Tomorrow evening we will see the first of two dream semifinals in the Champions League when the Italian champions from Juventus take on the Spanish giants of Real Madrid. This is a match between two of the greatest teams historically in European club competitions (Champions Cup and Champions League). Juventus has been in seven finals of this tournament and won two of them. Their latest victory was in 1996, but were also in the finals of 1997, 1998 and 2003. Real Madrid is, of course, the giant of this tournament, with ten victories in 13 final appearances, the latest one last year!
In fact, both side have already faced each other in both semifinals and in a final: in 1998 Real Madrid beat Juventus 1-0 on a goal by Predrag Mijatovic, which gave them their title after 32 years of waiting.
In 2003 the sides faced one another in a semifinal that is perhaps comparable to this year's: Real Madrid were defending champions with a side that included legends such as Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Raul. In the meantime, Juventus had a side with other great players such as Pavel Nedved, David Trezeguet, Liliam Thuram, Edgar Davids and Alessandro Del Piero. Real Madrid had won the first match at home 2-1, but Juventus played a fantastic match to defeat the Spanish 3-1, and make it to an all-Italian final against AC Milan (which the Milanese won).
Since this legendary semifinal they have met six times in the Champions League: four in group matches and two knock out matches (2005 last-16, where Juventus carried the day).
There is no doubt that Real Madrid are probably the favourites to progress to the final. But do not discount a hungry Juventus side who, having already taken the Italian title, can focus entirely on this, while Real Madrid still need to concentrate on the Spanish league race. However, both teams have some injuries of central players: for Juventus Paul Pogba and Kwadwo Asamoah will both be absent. For Real Madrid Karim Benzema and Luca Modric are out. Modric will surely be missed, and he leaves a space in the defensive midfield that could be exploited by the skills of Carlos Tevez and the genius of Andrea Pirlo. In the meantime, the absolute genius of a Cristiano Ronaldo who is on fire these days, could surely upset any chance that Juventus may hope for.
No matter what, it will be a splendid match that you cannot miss if you even barely like football!!!