
This year, they signed a number of excellent players again, if not quite as good as Ronaldo. Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot came on free transfers from Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain, respectively, but most notably, they managed to win the difficult race to obtain the services on much-coveted defender Matthijs de Ligt.
There is a huge difference, however, between these clubs when it comes to domestic competitions. While Atletico have the likes of Real, Barcelona, and a few other very good teams to compete with, Juventus have been dominating Serie A for a very long time. The 2018/19 season saw them win the title of Italian champions for the eighth time in a row – an impressive achievement. At the moment, they are third behind Inter Milan and Bologna, but it has been only three rounds since the campaign started and very little can be deduced right now. They are, however, likely to face a more difficult challenge to defend the title this time around, with the Nerazzurri also making heavy team investments this summer to add to the ever-present efforts of Napoli.
Winger Douglas Costa, midfielder Miralem Pjanic and defender Danilo all left the pitch injured in the Old Lady’s goalless draw against Fiorentina at the weekend, and are likely to miss out.
These are both top teams, poised to put their best effort for the season into winning this particular competition. Juventus may be feeling slightly more pressure due to their need to add the biggest trophy in club football to their domestic domination, but there no reason to believe that Atletico won’t be doing the same thing as they strive to reach the same bracket as Real and Barcelona.
It is a game where a single goal would likely influence its entire course, and the momentary form of the teams (very similar), individual concentration of players or the support of the crowd from the stands all may play a huge role. But when everything said is taken into account, a share of the spoils seems like the right call.
Best odds: 41/20
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