Monaco cling to hope of miracle in Turin
Even Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim rates it as only a one in 20 shot.
And many would say that is an optimistic view of his young side’s chances of overturning a 2-0 deficit against Juventus in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final here on Tuesday.
The free-scoring French champions-in-waiting have struck three goals 27 times this season.
But nobody has managed that against a Juve defence that has conceded twice only five times in 51 outings in this campaign, has not lost at home in 20 months and has leaked only two goals in 11 Champions League matches.
The stats are even more compelling when the ‘Old Lady’ has been at full strength, as she was when she snuffed out Monaco’s attacking threat in the Riviera principality last week, or when Leo Messi and co. were neutralised in a quarter-final demolition job on Barcelona.
Against that backdrop, Jardim said his primary task has been to instil a belief in his squad that they are not contesting a dead rubber.
“Of course we have to do something different. If you lose 2-0 at home it is obvious you have to come up with something extra,” Jardim said on the eve of the match.
“In Monaco we were beaten on efficiency: our shots on goal count was about the same. The difference was their success rate was 100 percent, ours was zero.”
– Allegri demands aggression –
Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri laughed off a suggestion the tie was done and dusted.
“You never know what can happen in a match. Monaco might approach it in a very different way making it much more open and they have players of great potential, great talent,” he said.
“We have to start from zero again, make sure we play a very aggressive game and hopefully be technically better than we were in Monaco, where we had many opportunities to create dangerous situations and too often made mistakes.
“We need to do better in Monaco’s half and show more patience.”
Monaco striker Valere Germain missed a late chance to reduce Juve’s advantage in the first leg and he admitted a young squad had been given a lesson in professionalism by their more experienced rivals.
“When you see someone like (Croatian forward Mario) Mandzukic, with all the medals he has, working like he did on the left of midfield. Or when you see how they scream at each other for the good of the team at free-kicks — it was a lesson for us.
“It is going to be very, very hard but you never know. If we score early and some decisions go our way …”
Gonzalo Higuain was Juve’s hero in Monaco, scoring twice from Dani Alves assists. In the process he upstaged Monaco’s 18-year-old star Kylian Mbappe on the biggest night of his career to date.
Mbappe is one of the hottest properties in football and Tuesday represents the perfect stage for him to re-polish those credentials after the chastening experience of the first leg.
But Higuain’s ability to conjure goals from the slimmest of opportunities means Monaco cannot throw caution to the wind.
“Yes we need to attack but with cool heads. Against a team like Juve if you leave yourself too open you can find yourself losing two or three goals at the other end very quickly,” Jardim said.
The only injury doubt on either side concerns Monaco defender Benjamin Mendy, after holding midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko was declared fit.
The hosts are on the verge of wrapping up a sixth straight Italian title.
They looked out of sorts in a 1-1 draw with local rivals Torino at the weekend but, with matches to spare in Serie A, Allegri rested a string of key players ahead of Tuesday’s encounter and Sunday’s potential title-clincher at Roma.
Juve’s last Champions League defeat on home soil dates back to a 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich in April 2013.
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