Juventus.com examines how Real Madrid are expected to play against Antonio Conte's men tomorrow evening at Juventus Stadium
With seven goals so far, principal Real Madrid attacking threat Cristiano Ronaldo is the team and also the competition's leading scorer. He now finds himself just one strike away from the Champions League group stage record of eight in a season, held jointly by Ruud van Nistelrooy (2004/05), Filippo Inzaghi and Hernán Crespo (both 2002/03).
But it’s not just this year that he has been prolific in Europe: the Portugal captain was the 12-goal top scorer in the 2012/13 Champions League and has found the net 26 times in his last 21 matches in the competition.
Los Blancos’ most potent creative threat in Europe has been Angel di Maria, who is the competition’s joint-leading provider of assists with four. But now that Gareth Bale has recovered from injury and is beginning to start regularly, the Welshman has weighed in with four assists of his own in the last two domestic games.
The defence has been the area of the Real team that Carlo Ancelotti has altered most regularly in the Champions League. In the meeting with Juve, the back line was much-changed from the one which lined up against FC Copenhagen: Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal started against the Danes, whereas Sergio Ramos and Alvaro Arbeloa came in alongside the more permanent fixtures of Pepe and Marcelo for the clash with the Bianconeri.
As far as the midfield is concerned, Asier Illarramendi started rather than Isco in the last game against Juve, a decision which seems to have been intended to give a more solid defensive presence in the central area.
Providing the creative counterbalance has been Luca Modric. While the Croatian struggled to find form for the club initially after his move from Tottenham, in the absence of the injured Xabi Alonso (who has however now returned to the squad) he has recently become the most important driving force in the midfield, starting all three games in the Champions League.
In goal, Iker Casillas has lined up from kick off in every European game despite Diego Lopez generally being preferred in La Liga.
The talents possessed by the two teams facing up to each other tomorrow night have also been recognised by FIFA: while Andrea Pirlo has been nominated for the 2014 Ballon d'Or and Antonio Conte is on the shortlist for the World Coach of the Year on the Juventus side, Bale and Ronaldo also figure for Real as well as their coach Ancelotti joining Conte in the running for the managerial award.