Juventus have the edge on away goals thanks to Ronaldos 125th Champions League goal in a 1-1 draw in Amsterdam, but Ajaxs David Neres ensured the teams will start on a knife-edge in Turin in a repeat of the 1973 and 1996 finals.
2 in, 2 out? Juventus injury updates ahead of Ajax
Juventus have put their bid to wrap up an eighth consecutive Serie A title on the back burner as they focus on their European ambitions.
Massimiliano Allegri lined out with a young squad against lowly SPAL on Saturday and the champions fell to a 2-1 defeat when a point would have sufficed for another Scudetto.
“The Scudetto will come sooner or later,” said Allegri, whose side hold a 17-point lead on second-placed Napoli with six games left.
However, as weve seen in both Italy and Europe this season, this is not a Juve team that instinctively goes for the jugular – last months 4-1 victory over Udinese remains the only time this campaign theyve scored more than three goals in a game.
“If we had put all our starters in, it would have been easier to win it, but there is the goal to obtain on Tuesday.”
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Juventus have won the Champions League twice, most recently in 1996 when they beat Ajax in the final.
In that instance, Ronaldo ultimately rode to the rescue – as he did time and time again for Real; this seasons second-leg hat-trick wasnt even a first for the forward, who hit a Bernabeu treble against Wolfsburg back in the quarters in 2016.
Four-time winners Ajax won their third consecutive title in 1973 at the expense of Juventus, last lifting the trophy in 1995.
Ronaldo was rested at the weekend along with regulars Leonardo Bonucci, Blaise Matuidi, Alex Sandro, Mario Mandzukic and Miralem Pjanic.
Teenager Moise Keans fine form continued with the 19-year-old scoring his sixth goal in as many games.
Captain Giorgio Chiellini, however, remains a doubt with the 34-year-old defender recovering from a calf injury, with Daniele Rugani a possible replacement.
The 34-year-old was signed for 100 million euros ($117 million) last summer, and pocketed an annual 31 million-euro salary to help Juventus win a competition they have finished runners-up in a record seven times, most recently in 2015 and 2017.
Ronaldo has played a leading role in all of his five previous European triumphs, including with the tie-clinching, 97th-minute penalty for Real Madrid against Juventus last season in the quarters.
He has scored five goals this campaign, one against Manchester United and a hat-trick which rescued Juventus in the last 16, second leg against Atletico, before returning from injury to score against Ajax.
The club, who are captained by 19-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt, spent a reported club-record 45 million euros last summer on new signings to bolster their Champions League hopes.
Defensive midfielder Daley Blind arrived from Manchester United, and forward Dusan Tadic from Southampton, to provide leadership for a young squad where the average age is 24 years.
Ajaxs strike-force of 22-year-old Neres, Dusan Tadic and Hakim Ziyech have proven effective this season.
Veteran Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, 35, also hit form with a hat-trick in a 6-2 win over Excelsior in the Dutch league at the weekend.
Neres stole the limelight with his seventh goal in eight games against Juventus in Amsterdam, but Barcelona-bound De Jong was outstanding in midfield.
Ajax overturned a 2-1 home defeat by Real Madrid to oust the three-time holders with a stunning 4-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu to reach their first quarter-final since 2003.
While Juve are looking to reach a third semi-final in five seasons, Ajax have not made it to the last four since 1997.
The winners would go through to a semi-final against the winners of the all-English tie between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
Douglas Costa picked up a calf injury and is not expected to be back in time for the game while Daniele Rugani is expected to be fit for the match.
What can we expect from Juventus in this game? In what has been a season of ups and downs for the Bianconeri, its hard to predict how they will do in the second leg of the tie. Juve has looked like an absolute world beater one week, only to look like a disinterested, mismatched squad the very next. We do know this, though: If they want to keep the Champions League dream alive, Juve will have to come out guns blazing against a very good Ajax squad.
Both players missed the first-leg of Juve’s Champions League quarter-final against Ajax in Amsterdam which ended in a 1-1 draw.
