Juventus coach Antonio Conte is ready to see what his team are made of as they prepare for a potentially pivotal Champions League tie with Real Madrid on Wednesday.
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After drawing their first two games, the double-header with Madrid will go a long way in determining which two sides will emerge from Group B.
A year ago, Juve were in a similar situation, which became even more complicated with a draw at Nordsjaelland on matchday three. However, they then won their last three games to top the group, eliminating Celtic in the last 16, before going down to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals.
“It’s a massive test for us,” Conte, whose side have been held by both Copenhagen and Galatasaray, told UEFA’s official website. “We’re facing a club who really want this title, because of their history and their hunt for a tenth European Cup.
“I think it will be a nice challenge for us to go and measure ourselves up to them at the Santiago Bernabeu as well as at home. It will tell us how well we are developing. We’ve got a year’s experience under our belts and that’s very important for a lot of our players who were playing in the Champions League for the first time last season.”
Conte himself was also experiencing something of a learning curve, witnessing the competition for the first time as a coach.
Few, however, have as much experience of the tournament as Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti -- a coach of Conte's during his playing days at Juventus.
“Carlo coached me for two years and they were two really beautiful, intense years. It’s going to be very curious to meet him as a coach. It means he’s getting older -- and me too,” Conte said.
While Juventus have claimed back-to-back Serie A titles over the past two years, they are finding life in the division more competitive this time around -- currently sitting third behind Roma and Napoli.
And Ancelotti believes that the Bianconeri are not having things their own way due to an overall leap in quality.
The Italian told Corriere della Sera that it was an improvement in challengers such as Roma and Napoli, not a falling off in Juve’s intensity, which meant for such a close title race.
“I do not know if Juve have dropped in intensity or not,” Ancelotti said. “I only know that the Italian league has grown more competitive. They seem a solid team to me, with a well-defined style of play.”
However, Ancelotti also believes that Juve have improved this season after bringing in the likes of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente in the summer.
“With Llorente and above all Tevez, they’ve gained more quality and they are a team who have played together for three years with the same coach,” he said. “They’re well organised and they have quality.”
The former Chelsea boss also said that he has special plans for dealing with Bianconeri playmaker Andrea Pirlo, who he had attempted to bring with him to Stamford Bridge from AC Milan.
“Pirlo is always a guarantee and he will be for a long time yet,” Ancelotti said. “I wanted him at Chelsea, but it was not possible. Get ready Andrea: I will stick two hounds on you.”
Madrid welcome Juve to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday before travelling to the Juventus Stadium on Nov. 5.