The UEFA Champions League has reached the business end of the competition. It's knockout football. There is no margin for error, there can be no more slip-ups. Ahead of the round of 16 second legs, we take a closer look at how Juventus made it through the group stage and assess their chances of marching into the quarter-finals.
THE JOURNEY SO FAR
The Old Lady had no easy path ahead of them when they embarked on another Champions League adventure this season, as was made clear to them on Matchday 1 when they were held to a goalless draw at home by an excellent Sevilla side. Taking six points from Dinamo Zagreb and four from Lyon proved key as they overcame Sevilla in Spain to seal first-place in the group.
MOST EXCITING MOMENT
Vital to Juve’s progression was the 1-0 victory in Lyon, which they owed largely to a remarkable display from the ‘superhuman’ Gianluigi Buffon. He stopped an Alexandre Lacazette penalty and pulled off two astonishing saves from Nabil Fekir and Corentin Tolisso in one of the UCL’s all-time great shutouts. Juan Cuadrado then came off the bench to hit the UEFA Champions League Goal of the Week, presented by Nissan, to secure a hugely important victory.
Having already proved their mettle in Turin, Juve were well aware of the threat posed by Jorge Sampaoli’s exciting Sevilla side and arrived in Andalusia on Matchday 5 knowing this would be the game that would define the group overall. After going one down inside ten minutes, the Old Lady rallied, equalising on the stroke of half-time before a late Leonardo Bonucci strike, and even later Mario Mandzukic goal secured an excellent 3-1 victory.
Having lost Paul Pogba to Manchester United for a world record fee, Juve pressed on by making some smart signings with their windfall. The €90 million fee paid to Napoli for Gonzalo Higuain may well have raised eyebrows around the continent, but the Argentina international has provided the consistent goalscorer that Juve believe can take them to the next step in Europe. He grabbed three goals in five matches in the group stage and has proved himself capable of firing Juve to the next level.
CHANCES OF PROGRESSION
Juventus’ complete dominance of Serie A has made the UEFA Champions League all the more important. The 2014-15 runners-up are desperate for their first UCL title in more than 20 years, and are favourites to see off Porto in the round of 16, particularly after securing a vital 2-0 victory at the Dragao, ending the Portuguese's unbeaten run of six home games versus Italian opposition.