Another April, another month where a bunch of Juventus players are besieged by nagging injuries. At this point is hard to remember that last season where in the thick of the season the club had a full, fit, healthy squad.
The most important pieces missing in last Wednesdays first leg were midfielder Emre Can and captain Giorgio Chiellini. Both did not play against SPAL and reports suggest they are making good progress to be back for Tuesday. Getting Chiellini back would be especially massive as Daniele Rugani is slated to fill in for the captain. Look, I like Rugani and all, but there is no way I feel super confident starting the youngster in a crucial Champions League game, especially alongside Leonardo Bonucci, who is not nearly the physical presence a guy like Chiellini can be.
Can is also a doubt, while his inclusion would be great, Im more encouraged by the performance from Rodrigo Bentancur filling in for him last week. Bentancur is capable of incredible displays, so while Can is probably the more solid contributor, I wouldnt be terribly upset to see the Uruguayan kid make the start.
Mattia Perin suffered a right shoulder injury in training today and won’t make the squad for Ajax.
Douglas Costa, a super sub in the first game if Ive ever seen one is also a doubt, with conflicting reports saying he will be ready to go and others that say he wont. It would be nice to have the Brazilian dynamo ready to go, but he was not slated to start, a luxury more than anything else. Cristiano Ronaldo was still visibly not 100% in the first tie, recovering from an injury he picked up in international duty, but hopefully an extra week of recovery will be all he needs to be his usual self.
For Ajax, Frenkie de Jong picked up an injury during the weekend, limping off the field after limited minutes in the Dutch league. IF he were unable to play in the deciding match it would be a massive blow for the visitors, who will also be without Nicolas Tagliafico due to a suspension.
Injuries could end up playing a big role in the coming match, as they always do, but de Jong and Chiellini are by far the most crucial ones. Missing those guys changes the entire game for their squads, keep an eye out on those two players when lineups are announced.
A rather bizarre development for Juventus last few seasons has been their continuous problems playing against teams that deploy a high press style of football.
Every team, from Tottenham Hotspurs to freakin Genoa has given Juve fits when pressing high, and Ajax has been no different.
The first tie was mostly dictated by the home side as Juve struggled to generate any type of build up against their press. If Ajax comes out with a similar strategy Bonucci, Joao Cancelo and Miralem Pjanic will be crucial to make the right passes and play calmly under duress to break out of Ajaxs press. If not, we are going to have a white-knuckle game in our hands, because Ajax is not afraid to go at anybody. On that note…
The most in-form striker in the squad, coming off another goal scoring performance against SPAL, Moise Kean is quickly becoming an important part of the team in the closing months. While getting the start against SPAL, he only played 60 minutes, prompting some folks to speculate if he was scheduled to play minutes mid-week.
I dont think its that far fetched to think he could be in the starting 11, but I still think Max Allegri will go with the ol reliable AKA Mario Mandzukic. Despite that, this game could be great for the young Kean, his pace and physicality is exactly what Juve will need to fight off the high press that Ajax employs and — I cannot stress this enough — the kid scores, ALL THE TIME.
With Costa ailing, I would not be shocked if he was used as a sub as he was in the return leg against Atletico. Hopefully he proves to be the difference maker once more.
I cannot mention enough how good this Ajax team is. They play care free, dangerous attacking football. They play with goddamn panache and I could not be a bigger fan of their squad. You can say whatever you want about Real Madrids form this season, but its not easy to walk into that stadium and wreck them the way Ajax did.
Still, Juve is the favorite and for good reason, top to bottom they have more talent and more experience than the young Dutch upstarts. Closing the tie at home, with that key away goal in their back pocket. So, yes, they should by all intents and purposes walk out of the Allianz Stadium with the semifinal ticket in hand.
But football is unpredictable and knockout rounds always led themselves to unpredictability. Ajax is coming in with nothing to lose and will give the Bianconeri everything they can handle. I predict an even match that ends up with the home side edging by the visitors and securing a semifinal spot.