Juventus looking to establish itself as serious contender
MILAN (AP) — Two-time European champion Juventus is beginning to emerge as a force on the international stage once again.
A spot in the Champions League semifinals for the first time since 2003 would go a long way to reinforcing that notion. Juventus will face Monaco on Tuesday in the first leg of the quarterfinals.
Juventus has a realistic chance of ending a 19-year wait for Champions League success, something which appeared to be in the distant future after it was eliminated from the group stage last year.
Juventus also leads Serie A by 12 points and is in the Italian Cup final, although the team dropped points on Saturday with a surprise loss at last-place Parma.
Juventus has lost only one of 16 European matches at the Juventus Stadium, winning three out of its four matches in Turin this season.
Here are some things to know about Tuesday’s match:
MONACO TRAVELS WELL
Juventus might have its fantastic home form to count on, but Monaco will be relying on its impressive recent run on the road.
The French team is looking for a third straight away victory in the Champions League and has conceded only two goals in four away games this season.
Monaco recorded an impressive 3-1 win at Arsenal in the round of 16 but then lost 2-0 at home in the second leg, progressing on away goals.
“It’s an unpredictable team to be treated with caution, because it is really difficult to understand the type of beast it is,” Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said.
“Watching them play away, they are very dangerous. Then you see them at home and they are most disappointing. When you think they aren’t favorites and that they’ll lose, they can win and when they are favorites, they can run into difficulty. You never know what you will face.”
TEVEZ: WE CAN WIN IT
Despite being without the injured Andrea Pirlo and losing Paul Pogba early on, Juventus followed up a 2-1 win at home with an impressive 3-0 victory in Germany against Borussia Dortmund to progress to the quarterfinals
It was the ease with which they swept away Dortmund which has forward Carlos Tevez, who won the Champions League title with Manchester United in 2008, predicting great things.
“Juventus can win the Champions League,” Tevez said in an interview with Italian national newspaper La Repubblica. “The match against Dortmund showed that we can get far. It all depends on us. Juventus can beat anyone and we showed that. There are no teams beyond our capabilities. Not even one.
“At Manchester United there were incredible champions such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney ... I think that here instead there is a team. We are very hard to beat. Like Atletico Madrid last year, but with a different final.”
Much of Juventus’ success this year has been down to the fantastic form of forward Carlos Tevez.
The Argentine is the leading scorer in Serie A this season after finding the back of the net 17 times and has also scored six goals in eight Champions League matches, including a double at Dortmund.
An incredible feat for a player who only broke a five-year scoring drought in the Champions League in September, with two goals against Malmo.
“It’s because I’m playing in the Champions League all the time,” Tevez said. “At United there was a fantastic Ronaldo, who came ahead of everyone. Now they see me as a leader and that gives me confidence. I made a mistake at City. There was no more trust between us and I reacted by disappearing. I behaved badly, I know. But here they never stopped believing in me.”
Monaco has had an extra day to prepare for the match, coming off a 3-0 league win on Friday against Caen — only its second victory in the past five matches.
With Marseille losing 1-0 to Bordeaux, Monaco is now four points behind leader Paris Saint-Germain and three behind Lyon, although they both have one game in hand.
“Teams look at us differently since we eliminated Arsenal,” Monaco midfielder Joao Moutinho said. “When James (Rodriguez) and (Radamel) Falcao left and the club didn’t recruit players with international experience, everyone figured we would only scrape into the top 10 in ‘Ligue 1’ and wouldn’t get through the Champions League group stage. We proved otherwise.”
Monaco will be hoping key midfielder Jeremy Toulalan will be fully fit for Tuesday’s match.
Toulalan had to be substituted early in the second half of Friday’s win at Caen after picking up a left thigh injury and it was feared the former France international had tweaked a muscle but he was running again by Sunday.
He has been included in the squad for the trip to Italy, as has defender Ricardo Carvalho, who also went off injured against Caen.