Turin: Juventus’s Champions League hopes are hanging on Cristiano Ronaldo pulling off another sensational comeback as the Italians trail 2-0 to defensive specialists Atletico Madrid going into the last 16, second-leg tie in Turin on Tuesday.
“We didn’t expect to lose the first leg 2-0, but anything can happen, and we want to give a great response in our home, in front of our fans,” Ronaldo said ahead of the game in the Allianz Stadium.
“These are the great nights, the fantastic ones: the Champions League nights. The team is confident of playing a great game and I am too. To the fans I say: think positive, let’s believe. Get ready to come back.”
The seven-time reigning Italian champions bought Ronaldo last summer from Real Madrid for 100 million euros (Dh413 million) to end their Champions League heartbreak going back 23 years.
The 34-year-old’s stunning overhead kick for Real in the quarter-finals in Turin last April had dumped Juventus out of the tournament once again.
Expectations are high that he can reproduce his improbable hat-trick which lifted Real Madrid past Wolfsburg in April 2016 with the Spaniards 2-0 down to the Germans after the first leg.
Juventus have come from behind in the elite European competition eight times — including in the 1996 quarter-finals against Real Madrid on their way to winning the title.
They also lifted the European trophy in 1985, but have finished runners-up five times since their last success, including twice in the past four years.
“CR7 is here for that,” wrote Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport, of “a game Cristiano cannot get wrong.”
“He wasn’t signed to win the Scudetto or to boost merchandising, Juve are waiting to end years of disappointments.”
The problem for Juventus is they need to score at least twice against a team that specialises in defence.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico — second in La Liga — have not conceded a goal for five games.
“Everyone knows that they are a strong team, they defend very well, they don’t take a lot of risks and they play on the counter-attack, but we are ready, and we will do everything we can to beat them,” said Ronaldo, who has scored 22 goals against Atletico.
“The fine details will make the difference, and we want to win and qualify for the quarter-finals.”