Rome: Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted on Saturday that his side can still qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals despite being 2-0 down after the first leg of their last 16 clash with Atletico Madrid.
Atletico have been one of European football’s toughest sides in the last nine years, during which they have won three Europa Leagues and — like Allegri’s Juve — reached and lost two Champions League finals.
Wednesday’s defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium made a big dent in Juve’s European ambitions as they chase their first Champions League since 1996. “One thing is certain, we will be ready on March 12 and we have a real chance of qualifying,” Allegri told a press conference ahead of Serie A leaders’ league game against Bologna on Sunday.
“I don’t know if we’ll qualify, but we must do everything to make it happen.
“We need time to prepare everything a little at a time, step by step, like a bottle of water slowly filling up.”
Allegri defended star striker Cristiano Ronaldo amid criticism of his below-par performance in Madrid and his reaction to goading from Atleti fans following the defeat.
The Portuguese superstar, who moved to Juventus from Real Madrid in a mega money summer deal, waved five fingers at reporters and said “I’ve won five Champions Leagues and these guys zero” after Wednesday’s loss.
Diego Simeone, meanwhile, has apologised for clutching his genitals to celebrate during their win over Juventus. After the match, Simeone said his gesture, directed towards the crowd at the Wanda Metropolitano after Jose Gimenez scored Atletico’s opener, was to recognise the courage shown in their victory.
But at a press conference on Saturday, the Argentinian expressed regret for his behaviour.
“I don’t look for excuses, I just want to apologise for what I did during the match,” Simeone said.
“To the people who have been offended by the gesture, which was clearly a bad way to express what I felt about my players and was in no way directed at Juventus.”