Juventus’ Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon smiles during a press conference at the “Louis II Stadium” in Monaco on May 2, 2017 on the eve of their UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match against Monaco. FRANCK FIFE / AFP
Veteran Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is hopeful the experience in the Italian team’s ranks can give them the edge in their Champions League semi-final against a youthful Monaco.
The sides meet at the Stade Louis II in the first leg on Wednesday in a fascinating clash of styles — on the one side Europe’s most thrilling attack, on the other the continent’s best defence.
Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco have won admirers for a brand of attacking football that has brought them almost 150 goals across all competitions and has them on the brink of winning the French title.
They have scored three goals in each of their four knockout matches so far, eliminating Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund to make the semi-finals for the first time since 2004.
Juve, in contrast, have not conceded a goal in the knockout rounds, shutting out Barcelona’s front line of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar in both legs in the quarter-finals.
They also have recent memories of beating the principality side, prevailing 1-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals in 2015.
“I think over the two matches, 180 minutes, experience will play into our hands. They have youth and the insouciance that comes with it. I remember when I was young having that feeling of being indestructible,” Buffon, 39, told reporters at the Stade Louis II on Tuesday.
“Monaco are a daring team, they like to attack and they do it very well. Their coach has an attacking philosophy and their players have scored an avalanche of goals this season.
“We have complete respect for them, but whatever happens tomorrow (Wednesday) it will be open for the return because they are always dangerous.”
Buffon, whose contract runs out next year, is approaching 150 European games but has still not won the Champions League, losing two finals.
Juventus appear as well equipped as at any point in Buffon’s time at the club to lift the trophy this year, with the winner of this tie going through to a final against Atletico Madrid or Real Madrid.
The Turin side, who could wrap up a sixth successive Serie A title this weekend, are without the suspended Sami Khedira so Claudio Marchisio is set to start in midfield.
“They score lots of goals, lots of goals late in games too. Their numbers speak for themselves. To get to the final we will need to produce two great performances,” said coach Massimiliano Allegri.
– ‘Winning culture’ –
Monaco have twice lost to Italian opposition in past semi-finals as well as being edged out by Juve in the last eight two years ago, although much has changed in the two squads since then.
Above all, Jardim’s side, led by captain and top scorer Radamel Falcao and with teen sensation Kylian Mbappe attracting the most attention, are much stronger.
They look set to see off Paris Saint-Germain to win a first French title since 2000, with just two wins from their last four Ligue 1 games likely to suffice.
But Jardim, who has been linked with the Juve job in the event that Allegri one day moves on, hinted that this is probably the toughest test they have faced all season.
“Everyone knows this Juventus team. They have a great winning culture, they are very strong defensively, well organised, but also very strong going forward,” said the Portuguese coach.
“They are totally different to the other sides we have faced. When they are in position defensively it is very hard to break them down.”
Monaco, who have won their last 13 home games, are waiting to see if midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko will be fit enough to play after he broke his nose in training.
“We are waiting for a new mask to arrive and we will see if it works ok,” said Jardim, who has Joao Moutinho ready to come into the midfield if needed.