Juve will still qualify, insists Real's Ancelotti
Madrid coach full of praise for Italians after 2-2 draw
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti believes Juventus will overcome the threat of group B rivals FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray to qualify with the Spaniards for Champions League’s last 16.
The Italian champions are still without a win after four games but produced arguably their best performance of this season’s competition to hold the Spanish giants to a 2-2 draw in Turin on Tuesday.
With 10 points and games against Galatasaray at home and away to FC Copenhagen, Real have reinforced top spot and are virtually qualified for the last 16 knockout phase.
Juventus dropped to last but Copenhagen’s 1-0 home win over Galatasaray on Tuesday means Antonio Conte’s men now trail the Turks and the Danes by just one point ahead of hosting the Danes and then travelling to Istanbul.
Juventus held a 1-0 lead at the break after Arturo Vidal smashed a penalty past Iker Casillas.
The Spaniards took their game up a notch after the interval and took the lead inside eight second-half minutes thanks to goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and fellow striker Gareth Bale, the Welshman striking on the hour mark.
However Juve came fighting back and levelled three minutes later when Spain forward Fernando Llorente beat Casillas with a bouncing header following Martin Caceres’s cross from the right.
Although Juve rode their luck for the remainder, Ancelotti, who spent a largely unsuccessful two seasons in Turin before a far more successful spell at AC Milan, believes Juve have the clout to qualify for the last 16.
“Juventus have a solid team and a strong squad with top talent, I think in the end they will qualify from the group with us,” said Ancelotti, who gave special mentions to several Juve players.
The skills of French midfielder Paul Pogba created all sorts of problems for Real and forced their back four to defend deeper than they would have liked.
A sublime shot-cum-cross with the outside of his right foot caused panic in Real’s six-yard box in the first half, when midfielder Claudio Marchisio also came close with a back post header.
And throughout the night, the 20-year-old Frenchman, who joined Juve on a free transfer from Manchester United prior to last season, showed why he is regarded as one of the hottest properties on the European market.
“I think the problem in the first half was Pogba and Marchisio, they gave us a few problems and we defended too deeply,” added Ancelotti.
“The second half was totally different. We came out and put more pressure on them, played further up the pitch and had much far possession.”
If not for the skills of Real goalkeeper Casillas, Juve could have secured their first win of the campaign and been sitting in second place behind the Spaniards.
Ancelotti admitted: “Casillas produced two great saves in first half. We’re lucky to have such a top ’keeper. He shows up to play and that is a mark of a true professional.”
It has left Juventus lamenting earlier lapses in the campaign – an unconvincing 1-1 draw away to FC Copenhagen and the 2-2 draw they conceded late in their previous home match against Galatasaray.
Conte, however, hailed his side’s “extraordinary” performance and has called for a similar display at home against FC Copenhagen on November 27. A win would be crucial if Juve are to travel to Istanbul in confident mood.
“It was an extradordinary performance,” said the Italian.
“In the first half I saw a lot of quality and precision and we could have had a bigger lead half-time.
“I was especially pleased the heads didn’t go down when we went 2-1 behind, and then we levelled.
“Now we need to beat Copenhagen at home and then play for everything against Galatasaray.”