No repeat of last term's complacency against Real: Buffon

Paulo Dybala participating in a training drill at Juventus' training centre in Turin. The Argentinian may hold the key to unlocking the Real Madrid defence in their quarter-final first leg today.
Paulo Dybala participating in a training drill at Juventus' training centre in Turin. The Argentinian may hold the key to unlocking the Real Madrid defence in their quarter-final first leg today.PHOTO: REUTERS

TURIN • He has won almost every major honour in football but one trophy remains elusive in Gianluigi Buffon's resume.

The Juventus goalkeeper has played in three Champions League finals in his distinguished 23-year career but has never tasted victory.

In 2003, the Italian giants lost 2-3 on penalties to AC Milan after a 0-0 draw and finished as runners-up again in 2015 when they were beaten 3-1 by Barcelona.

Buffon's latest setback came nearly a year ago when Juventus lost 1-4 to Real Madrid in the 2017 final in Cardiff, Wales.

The two teams square off again this season in the first leg of the quarter-finals today and Buffon is determined to avoid the same mistake they made last year.

"We went to Cardiff with a lot of confidence - maybe too much - and that might be the first and most serious mistake we made in that final," the 40-year-old told AS news.

"I hope that we can find the weapons to make the match more balanced this time."

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    Champions League finals

    Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi

    Buffon has played in and lost.

Buffon admitted that while the odds were stacked against the Italian Serie A leaders, they would be no pushovers.

"I don't know if we're unbeatable, but we're a difficult team for anyone and I hope we can prove it," he added.

"We have a chance, yes, because we're an ambitious side... But we're facing the best.

"Real Madrid are a better team than Juventus. This isn't what I say, it's what history says. They have shown over their history and over the past few years that they have something special and different."

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri will have to reshuffle his side again for Real's visit today, yet it is all water off a duck's back for one of Europe's master tacticians.

In just under four seasons at Juve, Allegri has repeatedly and successfully managed to rebuild his side after the departures of key players such as Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Leonardo Bonucci.

Bonucci's departure at the end of last season meant the break-up of the formidable "BBC" defence, which also featured Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli.

Centre-back Medhi Benatia has stepped ably into the gap and the defence remains as miserly as ever, conceding only one goal in Serie A since the start of the year.

Benatia is suspended for today's match alongside midfielder Miralem Pjanic but Allegri has shown himself to have an uncanny knack of switching formations.

In the last few months, the Italian has fielded a 3-5-2 formation, a 4-2-3-1, a 4-3-3 and a 4-1-4-1, all proving equally effective.

The 50-year-old says his team enjoy defending as much as trying to score goals and said last year that good defending is "as beautiful as a great attacking move".

"We have the ambition to beat one of the best teams in the world, Real Madrid," Allegri said.

"It will be a great game... We will fight against Real Madrid with realism and also with ambition."

The match also holds much significance for Zinedine Zidane, who will be returning to Turin for the first time as a manager.

The Frenchman said last week he wants to stay in Madrid but perhaps his future hinges on whether Real can win the Champions League for a third straight year.

Their limp Spanish LaLiga title defence, combined with their early exit from the King's Cup, means they now have only one shot at winning a major trophy this term.

The mood in Madrid, however, is upbeat. Real have won 10 out of their last 11 matches, brushing aside Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 and moving within four points of second-placed Atletico Madrid in the league in the process.

"We know we have to go to Juve with ambition and go there to score," Zidane, whose side have scored 36 goals during that run, said.

"We have been doing things well for the last few months... now we have to try to take advantage of it," Real forward Lucas Vazquez added.

They will, however, be without defender Nacho Fernandez after the club confirmed he would be out of action for around a month after suffering a thigh injury during their 3-0 win over Las Palmas on Saturday.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2018, with the headline 'No repeat of last term's complacency against Real: Buffon'. Print Edition | Subscribe