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It’s a showdown worthy of any major final as two of Europe’s superpowers collide in the last four of the Peace Cup.

Kick-off: Friday, July 31 2009, 20:30 CET.
Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville

Juve Got Rhythm

After a wobbly start in their pre-season programme that included a few uninspiring draws, Juventus have exploded to life in the Peace Cup.

They have easily been the most impressive team in the competition thus far, dispensing with hosts Sevilla 2-1 in the opening game before strolling past South Korea's Seongnam Ilhwa 3-0 in the second match.

Real Madrid, however, are expected to put up a much more significant fight, both in defence and (especially) in attack. There has been no love lost between these two behemoths down the years, and this could be anything but a peaceful pre-season clash.

Prior to the start of the tournament, coach Ciro Ferrara pleaded for his side to be given time to gel following some vital acquisitions in the summer transfer market, most notably in midfield. But the Bianconeri showed plenty of defensive organisation against Sevilla and attacking cohesion against Seongnam to suggest that they are now gradually putting the pieces of the jigsaw together. 

The victor of this clash will be hot favourites to go on and lift the title on Sunday, with the prospect of facing either Aston Villa or FC Porto in the final.

Too Soon?

Real Madrid captain Raul confessed that this blockbuster has arrived too soon for his side, who are still frantically trying to find their own rhythm - and rightly so. Admittedly, the ‘Men in White’ have played fewer warm-up friendlies compared to Juve, with the 1-0 win over Shamrock Rovers being their only match prior to the start of this competition.

Coach Manuel Pellegrini, meanwhile, stressed that the team is indeed still looking for the most suitable playing style and system based around the superstars he has at his disposal. And, chances are, he will continue to mix things up, so their performance could yet again be inconsistent.

Madrid would also have been busy spending the past two days working on their set-piece defending, a weakness that has already been cruelly exposed in their two group fixtures against Al-Ittihad and LDU Quito. And if they thought they were heavily punished then, Juventus could send them to a whole new world of pain altogether.

But a clash against a big gun in pre-season will be extremely useful for the Merengues, and Pellegrini will no doubt focus on the performance rather than the result to gauge how much work still needs to be done.

PRE-SEASON FORM GUIDE

Juventus

Jul 28 Juventus 3-0 Seongnam (PEACE CUP)

Jul 24 Sevilla 1-2 Juventus (PEACE CUP)

Jul 21 Juventus 1-1 Vicenza (FRIENDLY)

Jul 19 AS Nancy 1-1 Juventus (FRIENDLY)

Jul 15 Juventus 4-1 AS Cisco Roma (FRIENDLY)

Real Madrid

Jul 28 Real Madrid 4-2 LDU Quito (PEACE CUP)

Jul 26 Real Madrid 1-1 Al-Ittihad (PEACE CUP)

Jul 20 Shamrock Rovers 0-1 Real Madrid (FRIENDLY)

TEAM NEWS

Juventus

Claudio Marchisio is still recovering from acute pharyngitis and he had to train separately from the group. Also doing isolated work-outs is Jonathan Zebina, who is suffering from fatigue, but he is expected to be back to full fitness come kick-off.

Felipe Melo should have regained his full fitness now to earn a place in the starting berth, while Alessandro Del Piero and Amauri, rested against Seongnam, look set to be reinstated. Momo Sissoko and Paolo De Ceglie are still out with their respective long-term ailments.

Probable Starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon – Zebina, Cannavaro, Chiellini, Molinaro – Camoranesi, Melo, Tiago – Diego – Del Piero, Amauri    

Real Madrid

Pellegrini has summoned the same 20-man squad for this clash, with Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Raul Albiol, Kaka and new signing Alvaro Arbeloa all remaining in the capital to regain match fitness following their holidays.

Mahamadou Diarra, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ezequiel Garay are all also unfit and will miss out, but Arjen Robben and Karim Benzema, both of whom picked up knocks against LDU, have made the cut. Gabriel Heinze is already on his way to Marseille, while Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar have been omitted for technical reasons.

Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Dudek – Torres, Pepe, Metzelder, Marcelo – Ronaldo, Lass, Gago, Granero – Benzema, Raul

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Juventus

Juve’s answer to Kaka, Diego, made a stunning debut for his new employers against Seongnam with a spectacular solo effort. The Brazilian playmaker is widely regarded as the man who can help take the Old Lady back to the pinnacle of world football, and he will be out to prove that in this tournament. Also keep an eye on Fabio Cannavaro as he reunites with a few old friends. 

Real Madrid

Esteban Granero may not be one of the club’s Galactico signings, but he has slotted seamlessly into the side following his homecoming just a week ago. Pellegrini has already hinted that ‘El Pirata’ will be given a chance to start, and the 22-year-old will be eager to grab the bull by the horns and continue to impress.

PREDICTION

With Juventus expected to sit back and absorb the pressure, Madrid will be able to enjoy the majority of possession. But it’s what they do with the ball when they are dominating that will determine the outcome.

If Los Blancos do not tighten up their rearguard significantly, La Vecchia Signora will not hesitate to pounce and finish them off, just as they did last season in the Champions League.

If the Galacticos on the pitch suddenly hit their stride and connect perfectly, Juve could be in for a busy evening. But at this point of the season, the Serie A giants just appear to be one step ahead of their Spanish counterparts, and that should be enough to tip this game their way.

Juventus 1-0 Real Madrid

KS Leong, Goal.com

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