Free-scoring Monaco face Italian giants Juventus in the semifinal of the Champions League. After beating Borussia Dortmund, can they knock out the Old Lady and reach a first final since 2004?After disposing of Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinal, Monaco now welcome Juventus to the Stade Louis II for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final – a tie which pits a youthful attack against an experienced defense.
The French league leaders have scored an incredible 146 goals in all competitions so far this season and boast some of Europe’s most exciting young prospects as they look to make it to a first Champions League final since losing to Jose Mourinho’s Porto in 2004.
Monaco scored eleven times against Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund in the last two rounds and teenage sensation Kylian Mbappé has scored 24 goals in all competition. The 18-year-old has found the net 18 times in his last 18 appearances but faces his sternest test yet against Juve center-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, plus veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon – who was part of the Italy squad at the 1998 World Cup in France before Mbappé was even born.
Buffon was also in goal for Juventus’ last two final appearances, defeat on penalties against AC Milan in Manchester in 2003 and, most recently, a 3-1 loss to Barcelona in Berlin in 2015.
The Italians have equaled the best defensive record in Champions League history in reaching the last-four this year, conceding only two goals while shutting out Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez over two legs.
But it would wrong to label Italy’s “Old Lady” as a purely defensive outfit. Striker Gonzalo Higuain has scored 29 goals this season (although he hasn’t scored in a Champions League knock-out tie for four years) while the dynamic Paulo Dybala has been directly involved in 25 goals in his role just behind the striker.
And for all Monaco’s attacking riches, they have also shipped 18 goals in this season’s competition. They lost 5-3 to Manchester City having led 3-1 and could have conceded more than three over the two legs against Dortmund. They also suffered heavy defeats to PSG in the league cup final (1-4) and Coupe de France semifinal (5-0).
It’s unlikely that Juventus will simply try to outscore Monaco in the way that City and Dortmund did. Rather, expect a more refined, disciplined performance from a team which, despite the departures of Aruto Vidal, Paul Pogba and Carlos Tevez, is arguably better equipped than ever to win a third European Cup.