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Sports

Juventus face Champions League exit

media Cristiano Ronaldo won the Champions League four times at Real Madrid. AFP/Marco Bertorello

Juventus entertain Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night at the Allianz Stadium confronting a doughty opponent and the unthinkable: early elimination from the Champions League after having splashed out 100 million euros for the predatory skills of Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Turin giants are 18 points clear of second placed Napoli and closing in on their eighth consecutive Serie A crown.

But such domestic dominance has not furnished them with comparable success in European club football's most prestigious tournament.

They are seeking their first triumph in the competition since 1996. There have been near misses. Juventus lost in the 2015 and 2017 finals to Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

And it could be another Spanish club that accounts for their aspirations in 2019 after losing the first leg 2-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Struggle

Despite the advantage, Atletico boss Diego Simeone said his players would have to work hard for their place in the last eight.

"These are two different matches, the first leg and second leg. We'll have to seize all the opportunities and do our best," said Simeone. "We'll have less space than in the first leg.

"These are two strong teams. One will go through and the other won't. It's hard to talk about there being favourites."

All eyes will inevitably be focused on Ronaldo. The Portuguese star featured in
Real Madrid's two victories in Champions League finals over Atletico in 2014 and 2016. He also won the trophy in 2017 and 2018 before leaving for Juventus.

But, said Simeone, there was more to Juventus than Ronaldo.

"You can't just talk about him," said the Argentine. "Juventus are a great team with top players who are used to fighting important battles and are very strong in defence."

After the exploits of Manchester United and Ajax in the second leg of their last 16 ties, Atletico midfielder Koke said he and his teammates were ready for a fight.

"Anything can happen in the Champions League," said the Spain international. "A lot will depend on how we start the game. Juventus will certainly attack in every possible way. We're ready to do battle."

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