By Julien Pretot
Juventus will be hoping to make it 11 victories out of 11 against French teams in knockout ties when they face AS Monaco in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday (9.45pm).
Juventus, who moved 15 points clear at the top of Serie A after beating second-placed Lazio 2-0 on Saturday as they close in on a fourth successive domestic crown, also have their eyes on a first Champions League semi-final appearance since 2003.
On current form they will start the match at Stade Louis II as favourites to reach the last four.
They have won all 10 of their previous knockout ties against French teams in Europe while Monaco have won only one of six ties against Italian clubs. The Ligue 1 club have also not won any of their last four home matches in any competition.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri saw his men win last week’s first leg 1-0 in Turin thanks to Arturo Vidal’s second-half penalty and they travel to Monaco seeking a third straight away win in the competition after victories at Malmo and Borussia Dortmund.
His only injury absentees are central defender Martin Caceres (ankle) and attacking midfielder Paul Pogba (thigh).
Juventus largely dominated the first leg, although Monaco did have chances of their own and went close to scoring through both Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco and Dimitar Berbatov.
But the Italians are oozing with confidence. They have won eight of their last nine matches and the only goal they have conceded in that run was when their much-changed team lost 1-0 to Serie A bottom club Parma on April 11.
But while Allegri is enjoying Juve’s good form, his Monaco counterpart Leonardo Jardim has had to watch his side stumble in recent weeks.
His immediate concern will be to work out a way to contain the Serie A side’s attacking intent without injured defensive midfielder Jeremy Toulalan.
Since winning 3-1 at Arsenal in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie on February 25, Monaco’s form has slipped.
They squeezed into the last eight of the Champions League on away goals after losing 2-0 at home to Arsenal and after failing to find the net against Juve last week, only drew 1-1 with Rennes in Ligue 1 on Saturday.
That result dented their title hopes and left Jardim frustrated with his side winning only twice in their last seven matches in all competitions.
“I am not happy. We played well in the first half and controlled the match. However, in the last 30 minutes, I saw that we were looking tired,” he said.
Unless Monaco, who are now six points behind leaders Olympique Lyon in Ligue 1, click back into gear on Wednesday and come out looking for goals from the start to secure their first Champions League semi-final appearance since 2004, their season is in real danger of fizzling out.