Sunday 21 January 2018

Ronaldo the star but Juve have an edge

Cristiano Ronaldo. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Cristiano Ronaldo. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

I'm leaning towards Juventus as the likely lads for the Champions League final. They are a real team and Real Madrid are inconsistent.

Of course I can't be sure that Cristiano Ronaldo won't turn it on again and blow us all away with another hat-trick. He's having that sort of season.

But my gut instinct is that Juventus have an edge brought about by traditional Italian defensive organisation.

There's an old truism that footballers will know which says that if you have a game between defenders and strikers, the defenders will win every time.

I don't think it's any accident that Juventus have developed a strong group mentality, given that Antonio Conte had three years there before he left to manage Italy, a choice which eventually brought him onto our radar last summer.

During Euro 2016, Conte showed the virtues of organisation and how it can make relatively ordinary players into a competitive team and that was part of a theme in France.

Before that, Leicester were the poster boys for well-organised underdogs and maybe that's the cycle we are in now.

We've seen at Chelsea what Conte can do with better players than he had in France.

Remember, he kicked off the Serie A title-winning run that Juventus have been on with an unbeaten season in 2011/12 and clearly left good habits behind for Massimiliano Allegri to work with.

Allegri, in turn, has brought the team on while maintaining the Serie A winning streak.

He took the sale of Paul Pogba in his stride and invested well in Dani Alves and Gonzalo Higuain with some of the money.

I wonder what Pogba will be thinking when he sits down to watch the final tomorrow.

There were moments this season when he couldn't have been further away from the Champions League final than he was with Jose Mourinho and Manchester United.

He played a big part in the Juventus success story and will have made many friends there, lads who could be picking up a winners medal in Cardiff while he's off on his holidays.

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