Juventus ready to finish Porto off in Champions League action
"We're on the edge of madness, lads, in Italy we're on the edge of madness."
It takes a lot for Massimiliano Allegri to get angry off the pitch, but the controversy surrounding Juventus and their win against AC Milan has resulted in endless debates and rather unfortunate incidents leading to Allegri's frustration.
Fans and critics across the peninsula have been mocking and attacking the Old Lady, confirming the club's status as the country's most-hated club. Fans in the Stadio San Paolo held a banner aloft that read 'Penalty to Juve' in Napoli's match against Crotone, while every journalist has voiced an opinion on the matter.
Juventus won their match against Milan in the final moments of the game when they were awarded a generous penalty. It's difficult not to sympathise with the Rossoneri fans who felt their young squad was duly shafted. Juve did of course have the most important decision go their way, but the more reasonable amongst us would also point out that Carlos Bacca's goal was offside and, more importantly, that Juventus were simply better on the night -- something that cannot always be said in matches between the two teams.
There comes a time where one must admit good teams will win regardless of what decisions go against them. Juventus deserved victory at home against the Rossoneri in much the same way PSG deserved to be thrashed for their poor approach to the match against Barcelona.
Perhaps the introduction of technology will go some way in to introducing a sense of peace to Serie A, but until then Juventus must not get distracted by all the drama and channel their frustration into winning their second leg Champions League tie against FC Porto on Tuesday evening.
The Portuguese side are second in the league and only two points off the top of their domestic table. Since their defeat to Juve, they went on to win each of their next three matches, scoring 12 goals and conceding none in the process. In brilliant form, Porto should be keen to prove they have what it takes to stage a comeback worthy of the Champions League, yet their unenthusiastic responses to reporters who cited Barcelona as possible source of inspiration for Tuesday evening hardly roused the fans.
"Are we inspired by Barcelona's comeback against Paris Saint-Germain? It's different, we have a different game and a different opponent," explained Nuno Espirito Santo.
Boasting a formidable goalkeeper in Iker Casillas and one of Europe's most exciting strikers in Andre Silva, a player who was brought to tears when he was substituted off in their first leg due to Alex Telles' red card, Porto are a tough team to beat.
We have seen how poorly Juventus can play when they arrive at a match high on arrogance and low on intensity. It's vital they play this match with total commitment, not sitting back and relying on the fact they hold a two-goal advantage. While many laud the Bianconeri backline that has conceded the fewest goals in the competition this season, those who watch them on a regular basis are aware that they are susceptible to mistakes.
If Porto really want to create problems then they will play with pace, overwhelming the side that has proved weak in coping with speedy players. It is perhaps for this reason that Allegri is still contemplating who will play alongside Claudio Marchisio in midfield. It will either be the creative Miralem Pjanic, whose presence unleashes Paulo Dybala -- allowing him to stay further up field -- or the more defensively capable Sami Khedira, who can provide timely runs forward but also ensure safety in defence.
Pjanic was especially important in the first leg, as he dropped back and help create play from the back in Leonardo Bonucci's absence. But with Bonucci set to start the match in Tuesday, Pjanic may well be rested.
Who Allegri chooses to play in midfield should impact the forwards he plans to play. Set to deploy the 4-2-3-1 formation, it's likely Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado will take their place in the starting lineup again, but if Khedira and Marchisio do play in midfield together, do Juve really need the hard-working Mandzukic, or should they rely on the more technical Marko Pjaca?
The young Croatian scored a terrific goal in the first leg. While he tends to drift in and out of games, he offers acceleration, technique and the ability to dribble past defenders. While Pjaca is guilty of squandering several goal-scoring opportunities, consistency and continuity may well help him to be more efficient. Mandzukic runs relentlessly and sacrifices endlessly, but he barely made an impact against Porto in the first leg. Perhaps Pjaca can bring more to Juve's attacking game.
Whoever Allegri opts to deploy will need to play with humility and intensity, as this is Juve's most important match of the season so far. Only victory will satisfy the ambitious club.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.