Editor’s Note: In order to better gauge the quality of each Champions League Quarterfinal pairing–and identify matches with upset potential–High Press Soccer will analyze combined starting XI for the match-ups. Up first: Juventus vs. Ajax
Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance against Atlético Madrid made it easy to overlook Juventus’ stout defense in the Italians’ 3-0 victory on March 12th in the return leg of the Champions League Round of 16.
Ajax’s precision and flair in the final third during the Dutch club’s 4-1 demolition of Real Madrid on March 5th also left an indelible impression.
Though the offensive explosions in those games dominated the headlines, both these teams are solid at every position. If you imagine these rosters with Ronaldo out of the picture – cue a chorus of “wouldn’t that be nice” from Atleti fans – your preference probably depends on whether you prefer soon-to-be, if not already, household names (Ajax) or more grizzled veterans (Juventus).
Juventus – Ajax Combined Starting XI
Juventus = Black | Ajax = Red
While Barcelona, Manchester City and Liverpool have more star power – though our beloved CR7 would beg to differ – I’m convinced this Ajax-Juve collective would stack up well with any possible UCL quarterfinal combined XI.
My combined XI for this match-up would take the field in a 4-3-3, withJuve’s Wojciech Szczesny in goal. Starting at the back, it’s Ajax defenders Nicolas Tagliafico and Matthijs de Ligt on the left and right, respectively, with physical veterans Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci manning the middle. De Ligt proved why he’s going to be a wealthy man playing for a powerhouse next season with his work against RM. Tagliafico could be in for a big payday of his own after turning heads against Los Blancos. Juve captain Chiellini and Bonucci are known commodities.
In the midfield, it starts with Frenkie de Jong, who seems poised to go from rising star to established force by the end of April. I’d flank him with Juventus cogs Blaise Matuidi and Miralem Pjanic.
Up top, CR7 is a no-brainer. He’s the reason his team was able to stun his favorite UCL victim to get to this point, and there’s no more potent physical threat on the planet. For anyone unfamiliar with Dusan Tadic, do yourself a huge favor and watch the clinic he put on against RM. It will be fascinating to see whether he can produce more magic against a defense like Juve’s. There are plenty of intriguing possibilities at the other forward spot, but to me, it comes down to Hakim Ziyech or Mario Mandzukic. I’ll go with Ziyech, by a hair. I can think of few things more entertaining than watching Ziyech and Tadic attack another established European power with reckless abandon.
So Who You Got?
In this match-up, Juventus claims six of the combined starting XI. I also like Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri to help guide his club. Despite all of this, I’m still sticking with Ajax for my Champions League quarterfinal prediction.