Juventus needs to beat Real Madrid if it hopes to advance to the Round of 16 in the Champions League. While Juve boss Antonio Conte remained silent when asked if his side would come out in a 3-5-2 or 4-3-3 formation, there is no denying that the Serie A champions will play with intensity and urgency come kick-off. While Real Madrid continues to boast some of the best attacking players in the game, its shaky defense remains a cause for concern (see: Sevilla and Rayo Vallecano games.) Ancelotti's men will need to tighten up the screws and defend as a unit if they hope to stop the likes of Carlos Tévez, Paul Pogba and Fernando Llorente from wreaking havoc in front of Iker Casillas' goal.
Ancelotti once again stressed the importance of balance both in attack and defense, explaining that every player has to work defensively. While the offensive trident of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema won't be asked to put in as much work defensively as the rest of their teammates, they will need to press and harass Juventus' defenders and prevent Andrea Pirlo from exerting his influence on the game. Similarly, Juventus' attackers will surely try to mark a returning Xabi Alonso out of the match.
While still working his way to full match fitness, Xabi Alonso's return to the Real Madrid line-up remains a true asset. His tactical awareness, leadership skills, defensive positioning and passing range all give the capital club a new dimension and fluidity that's been missing this season. While Alonso's heir apparent Asier Illaramendi has performed admirably this season, he's still the Padawan learner to Alonso's Jedi Master. Perhaps Illaramendi will relieve Alonso of his duties in the second half as a safety measure, but it will be a treat for football fans everywhere to watch Xabi Alonso and Andrea Pirlo, two Champions League and World Cup-winning center midfielders, duel it out under the grand European spotlights.
Alonso's return to the line-up is not the only comeback story of this game. Carlo Ancelotti has revealed the young centre-back Raphael Varane will be included in the starting line-up after a hot and cold start to the season courtesy of a stubborn knee injury. Whether Varane is partnered by Sergio Ramos or Pepe remains to be seen. Sergio Ramos has struggled for form in recent games, while Pepe's reckless challenge on Saturday earned Rayo Vallecano a penalty. Neither centre-back is displaying his best football, but it's likely that Sergio Ramos will partner Varane in defense. Fábio Coentrão's unfortunate ankle sprain means Marcelo will start on the left flank, while Álvaro Arbeloa's experience will most likely be called upon at the right back position.
While Sami Khedira has been enjoying a freer box-to-box role this season, los Vikingos will need the "original" Khedira to return and close off Juventus' passing lanes in the center of the park. Ancelotti's balanced system can only be attained if the likes of Khedira, Xabi Alonso and Isco/Luka Modric screen the back four when Conte's men have the ball.
Given Ancelotti's statements, it appears Gareth Bale will start the match ahead of Ángel di María, though a case could be made for either winger. Bale seems to be clicking with Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo and has improved with each subsequent game, but "el Fideo" put in an excellent shift against Juventus in the first leg, supplying Cristiano Ronaldo with a mouth-watering assist. Both players bring pace and energy to the line-up, so it'll be up to Ancelotti to pick his weapon of choice for that right wing.
While Real Madrid stands comfortably at the top of their Champions League group, recent scares in La Liga and an inability to dominate a 10-man Juventus two weeks ago means Los Blancos have some work to do in Turin. It's time for Ancelotti's men to walk the walk and show fans they truly boast a balanced squad capable of stifling their rivals' attacks while producing some fantastic goal-scoring opportunities for themselves.