Three things we learned from Juventus vs. Real Madrid

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Juventus is the real deal.

They proved that in Turin on Tuesday as Carlos Tevez lead them to a 2-1 victory over Real Madrid.

[ RELATED: Juve beat Real 2-1 ]

The reigning European champions couldn’t cope with the high-pressure of the Italian champions and Juve’s experienced core prevailed to take a slender lead into the second leg at the Santiago Bernabue next week.

Here are three things we learned after a pulsating clash in Italy.

HIGH-PRESSING PAYS OFF FOR JUVE

Early on Juventus came flying out of the traps and pinned Real Madrid back. It was relentless from the home side but proved impossible to keep up as the Italians took a breather in the first half and were caught out by Real Madrid as Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 76th Champions League goal, overtaking Lionel Messi for the night, and despite dominating Real they only have a one-goal lead to take to Spain with them. That said, it was admirable application from Juve as their oldest outfield player, Andrea Pirlo, covered the most distance during the match. Arturo Vidal was the heartbeat of Juventus’ side as the Chilean destroyer broke up the play and allowed the likes of Alvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez to stay high and occupy the shaky Madrid backline. Tevez epitomized Juve’s workrate and the leading scorer in Serie A saw his shot parried into the path of Morata for the first and his driving run won the penalty kick, which he scored, for the second. The Argentine warrior is the perfect spearhead for Juventus’ wily side and his relentless running set the tone for a famous win for La Vecchia Signora. Tevez has now scored eight times in the Champions League this season and stole the show.

[ VIDEO: Ronaldo scores 76th UCL goal, makes history once again ]

It was all about high-pressing from Juve. There was poise to Massimiliano Allegri’s tactics. He knew his side couldn’t continue to press Real’s stars higher and higher up the pitch so Juventus switched to a back three once they went 2-1 up to give themselves more protection. It worked, as they stood off Real and dealt with long, floating balls into the box with ease.

source:
Tevez stole the show as Juventus beat Real Madrid in Turin.

AGE BEFORE BEAUTY

Juventus’ squad is ageing like a fine French wine. On Tuesday their legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffaon was 37, while Pirlo (35), Patrice Evra (33), Carlos Tevez (31), Giorgio Chiellini (30) and Stephan Lichtsteiner (31) all started and provided bags of experience. Allegri has sprinkled in the youth of Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata to balance things out this season as the Italian side clinched their fourth-straight Serie A title last weekend. On the back of that triumph that were spurred on by an incessant home crowd who were witnessing Juve’s first appearance back in the UCL semifinals since 2003. The old heads did not let the team down and even the likes of Fernando Llorente (30) and Andrea Barzagli (33) helped shore things up late on as Allegri tweaked his formation. Plus Llorente shoudl have done better with a late header he sent straight at Iker Casillas.

[ RELATED: Champions League schedule ]

With the Serie A title wrapped up, Juve’s old boys will now get plenty of rest between now and the second leg in Madrid next Wednesday. Nobody expected Juventus’ old guard to make a run to the Champions League final this season but they are 90 minutes away from achieving just that. Juve’s experience prevailed over Real’s star-power in the first leg.

BALE LOST IN HEAT OF THE BATTLE

Returning from injury for his first start in three weeks, Gareth Bale was a shadow of his usual self. As the stat above shows, he failed to make an impact in the first half and it took him until the 65th minute to produce a glimmer of quality as he cut back on his left foot in the box and clipped a cross to the back post which just evaded the onrushing Ronaldo. The 65th minute. That was as good as it got before he was substituted for Jese and the Welsh wizard had another night to forget in a Real Madrid jersey.

source: AP
Ancelotti has a lot of thinking to do ahead of the second leg.

It wasn’t just Bale who looked lost, playing in the unfamiliar role of central midfield Sergio Ramos gave the ball away time and time again as the center back was bullied into rushing passes by Vidal. With Luka Modric out injured and Sami Khedira left out of the squad due to his contract situation which will see him become a free agent in a month, Toni Kroos played slightly deeper alongside Ramos and the German playmaker sprayed the ball around superbly. However, Real’s midfield couldn’t support Ronaldo and Bale sufficiently and the balance seemed off. That’s something they have a week to tweak and get right for the second leg. Pepe could play in a true holding role and allow Kroos to roam, while Khedira could be brought in from the dark or perhaps Asier Illarramendi will be thrust onto the big stage. Carlo Ancelotti has options, but he also has a one-goal deficit to overturn.

There were moments of brilliance from Real in the first half after Ronaldo equalized. In the 40th minute a sumptuous flowing move down the left saw Isco’s overlapping run produce a cross that James Rodriguez somehow headed against the bar from four-yards out. The situation is not disastrous for Ancelotti, his side can win 1-0 at home in the second leg and go through, but Real Madrid’s manager will be a little worried after his team were bullied out of the first leg. He needs his star men, like Bale, to step up if Real’s quest to defend their UCL crown will continue.

