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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Free-scoring Monaco could get shackled by Juventus

Italians are masters of defence

Leonardo Bonucci of Juventus
1 of 1

Champions League semi-final first leg
BT Sport 2, 7.45 Wednesday

Monaco have been banging in the goals all season long but now comes the ultimate test of their potency against miserly Juventus, and it’s a challenge that could well be beyond them.

The French league leaders have banged in 95 goals in Ligue 1, far more than anyone else, and exactly three goals in each of their four Champions League knockout ties against Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund.

They boast in Kylian Mbappe and Radamel Falcao one of Europe’s most prolific strikeforces with 12 goals between them in this year’s competition.

Confidence in the club is sky-high and Leonardo Jardim has virtually a full-strength squad to pick from – yet they are acutely aware of the gargantuan size of the task facing them.

Juve have yet to concede a goal in their four knockout ties, two of which were against Barcelona who were sent packing 3-0 on aggregate.

They have won four and drawn one of their five away games in the Champions League and only two years ago Massimiliano Allegri’s men beat Jardim’s Monaco in the quarter-finals of this competition.

The aggregate score then was 1-0, the tie in Monaco ended 0-0, and a similarly low-scoring affair is on the cards at the Stade Louis II.

The 10-11 there are under 2.5 goals is interesting though not quite as much as the 5-4 that at least one team fail to score.

Juventus certainly won’t be going out of their way to get a goal. The Italian champions and runaway Serie A leaders have scored just 17 goals in ten European ties this year and recorded 0-0 draws against Seville and Barcelona.

They will sit back, soak up what Monaco can throw at them and look to spring the likes of Pablo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado when the chance arises. They haven’t lost any of their last two-legged ties because they know precisely how to go about them.

Mbappe and Falcao might be the toast of Ligue 1, but they are up against Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, as classy and strong a back two as you’ll find anywhere in world football.

Juventus are favourites on the night and they’ve already won in France once this season courtesy of a 1-0 success at Lyon.

But Monaco have beaten Villarreal and Spurs as well as Manchester City and Dortmund at home this season and are in the semis on merit.

They’ll have noted that when Lyon played Juventus in France the hosts got plenty of chances but just couldn’t take any of them – and Monaco are a much better side than Lyon.

Expect something cagey from two sides whose main aim is surely to still be in the tie when they go back to Turin. And Juve are masters at that.

One or both teams not to score
2pts 5-4 Betfair

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Team news
Tiemoue Bakayoko is expected to play with a broken nose. Djibril Sidibe is still out.

Sami Khedira is suspended. Defender Daniele Rugani and forward Marko Pjaca are injured.

Key stat
Juventus have kept a clean sheet in eight of their last ten Champions League matches.

Juve have yet to concede a goal in their four knockout ties, two of which were against Barcelona who were sent packing 3-0 on aggregate
E.W. Terms
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