Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri says that having Cristiano Ronaldo in his side “is an advantage” ahead of the Portuguese star’s return to Madrid for Wednesday’s Champions League last 16, first-leg clash against Atletico.
Ronaldo won four Champions League titles in five years at Real Madrid before joining Juve in a 100-million-euro ($117 million) deal last year, and will be hoping to be back at the Wanda Metropolitano for the final on June 1.
Juventus are still bidding for their first European crown since 1996 after final defeats in 2003, 2015 and 2017, and in the last 16 face an Atletico outfit who lost to Real in the 2014 and 2016 finals.
“Having (Ronaldo) is an advantage but he alone is not enough, the whole team need to put in a strong performance,” said Allegri on Tuesday.
“The team is growing physically, psychologically and technically and we have to keep going as we enter the most important stage of the season.
“We have to be focused tomorrow, knowing that we face a compact team that makes the most of set-pieces, and that in recent years have achieved a lot of good results in Europe.”
The 34-year-old Ronaldo has a fine record against Atletico, having scored 22 goals in 31 matches against the capital club, including a hat-trick in the 2016-2017 Champions League semi-finals.
“Cristiano is very motivated in this competition he has proved it,” Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic said of the Champions League’s all-time record goalscorer.
“He has always been present and decisive. He is part of our team and he will want to win.”
Ronaldo has already scored 21 goals for the Turin giants this season, while fellow forward Paulo Dybala netted five times in the Champions League group stage, and Allegri wants his team to go on the attack in the Spanish capital.
“I wouldn’t take a draw now. I said to the lads that it’s important to score goals tomorrow,” he said.
– Simeone ‘up for it’ –
Juventus remain unbeaten in Serie A and are already 13 points clear of second-placed Napoli in their bid for an eighth straight Italian title, while Atletico sit second in La Liga, seven points adrift of leaders Barcelona.
“I’m really up for this. Here, in the Champions League, such a great competition against such a big team like Juventus, it’s these kind of games that help us to grow,” said Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who signed a contract extension with the club last week.
“At the moment no one has an advantage, we will start at 50-50.”
Allegri also confirmed that Juve midfielder Sami Khedira will miss the first leg to have medical tests after the detection of an irregular heartbeat. (Agence France-Presse)