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UEFA Champions League: Real Madrid vs Juventus: Match Preview

Real Madrid look to beat Juventus and earn the ticket to the 2015 Champions League Final in Berlin against FC Barcelona.

Michael Regan/Getty Images

Many Real Madrid fans did not predict to find themselves in this situation when Los Blancos drew Juventus in the Champions League Semifinals. Star midfielder Paul Pogba was injured and the Italian club faced manageable opposition like Dortmund and Monaco on their road to the Semis, so it was reasonable to think that they would not be a bigger threat than FC Barcelona or FC Bayern. Given they are an Italian club, they were expected to sit back and let Real control and dictate the tempo of the game. Ultimately, Carlos Tévez, Arturo Vidal and Co. proved all those thoughts wrong by completing a very good performance in the first leg played at the Juventus Stadium and earning a convincing 2-1 win that now forces Real Madrid to beat them at the Bernabéu.

Ancelotti's men lacked the intensity needed in every Champions League Semifinal, as the Italian coach himself admitted during the post-match press conference. Furthermore, having Ramos in the midfield facing Juventus' pressing did not help. The Spanish defender performed well alongside Kroos in the matches against Atlético de Madrid and Sevilla, but those two teams never tried to bother him and decided to park the bus and gave Ramos room to operate with the ball. It wasn't that way in Italy, and while Ramos is an above-average defender with the ball on his feet, he doesn't have the quality and mentality to play well as a midfielder in such a difficult scenario. However, Ancelotti admitted that Ramos could be deployed in the midfield once again, something that would be surprising.

Karim Benzema will be back after missing a month with a sprained knee. The French attacker has always been a crucial player for Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, so he will likely start the match. Chicharito Hernández filled Benzema's shoes successfully while the French was out, but he doesn't have the quality needed to stay ahead of Benzema in the rotation. Moreover, Chicharito could be used as a gamechanger if needed, providing his presence as a pure poacher when Real Madrid need to score a goal.

Benzema will not be the only French player making his return, as Paul Pogba is also back for Juventus. Pogba -- who is reportedly on Real's shortlist to strengthen the squad this summer -- had the chance to feature this past weekend after missing around two months with a knee injury. The midfielder showed he's ready to make an impact and scored, proving that his presence against Real Madrid could be extremely valuable for Juve.

His return will likely be decisive to determine which team controls the midfield. If Ancelotti finally decides to play Ramos as a defender and choose a midfield trio of Kroos, Isco and James, Allegri will have enough tools to dismantle that gameplan. His 5-3-2 formation with Pirlo, Vidal and Pogba could make things really difficult for Real Madrid, because Los Blancos would not have a strong physical player in that line. Isco and James can work hard, but their duel against Vidal and Pogba seems certainly unbalanced. That's why Ancelotti could finally opt to give Ramos yet another chance in the midfield.

Marcelo and Carvajal will need to step it up and complete a better display than the one they put on in Turin, where they struggled immensely. They will also be important assets for Carlo Ancelotti in the offensive part of the game, especially the Brazilian left-back. Marcelo can always change the course of a very steady and dense game with his dribble and passing, just like he did in the 2014 Champions League Final played in Lisbon a year ago. Real Madrid will need this kind of performance from him, creating chance after chance for his teammates from the left-back position. He must not get too confident, because Juventus' Carlos Tévez and Álvaro Morata could make a profit from his occasional defensive slips.

Isco and James can work hard, but their duel against Vidal and Pogba seems certainly unbalanced

This will likely be the key to the game. Real Madrid must control the game and prevent Juventus from scoring, given that a 1-0 result would be good enough for Los Blancos to advance to the Final against Barcelona. Real need to stay calm and dominate the way they did against Atlético in the return leg of the Quarterfinals. The attackers will likely have their chances to score and they must capitalize, because Juventus' back five could dominate in the air if Real start to get desperate. It will be very important for Madrid to control the game through the center of the pitch, because Juventus will gladly let Ancelotti's men attack through the wings and defend crosses.

All in all, this is a make or break game for Real Madrid. Having lost about every chance at the Liga BBVA title with the home draw against Valencia last Saturday, the Champions League is the last chance for this roster to earn redemption. It will not be easy to overcome Juventus' advantage, and it will be even harder to beat Barcelona in Berlin if Los Blancos ultimately go through. No team has been able to conquer this trophy two consecutive years since the Champions League was established in 1992. Odds are against Real Madrid, but this is the Champions League. Nobody said it was easy.

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