Red-hot Rebić scores again as AC Milan tops Torino

AC Milan
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MILAN (AP) Ante Rebić kept up his scoring form to lead AC Milan to a 1-0 win over struggling Torino in Serie A on Monday.

The Croatia international beat his marker to redirect a cross from the center of the area midway through the first half at the San Siro.

The score raised Rebić’s tally to six goals and an assist in eight matches since he earned his starting spot – a move that coincided with Zlatan Ibrahimović’s return to the Rossoneri.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Bouncing back from a derby loss, Milan moved up to eighth and just beyond the Europa League places. The seven-time European champion is hoping to return to continental competition after voluntary withdrawing from this season’s Europa League to pay for UEFA financial fair play breaches.

Torino, meanwhile, lost its fifth straight, with new coach Moreno Longo still unable to turn things around in his second match in charge.

Ibrahimović narrowly missed a curling shot shortly after the break.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Simeone: Liverpool intensity “makes me admire it as a rival”

UEFA Champions League
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The UEFA Champions League returns at long last on Tuesday, and two of the greatest managers in the game will match wits for the first time.

No we’re not talking about Lucien Favre and Thomas Tuchel, the meeting of the minds in Tuesday’s other kickoff between Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain in Germany.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp will go head-to-head with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone in Spain, and the fiery German thinks it will be “absolutely interesting.”

From The Liverpool Echo:

“People say I emotional on the sideline,” Klopp said. “I am only on level 4, Diego is level 12. Really I am the kindergarten cop against him. He is so impressive after all these years, after so many years at the club – eight years. That is really long and having still this emotional level, still, wow. So impressive. I say, his teams are always organized world class.”

The admiration is mutual.

Simeone expects a huge challenge from a Liverpool team he regards on a historic plane.

“We are facing a magnificent team, really well-trained by a coach who is different and has different alternatives in his team,” he said, via The Independent. “We have always spoken about great teams throughout time and I have no doubt this Liverpool is going to go down in history as a great team because it is different to teams that we have admired. This team is much more intense, more adaptable, and it makes me admire it as a rival.”

The bettors say Liverpool is the heavy favorite in the first leg despite the match’s location at the Wanda Metropolitano. With football geniuses like Klopp and Simeone, however, either could have a plan to throw the other for a loop.

CONCACAF Champions League preview: Five MLS sides eye history

CONCACAF Champions League preview
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Once the Premier League and La Liga had taken their final bows of the day on Saturday, there felt was a particular absence, one soon-to-be filled by domestic soccer.

Yes, MLS is coming soon, and the CONCACAF Champions League is even closer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Five MLS sides begin their Round of 16 ties over the next three evenings, some with easier paths than others to elusive CCL glory.

The competition may not have burned itself onto the mainstream, lagging behind continental competitions in Europe and South America, but those who’ve embraced it (hint: this guy) love the thing.

For all the progress Major League Soccer has made in its quarter-century, it’s yet to find much success in dealing with Liga MX powers in the fight to qualify for the Club World Cup.

MLS sides have not won the competition since it was rebranded the CCL. Only three MLS sides have made the CCL final this decade, with Real Salt Lake (2011), Montreal Impact (2015), and Toronto FC (2017) all coming up short at the last step.

The CCL provides everything you love and hate about World Cup qualifying, and those dicey pitches with sometimes worse lighting mean the favorites aren’t guaranteed much.

The top half of the bracket sees three MLS teams — Montreal, Seattle, and NYCFC — and just one Liga MX side, while the bottom half gives us a Liga MX v. MLS match-up straight away.

That’s Leon v. LAFC, and it begins Tuesday night in Mexico. That tie carries the added intrigue of MLS superstar Carlos Vela bringing his act back to his home country for the first time… ever.

Bracket

Saprissa (Costa Rica) v. Montreal — 8 p.m. ET Weds.
Olimpia (Honduras) v. Seattle — 10 p.m. ET Thurs.

San Carlos (Costa Rica) v. NYCFC — 8 p.m. ET Thurs.
Alianza (El Salvador) v. UANL Tigres — 8 p.m. ET Weds.

Leon v. LAFC — 10 p.m. ET Tues.
Portmore United (Jamaica) v. Cruz Azul — 8 p.m. ET Tues.

Comunicaciones (Guatemala) v. Club America — 10 p.m. ET Weds.
Montagua (Honduras) v. Atlanta United — 10 p.m. ET Tues.

The 2 Robbies podcast: VAR carnage at Stamford Bridge

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle dissect a crazy game at Stamford Bridge that saw Chelsea on the wrong side of several VAR decisions (00:45).

The gents also recap the big moments from the weekend; Liverpool beat Norwich (18:30), Son’s late winner against Aston Villa (24:45) and Arteta‘s attackers thrash Newcastle United (30:15).

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]