Real Madrid and Juventus know each other well.
Aside from meeting in Europe for the 20th time – the second-most-contested fixture in the competition – the two sides of course met in last year’s Champions League final, with Los Blancos decimating the Serie A giants 4-1 in Cardiff.
Not much has changed in the way of personnel since. But Juve arrive for the last-eight tie with added steel after last May’s crushing defeat.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side have dragged themselves back to the top of Serie A in recent weeks, putting an unprecedented seventh straight Scudetto within their grasp. They also displayed tremendous guile and grit to eliminate Tottenham in the last-16.
Conversely, Madrid have struggled domestically with their La Liga title all-but surrendered to bitter rivals Barcelona.
In Europe, the narrative has been reversed. With practically a fully-fit squad to pick from, the two-time consecutive winners – and 12-time champions overall – will be hopeful of coming away from Tuesday’s clash in Turin with a positive result, especially with the hosts missing key men Miralem Pjanic and Medhi Benatia through suspension.
With that in mind, we examine the key battle for the clash.
Gonzalo Higuain v Cristiano Ronaldo
Football and the business sector have many things in common, but the main one is a love for an acronym.
Juventus possess their ‘HD’ Argentine partnership of Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala, while Madrid counter with their trio of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Ronaldo to former the ‘BBC’.
HD are both struggling for their national side – Dybala was dropped from last month’s Argentina squad and Higuain is finding it troublesome to get the ball into the net.
Higuain spurned the type of simple chances he’s clinically dispatched at club level this season and he’s actually enjoying one of his most prosperous Champions League campaigns, with five goals to his name already.
A classic No9, Higuain is durable, relentless, hardworking and efficient in front of his goal with his intelligent diagonal runs sure to cause a positionally lax Madrid backline issues.
Ronaldo, true to his personality, has been Jekyll and Hyde on the pitch this season. The first half of his campaign mirrored Madrid’s – torrid.
But since the turn of the year, the Portuguese star has been in tremendous form.
Before January he had only managed four league goals, but in 2018 the 33-year-old has scorched, netting 18 times. He’s remained consistent throughout the Champions League despite his domestic difficulty, plundering 12 times – four more than Sevilla’s second-placed Wissam Ben Yeder – with a goal arriving every hour.
The bigger the stage, the better he is. A fundamental difference in Ronaldo’s style since January is that he’s looking to finish attacks rather than drop deeper to influence in the build-up.
Juve are facing the game’s greatest poacher.
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