March 11, 2019 / 3:38 AM / 9 days ago

Soccer: Allegri in his element as he plots Juventus comeback

(Reuters) - Juventus supporters hope coach Massimiliano Allegri can pull one of his surprises out of the hat as their team attempt to overturn a 2-0 deficit at home to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday.

Soccer Football - Serie A - Juventus v Udinese - Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy - March 8, 2019 Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri before the match REUTERS/Massimo Pinca/Files

Although he was outsmarted by his opposite number Diego Simeone in the first leg, when three quickfire substitutions knocked Juve off balance, Allegri has often been in his element when he is apparently on the back foot.

“The more complicated it is, the more I enjoy it,” he said after Friday’s 4-1 win over Udinese by his Serie A leaders. “If I have to think up something new, I prefer it that way.”

Only nine teams have ever overcame a two-goal deficit in the Champions League knockout stages, with Manchester United becoming the first to do it away from home when they won 3-1 against Paris St Germain on Wednesday.

On the eight occasions it has been achieved by a home team, only three have managed it without an away goal in the bag.

Juve will also be up against one of the competition’s best-organised defences and Allegri will be without two full backs because Mattia De Sciglio is injured and Alex Sandro suspended.

He also needs to make sure Cristiano Ronaldo is not starved of service as he has been in some recent games.

THREE-MAN DEFENCE

One possibility, Allegri said after the Udinese game, would be to switch to a three-man defence. That would probably include Martin Cacares, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.

Joao Cancelo and Federico Bernardeschi would likely play on the flanks, with Miralem Pjanic organising the midfield and Blaise Matuidi and Emre Can offering a more physical presence while Mario Mandzukic would partner Ronaldo in attack.

“A three-man backline is a possible solution,” said Allegri. “But we will need to read the game because it could take 120 minutes.”

Another formation, according to Italian media, would feature Caceres and Cancelo as full backs in a four-man defence with Bonucci and Chiellini in the centre.

Can, Pjanic and Matuidi would form a three-man midfield with Mandzukic, Ronaldo and Bernardeschi in attack.

As with the previous option, that would mean no place for playmaker Paulo Dybala. The Argentine would only likely be used in the 4-2-3-1 option which could see Pjanic on the bench.

Can and Matudi would play in front of the defence, with Dybala as the playmaker, Mandzukic and Bernardeschi on either side of the Argentine and Ronaldo in attack.

Whatever the outcome, Allegri has been keen to play down the importance of the tie amid suggestions that, having signed Ronaldo from Real Madrid, anything less than the Champions League title this season would be considered a failure.

“The Champions League has always been an objective but it is wrong to say that it’s a failure if Juventus go out,” he said.

“I find that laughable... it’s just a football match. If we go through then that’s great, if not then we’ll try again next year.”

Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris

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