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Juve aim to continue record against French teams

By Reuters - Apr 21,2015 - Last updated at Apr 21,2015

PARIS/MADRID — Juventus will be hoping to make it 11 victories out of 11 against French teams in knockout ties when they face AS Monaco in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday.

Juventus, who moved 15 points clear at the top of Serie A after beating second-placed Lazio 2-0 on Saturday as they close in on a fourth successive domestic crown, also have their eyes on a first Champions League semifinal appearance since 2003.

On current form they will start the match at Stade Louis II as favourites to reach the last four.

They have won all 10 of their previous knockout ties against French teams in Europe while Monaco have won only one of six ties against Italian clubs. The Ligue 1 club have also not won any of their last four home matches in any competition.

Coach Massimiliano Allegri saw his men win last week’s first leg 1-0 in Turin thanks to Arturo Vidal’s second-half penalty and they travel to Monaco seeking a third straight away win in the competition after victories at Malmo and Borussia Dortmund.

His only injury absentees are central defender Martin Caceres (ankle) and attacking midfielder Paul Pogba (thigh).

Confident Juve 

Juventus largely dominated the first leg, although Monaco did have chances of their own and went close to scoring through both Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco and Dimitar Berbatov.

But the Italians are oozing with confidence. They have won eight of their last nine matches and the only goal they have conceded in that run was when their much-changed team lost 1-0 to Serie A bottom club Parma on April 11.

But while Allegri is enjoying Juve’s good form, his Monaco counterpart Leonardo Jardim has had to watch his side stumble in recent weeks.

His immediate concern will be to work out a way to contain the Serie A side’s attacking intent without injured defensive midfielder Jeremy Toulalan (hamstring injury).

Since winning 3-1 at Arsenal in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie on February 25, Monaco’s form has slipped.

They squeezed into the last eight of the Champions League on away goals after losing 2-0 at home to Arsenal and after failing to find the net against Juve last week, only drew 1-1 with Rennes in Ligue 1 on Saturday.

That result dented their title hopes and left Jardim frustrated with side winning only twice in their last seven matches in all competitions.

“I am not happy. We played well in the first half and controlled the match. However, in the last 30 minutes, I saw that we were looking tired,” he said.

Unless Monaco, who are now six points behind leaders Olympique Lyon in Ligue 1, click back into gear on Wednesday and come out looking for goals from the start to secure their first Champions League semifinal appearance since 2004, their season is in real danger of fizzling out. 

Real-Atletico 

With Real Madrid facing an injury crisis ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid attention will be on talisman Cristiano Ronaldo to lead them through but James Rodriguez may hold the key.

Real coach Carlo Ancelotti will be without playmaker Luka Modric and forward Gareth Bale while striker Karim Benzema’s knee injury may be more serious than first thought and he will also miss the quarter-final, second leg.

As well as the injury absences, attacking fullback Marcelo is suspended for the decider at the Bernabeu with the tie standing at 0-0 from the first game.

Ancelotti must improvise by either playing two, rather than the usual trident, in attack as he has often done in the absence of Bale or by pushing Rodriguez forward on to the right wing to take the place of the Welshman.

Rodriguez has been in impressive form since his return from injury at the beginning of April with Real winning all four league games.

The Colombian stood out in a sluggish performance by Real in Saturday’s 3-1 La Liga win over Malaga when he scored a fine 25-metre goal, won a penalty and provided defensive cover in midfield.

Now, in the absence of Modric, who is set to be the player that Real will miss most against Atletico, it is Rodriguez who can provide similar passing and build-up play.

Ronaldo’s strike against Malaga brought up his 50th goal of the season but he struggled after Christmas without the support from midfield of Modric or Rodriguez.

“The best player was James because he gave a lot of quality to the team,” Ancelotti told a news conference after the Malaga victory.

Atletico will try to take advantage of the absentees to get some revenge for their defeat in last season’s Champions League final and are led in attack by Antoine Griezmann who is in a rich vein of form.

“He has scored important goals all season and is giving a lot to the team,” fellow forward Raul Garcia told reporters.

The Frenchman hit a double in Atletico’s 2-1 win over Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.

“The final is in the past. It would have been nice to win but this is another match. The team is playing very well and we are in a positive mood,” added Garcia.

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