Juventus eye Champions League upset against title holders Real Madrid
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Serie A champions Juventus take on Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday looking to once again stamp their authority on European football.
Massimiliano Allegri's side sealed their fourth straight league triumph with a 1-0 win at Sampdoria on Saturday, but the celebrations were muted, with everyone at the club aware of the importance of the two upcoming matches with the Spanish giants.
"For various reasons we can't celebrate the title the way we have on other occasions, because the importance of Tuesday's game is undeniable," admitted Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini.
Last year Juve crashed out embarrassingly in the group stages of the Champions League, before going on to lose a Europa League semi-final with Benfica.
The previous season they were taken apart 4-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals by eventual European champions Bayern Munich.
They go into the semi-final seen by most as the weakest side left in the competition, and Madrid have a team of superstars of the sort that Juve would have once had.
Juve also had a favourable draw in the knockout stages, playing -- and destroying -- a stuttering Borussia Dortmund in the second round and the mediocre French side Monaco in the quarters.
Should they get by Madrid they would face either Barcelona or Bayern.
All three sides are a considerable step above the sides they are used to taking on, but with the Madrid clash coming at a time when Italian football is looking to re-establish itself on the European stage after years in the doldrums, Juve are hoping to lead a long-overdue Italian renaissance.
"We're very happy for what we've done, and for some of the football we've played, in particular at Dortmund," said Allegri on Saturday.
"In life you always need to learn and improve. We're in the semis of the Champions League and we have Napoli and Fiorentina playing in the Europa League semis, so I think that our league is improving."
A win, also, will be further vindication for Allegri, who arrived at Juventus in a shower of spit and eggs launched by fans livid with his appointment as the replacement for the beloved Antonio Conte.
He has long since won over everyone at the club, including club chairman Andrea Agnelli.
"Taking this team in hand and getting it to win again takes balls," Agnelli said on Twitter on Saturday night.
"Thank you Max."